Europe proposes world-leading decarbonization targets for trucks and buses
Berlin, 14 February 2023— Today, the European Commission unveiled a proposal to amend the EU’s CO2 standards for trucks, trailers, and buses, in a bid to reduce carbon emissions and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The proposal sets attainable CO2 emission reduction targets to break the current impasse and accelerate the zero-emission transition.
The proposed targets are far-reaching and would yield a notable reduction in emissions from trucks and buses through 2050. The revision requires most new trucks to cut their emissions by 45% in 2030, 65% in 2035, and 90% in 2040, demanding high shares of zero-emission vehicles. It also extends the scope of vehicles regulated from 60% to 90% of Europe’s heavy-duty sales, sets performance targets for trailers, and introduces a phase-out for combustion bus sales by 2030.
“Europe is seizing the opportunity to spearhead the transition to zero-emission trucking. Although the proposed CO2 standards will not fully decarbonize the sector by 2050, they do establish an ambitious long-term vision, broaden the scope of regulated vehicles, and rapidly move towards 100% electric buses. These are promising policy signals with the potential to catalyze the decisive transformation that the sector needs,” says Felipe Rodríguez, ICCT’s Heavy Duty Vehicles Program Lead.
Trucks and buses are the highest emitters on Europe’s roads: they make up just 2% of the vehicle stock but produce over a quarter of road transport-related CO2 emissions. Expected rises in freight activity out to 2050 put Europe’s decarbonization at risk. The current standards adopted in 2019 require new trucks to reduce CO2 emissions by 15% by 2025 and 30% by 2030. ICCT’s analyses show that more ambitious targets are needed to ensure the sector stays on track.
To date, two manufacturers representing a third of European truck and bus sales have pledged to only sell zero-emission vehicles by 2040, and all have pledged toward ending the sale of fossil-fueled vehicles by the same date. Further, ten Member States have signed a Memorandum of Understanding pledging to enable a full transition to zero-emission trucks and buses by 2040. According to recent ICCT estimations, if all manufacturer pledges were met, the EU would be on track to meet its climate goals. Converting pledges into regulation would require a 60% target in 2030 (compared to the proposed target of 45%), 90% in 2035 (compared to 65%), and 100% in 2040 (compared to (90%).
“This proposal is an essential step in ensuring manufacturers’ ambitions do not run out of steam and reach their voluntary zero-emission goals in a timely manner. We expect that the proposed targets will drive high levels of electrification in most vehicle segments. As the most comprehensive CO2 standards for trucks worldwide, the proposal carries significant industrial policy implications, enabling Europe to gain a competitive edge in the race to zero emissions trucks and buses,” adds Rodríguez.
While most manufacturers’ ambitions already align with the proposed standards, new provisions are expected to facilitate their compliance. For instance, one of the newly proposed compliance flexibilities would allow manufacturers to report zero-emission vehicles from other manufacturers, bringing down their fleet-average CO2 emissions. Manufacturers can register another’s vehicles up to a maximum of 5 percent of their own sales. Another policy tweak will offer manufacturers the option to use zero-emission vehicles falling outside the scope of the CO2 standards to contribute towards their emissions reduction target.
Starting in the 2029 reporting period, the Zero- and Low-Emission vehicles (ZLEV) factor, a mechanism that allows manufacturers to reduce their compliance target by producing zero- and low-emitting vehicles, will be phased out. This move is in line with the industry’s goals, as manufacturers had already set their sights higher than the benchmark established by the proposed standards.
The proposal goes beyond the currently proposed targets in China and sets the tone for the upcoming U.S. greenhouse gas emission standards to be released in early 2023. In June 2022, China announced a proposal (“Stage 4”) estimated to tighten fuel consumption standards in the heavy-duty sector by 15% in 2026 as a general target across all vehicle segments over its previous Stage 3 implemented in 2019. U.S. Phase 2 standards adopted in 2016 and applicable for 2018-2027, are estimated to reduce CO2 and fuel consumption that vary by vehicle type and range from 16% to 30% compared to its 2010 baseline.
Europe’s zero-emission truck and bus sales are, however, lagging in the global market. In 2021, zero-emission trucks made up just 230 of Europe’s quarter of a million heavy truck sales. The global zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle market continues to be dominated by China, which accounts for nearly 92% of the sales in 2019-2021 compared to Europe’s 4%.
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Felipe Rodríguez, ICCT’s Heavy-Duty Vehicles Program Lead
Policy brief: Recommendations for revising the modalities of Europe’s heavy-duty vehicle CO2 standards
Authors: Eamonn Mulholland and Felipe Rodríguez
Fact sheet: The seven amendments needed to align Europe’s heavy-duty vehicle CO2 standards with the European Climate Law
About the ICCT
The International Council on Clean Transportation is an independent nonprofit organization founded to provide first-rate, unbiased research and technical and scientific analysis to environmental regulators. Our mission is to improve the environmental performance and energy efficiency of road, marine, and air transportation, in order to benefit public health and mitigate climate change.