Working Paper

CO2 emissions from trucks in the EU: An analysis of the heavy-duty CO2 standards baseline data

The recently published heavy-duty vehicle certification data from the European Union are a valuable source of information to assess the values of the CO2 standards baseline, track the progress of truck manufacturers towards their reduction targets, and understand the various technology pathways chosen by manufacturers to decarbonize their fleets. This paper analyses the baseline data to understand how the industry currently performs compared to the targets set out by the European Commission. The analysis is intended to inform the discussions on the review of the standards that will take place in 2022.

The study found that while the fuel consumption values across the different truck subgroups oscillated between 24 L/100 km and 33 L/100 km, the specific CO2 emissions showed greater variation. Urban delivery trucks with a 4×2 axle configuration (4-UD) emitted on average 307 gCO2/t-km, that is over five times as much than long-haul tractor-trailers (5-LH) with emissions of 57 gCO2/t-km. In addition, for most vehicle subgroups, the baseline data show a large spread around the mean. For long-haul tractor-trailers (5-LH), there was a 63% difference between the best and worst performing vehicles. This indicates that, even today, there is a large technology potential not being exploited by manufacturers and truck buyers.

During the first reporting period, a total of 47 zero-emission trucks were registered by the top-selling brands in the regulated groups. There were no low-emission trucks—defined as having less than half the baseline CO2 emissions of the respective subgroup—registered. The low market penetration of zero-emission trucks had virtually no impact on the manufacturers’ fleet average emissions.

The data also showed that the variations in CO2 emissions across manufacturers can be explained by different rates of technology adoption. DAF Trucks and MAN had the most efficient engines, with an average engine efficiency of 42.6% over the WHTC and the top performing models having efficiencies over the WHTC of around 44%. Natural gas engines, preferred by IVECO, had much lower thermal efficiencies than diesel. The best performing model, an IVECO engine, only reached 38.1% efficiency over the WHTC. At the vehicle level, this low engine efficiency largely offsets the potential gains from the lower carbon content of natural gas. Aerodynamics were the main driver of Scania’s good CO2 performance, reporting the lowest average air drag values at 4.63 m2 for long-haul tractor-trailers (5-LH)—around 20% lower than the average of other manufacturers. Scania performed 4.7% below their reference emissions, leading to the accumulation of early credits that can be valued at approximately €328 million when using the 2025 non-compliance penalty of €4,250 per gCO2/t-km.