2020–2030 CO2 standards for new cars and light-commercial vehicles in the European Union

The European Commission is preparing to extend the European Union’s CO2 emissions regulation for passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles out to 2025–2030. This briefing paper presents a concise overview of the EU’s overall vehicle CO2 emission reduction requirements and current best projections of vehicle-specific CO2 reduction technology potential and costs in that time frame.

The EU has established a binding target for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions: 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. For sectors not covered by the EU’s emissions trading system, such as the transport sector, an average reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions of 30% below a 2005 baseline is required by 2030.

By 2021, average laboratory CO2 emissions from new cars in the EU as measured on the New European Driving Cycle must fall to 95 g/km. In 2013, the European Parliament recommended an “indicative range” for a 2025 new-car CO2 emission target of 68 to 78 g/km (in NEDC terms) and consideration of a lower target as well.

A comprehensive set of policy measures including mandatory CO2 standards for cars and vans, mandatory CO2 standards for heavy-duty vehicles that require a 3.0% per year reduction rate beginning in 2020, and an increase in fuel taxes of 20 cents per liter in all EU member states would produce an overall annual CO2 reduction of 14% by 2030 compared to a 2005 baseline, assuming a 2025 CO2 standard for cars equivalent to 78 g/km as measured on the NEDC (about 3.9% annualized CO2 reduction). If the 2025 CO2 standard for new cars were set at 68 g/km (about 6.8% annualized CO2 reduction), an overall reduction in annual CO2 emissions from the transport sector of 22% could be achieved by 2030.

A new ICCT study, based in part on computer simulation modeling and vehicle tear-down analysis indicates that a CO2 target of 70 g/km for 2025 could be reached with little or no penetration of electric vehicles into the market, at a per-vehicle cost increment of between €1,000 and €2,150. The fuel cost savings would be on the order of €450 per year. The study also found that manufacturers could reduce the per-vehicle costs of complying with a 70 g/km CO2 fleet target by €200 to €500 by emphasizing electric vehicle sales sooner, aiming to reach a market penetration level of about 15% by 2025.