CO2 emissions and fuel consumption standards for heavy-duty vehicles in the European Union

Heavy-duty vehicles in the European Union so far have not been subject to carbon dioxide emissions or fuel-consumption standards, making Europe the largest market without mandatory limits for such vehicles. However, the European Commission is preparing a regulatory proposal that would set mandatory CO2 limits for the heavy-duty vehicle (HDV) categories with the highest share of emissions. This paper summarizes key findings and policy recommendations from recent ICCT research related to HDV CO2 standards in the European Union, including technology baseline and cost-effective CO2 reduction potential for long-haul tractor-trailers, the highest-emitting vehicle category.

One of the main conclusions of our recent studies is that there is a significant potential to reduce the fuel consumption of heavy-duty vehicles. Compared to a 2015 reference vehicle, the use of conventional technologies aiming to increase the diesel powertrain’s efficiency and reduce the vehicle’s road-load power demand can reduce the CO2 emissions of tractor-trailers in over 40%. The technologies required to achieve this reduction are estimated to cost €30,900 in 2030, resulting in lifetime fuel savings of €65,800 to €166,500 per tractor-trailer, and with a payback period of under 3 years.

The attractive and robust payback periods of efficiency technologies and their associated net economic benefits indicate that there are prevailing market barriers to technology introduction, warranting the introduction of stringent, technology-forcing efficiency standards. HDV efficiency standards are the single largest regulatory lever that policy makers can adopt to mitigate CO2 emissions from the on-road freight sector. The EU has set reduction targets for transport emissions of 30% in the 2005-2030 period and of 60% in the 1990-2050 period. To achieve these goals, it is advisable to develop and introduce stringent, long-term standards that provide the lead time required for deployment of new conventional and zero-emissions technologies while also guaranteeing significant CO2 reductions.