White paper

The CO2 standards required for trucks and buses for Europe to meet its climate targets

The European Commission will review the currently adopted CO2 emission standards for heavy duty vehicles (HDVs) by the end of 2022. The current standards require most new trucks to reduce their emissions by 15% in 2025, and 30% in 2030. However, growing levels of activity in the HDV sector offset the CO2 benefits from the standards, with emissions projected to grow by 8% by 2050 under the current adopted policies. This study seeks to inform the stringency of CO2 emission standards necessary to align the HDV sector with the European Climate Law. Specifically, this analysis depicts the contribution of emissions reduction that the HDV sector must make to equitably contribute towards Europe’s goal of climate neutrality by 2050—through achieving a 98% emissions reduction by 2050 relative to 2019.

To align the transport sector with the European Climate Law, the European Commission introduced a set of milestones for zero-emission vehicle deployment through the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. The study finds that the HDV specific milestones falls short of the 98% emission reduction required to comply with the European Climate Law, achieving a 78% reduction between 2019 and 2050.

The landscape for zero-emission vehicles has changed dramatically since the implementation of the CO2 standard. All major HDV manufacturers have since committed towards increasing the number of zero-emission vehicles. If achieved, and supplemented by consistent efficiency improvements, these commitments would correspond to an emission reduction of 96% by 2050 relative to 2019—closely in line with the goal of the European Climate Law. However, enshrining these manufacturer commitments in regulation is likely necessary to bring about these reductions in emissions.

To achieve Europe’s climate goals, the study finds that the European Commission should increase the HDV CO2 standard to a reduction of at least 60% in 2030, introduce a target of at least 90% for 2035, and introduce a phase-out date for new combustion-powered trucks and buses of no later than 2040. In addition, the standards should be extended to cover all sales of HDVs where feasible; including HDVs that are required to report CO2 emission for certification would raise the share of vehicles that must comply with the standards from 65% to nearly 75% of annual sales.

Fact sheets: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish

Chart showing HDV reduction targets according to scenarios

New vehicle fleet averaged annual emissions reduction relative to 2020 and corresponding 5-year targets. The bars on the right denote the annual emissions reduction in HDVs in 2019 and by 2050.

Emissions modeling