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Some pragmatism in updated EU CO₂ rules for heavy vehicles but questions remain on viability
EU | Brussels

Some pragmatism in updated EU CO₂ rules for heavy vehicles but questions remain on viability

14 Feb 2023 · Environment

IRU has welcomed many aspects of the European Commission’s proposed rules on CO₂ standards for heavy-duty vehicles, however, open concerns about vehicle technology restrictions remain. IRU calls for more pragmatism from lawmakers in the upcoming legislative process.

The EU Commission has today put forth amendments to CO₂ standards for heavy-duty vehicles, proposing a 100% target for the sale of zero-emission buses from 2030 and a 90% target for other heavy-duty vehicles (trucks and coaches) in a phased approach to 2040.

The proposal brings a welcome change compared to current rules and the Commission’s recent mainstream thinking regarding the decarbonisation of commercial transport.

IRU EU Advocacy Director Raluca Marian said, “Commercial heavy-duty transport is a different story to cars. While our sector is fully committed to decarbonise, in this new chapter all options to achieve carbon neutrality should remain open. The EU cannot afford experiments here.”

“By accepting the continuity of the internal combustion engine for heavy-duty vehicles, the European Commission has taken a positive turn in recognising the fundamental differences in technology between these vehicles and cars.

“The vital role that heavy-duty vehicles play in moving the EU economy and its citizens should remain at the forefront of any lawmaker’s agenda in upcoming discussions,” she added.

90% targets too high to take viable carbon-neutral fuels seriously

The Commission’s proposal for a 90% target is a better starting point for legislators’ discussions compared to a 100% target. However, legislators must ensure that the final approach will give carbon-neutral fuels a real chance to remain on the market.

Regardless of their origin, carbon-neutral fuels have one essential element in common: when burned, they largely release the same amount of CO₂ than what was absorbed from the atmosphere during their production, hence offsetting the CO₂ emissions.

“Despite equally contributing to achieving carbon neutrality, the Commission’s proposal leaves the option to use these fuels only for 10% of new vehicles sold after 2040,” said Raluca Marian.

“There are 7 million heavy-duty vehicles on EU roads today. If we, as a sector, can only count on a very small percentage of new sales of vehicles based on combustion, there are doubts that this will be a real and practical option for us,” she added.

Moving EU citizens sustainably

The proposal expands the scope of the current legislation to include buses and coaches. Buses and coaches support decarbonisation by offering a collective alternative to the use of private cars. In addition, greening the fleet brings even more environmental benefits.

“Bringing buses and coaches within the scope of the CO₂ standards is generally a positive move because it provides clarity for future investment,” said Raluca Marian.

“While coaches fall under the general regime for heavy-duty vehicles, we have some specific concerns regarding buses. Urban public transport seems a specifically good case for electric zero-emission vehicles but buses are also used in inter-city transport, which involves longer distances.”

“While the proposal makes reference to exceptions for special purposes from the 100% target for zero-emission sales of buses as of 2030, it is unclear how these exceptions can be implemented since manufacturers have to reach the target,” she added.

Unnecessary cyber-risks posed by onboard monitoring and transmission of in-vehicle data

The Commission’s proposal includes a central register for data on heavy-duty vehicles. This includes an onboard monitoring and transmission of in-vehicle data.

This can create a heavy burden for operators due to unpredictable consequences with regards to technical, safety, security and privacy requirements. There is also a risk of data breaches and cyberattacks.

“The sector will further analyse the consequences of such onboard monitoring on operations and drivers, but it may well involve disproportionate risks and consequences in relation to the objectives,” said Raluca Marian.

In conclusion, Raluca Marian said, “The Commission’s proposal is appreciated in supporting the decarbonisation of road transport, but it is only a necessary first step and several elements have to be better considered by legislators to achieve optimal results.”

Earlier this month, in a joint letter sent to all EU Commissioners IRU, the European Shippers’ Council and FuelsEurope called for the full and equal recognition of carbon neutral fuels for internal combustion engines, alongside electric and hydrogen fuel cells, in proposed EU heavy-duty vehicle CO₂ regulations.