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European Commission’s push on clean vehicles overlooks business incentives and lifecycle emissions

15 Dec 2017

IRU urges the EC to shift the debate from ‘zero-emissions’ to ‘carbon neutrality’ to encompass the full emissions lifescycle.

The European Commission’s (EC) latest drive on decarbonisation is welcomed by IRU, but a more comprehensive definition of ‘clean’, that offers certainty for transport operators looking to invest, is required.

The current approach favoured by the EC is set out in its Clean Vehicles Directive and 2030 CO2 standards for cars and vans.

The method considers only the emissions generated through fuel consumption and not those emitted during the production of fuel. In the case of electric vehicles (which receive extra recognition), this ignores emissions from battery production and recycling and does not consider whether the electricity was renewably produced or not.

The exception is the case of heavy duty natural gas vehicles, which are given extra recognition if the fuel is sourced from biomethane.

Matthias Maedge, who leads IRU’s work in the EU said, “Taking a comprehensive ‘lifecycle’ approach would better reflect the costs, benefits and ultimately the sustainability of different alternative fuels and give operators the full range of options to decarbonise their fleets.”

Recognising the source of the energy provides a much more comprehensive picture of lifecycle emissions. IRU therefore calls for an extension of this approach to all alternative fuels as well as recognition of the important role that combustion technology will continue to play in transport.

Mr Maedge added, “It is essential that we recognise the decarbonisation potential of combustion engines running on renewable liquid or gaseous fuels. We must also take this into account when it comes to the CO2 standards for Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDVs) as commercial vehicles will continue to be heavily dependent on combustion technology for decades to come”.

IRU is disappointed that the approach taken with biomethane will only be a short term solution and will be replaced once the CO2 standards for HDVs are introduced.

The current discussion on the upcoming standards focuses on the narrow approach of emissions from fuel consumption. Furthermore, a subsequent shift in approach will make it challenging for today’s technology investors.

Matthias Maedge, added “It makes no sense to commit to rewarding natural gas vehicles running on biomethane now, while at the same time announcing a future shift in policy. IRU also questions why sustainable biofuels have not been considered.”

He continued, “Investments in new fuel options depend on a positive business case. The proposal should be complemented by incentives and investment tools, which are particularly necessary for early commercial adopters.”