Near-term technology potential for new cars in the EU

Only 15–20 percent of the energy in fuels is used to drive a car; the remainder passes unused into the car’s surroundings as waste heat or other losses. Thanks to advanced technologies, these losses are being reduced, step by step. Many already existing technologies, along with technologies that are not yet in mass production, are available to further improve the efficiency of cars.

Recent work sponsored by the ICCT with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board, and others, has produced detailed analyses assessing the CO2 emission reduction potential of vehicle technologies and estimating the costs associated with these new technologies, based on extensive computer siumulations as well as “tear-down” cost studies on real vehicles. Initially performed for the U.S. market, the project has now been translated to the EU, supplemented with additional analysis by Ricardo, Inc., FEV, and the University of Aachen using European baseline vehicles and labor costs and material prices in Germany.

This eight-page briefing, available in English and German, summarizes the outcome of that analysis for the EU. (An even shorter version is available here.) In summary, the results show that meeting the proposed 95 g/km target in 2020 will entail an investment in new technologies of less than €1,000 per vehicle. That figure reflects conservative cost estimates, as they assume German labor cost rates and do not incorporate any further technology improvements beyond what is known today. Taking today’s fuel prices and annual driving ranges, the expected fuel cost savings from the proposed 95 g/km target are on the order of €350-450 per year per vehicle. For the consumer, as well as for society as a whole, significant savings over the lifetime of a vehicle can therefore be expected—even taking into account indirect technology costs and vehicle taxes.

The paper also touches briefly on the related issue of choice of index parameter, summarizing the problems inherent in the current EU CO2 target system, which uses vehicle mass instead of footprint.