A midsummer night’s skullduggery

As midsummer came to Brussels, EU diplomats were expecting to adopt the 2020 CO2 regulation for cars and light-commercial vehicles. Last July the European Commission had agreed on a regulatory proposal that would set a CO2 target of 95 g/km for passenger cars and 147 g/km for light-commercial vehicles for 2020. This past May the European Parliament reached a common position, proposing some changes to the European Commission document, including a 2025 target range of 68-78 g/km of CO2. Finally, in a series of meetings ending on June 24 (the so-called Trialogue meetings), the European Parliament, the European Council, and the European Commission hammered out a compromise. Everyone expected that that compromise position would be formally adopted during an European Council meeting on June 27.

It was a dream, perhaps. At the last minute, and due to political interventions at the highest level from the German government, the CO2 regulation was removed from the agenda of that Council meeting. Observers are stunned and perplexed. For the moment, it is unclear what will happen next and when the regulatory proposal will again be discussed. With the presidency of the European Union changing hands on July 1, and parliamentary elections upcoming, it is suddenly possible that the regulation—which was just a tiny step away from adoption—will be delayed for some time.

This is a good time to take a step back and look at some facts. The European Environmental Agency (EEA) recently published the official 2012 CO2 monitoring data for cars and vans, and as we do every year we carried out some more detailed analysis with the data.

For cars, the average CO2 emission value of new vehicles in 2012 was 132 g/km (about 5.3 liters/100km), which is 2 percent less than in 2011 and very close to the 2015 target of 130 g/km (about 5.1 liters/100km). Looking at individual manufacturers, those that have not already attained their 2015 target are within 1 percent of it. The sole exception is Daimler, which remains 3 percent above its 2015 target. But Daimler achieved the greatest reduction from 2011 to 2012, almost 7 percent. The average vehicle weight of the EU new vehicle fleet is now at 1,401 kg, an increase of 1 percent over 2011.

CO2 emission and weight in 2012 by manufacturer and corresponding 2015 and 2020 targets (passenger vehicles only).

  2012 2015 2020
Daimler 143 g/km 1583 kg 140 g/km 101 g/km
BMW 138 g/km 1563 kg 139 g/km 100 g/km
GM 134 g/km 1445 kg 133 g/km 96 g/km
Volkswagen 133 g/km 1417 kg 132 g/km 96 g/km
All manufacturers (average) 132 g/km 1400 kg 131 g/km 95 g/km
Ford 129 g/km 1322 kg 128 g/km 92 g/km
Renault-Nissan 128 g/km 1329 kg 128 g/km 93 g/km
Fiat (incl. Chrysler) 124 g/km 1209 kg 123 g/km 89 g/km
Toyota 122 g/km 1325 kg 128 g/km 92 g/km
PSA (Peugeot-Citroën) 122 g/km 1374 kg 130 g/km 94 g/km
Fiat (excl. Chrysler) 118 g/km 1141 kg 119 g/km 86 g/km

[2015 target calculated using 1372 kg as vehicle weight; 2020 target calculated assuming no future change to 2012 vehicle weight. Data source for 2012: European Environmental Agency EEA; vehicle weight is “mass in running order,” i.e., weight of empty vehicle + 75 kg.]

Under the EU regulation, CO2 emission targets for every manufacturer are adjusted for the average weight of their specific vehicles, so that manufacturers of heavier vehicles get a less stringent target to meet. Which is why the reductions in CO2 emissions (and therefore fuel consumption) required between 2015 and 2020 are the same for every manufacturer: 27 percent. (The absolute reductions required differ, of course, because their starting points—the 2015 targets, which they have already reached—are different.) Because technology potential and costs typically scale across vehicle segments, that means that the stringency of that required reduction is also the same for all manufacturers.

As can be seen in the chart below, some manufacturers (PSA, Toyota, Fiat, BMW) are already over-complying with their 2015 targets and are moving towards the necessary improvements to meet the 2020 target.

This can also be seen in this graph, which shows some of the manufacturers already below the 2015 target line and approaching the 2020 line, which is 27 percent lower across all vehicle weights. Again, it can be seen that BMW and Fiat, both at the moment right on the 2015 target line, have the same 27 percent reduction to achieve by 2020.

For light-commercial vehicles, 2012 is the first year for which official CO2 monitoring data has been published. (Similar data for previous years is available from the ICCT.) According to the EU data, the average CO2 emission level of new light-commercial vehicles in 2012 was 181 g/km, quite close already to the 2017 target of 175 g/km. The average vehicle weight was 1,834 kg, which is 8 percent more than the European Commission anticipated when drafting the regulation for light-commercial vehicles.

So looking at the statistics, it is clear that for both passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles the 2015 / 2017 targets will be met in advance. All manufacturers, no matter what type of vehicles they typically sell, are well on the way to meeting their respective targets. In that light, and given the significant technology potential, the 2020 targets, which are also adjusted for vehicle weight, certainly look reasonable. The EU regulation that was due to be adopted last week would finally have given planning security about the technical details of the 2020 targets—an observation that has also been made by some European manufacturers who criticized the delay caused by the move of German chancellor Angela Merkel. It now remains to be seen when a final decision can be taken.