EC sets out strategy to cut CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles; short-term focus on measurement and reporting
21 May 2014
Heavy-duty trucks, buses and coaches would use less fuel and emit lower amounts of carbon dioxide under a strategy adopted by the European Commission. Such heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) are responsible for around a quarter of CO2 emissions from road transport in the EU. Without action, HDV emissions in 2030-2050 are projected to remain close to current levels.
While light-duty CO2 emissions are already being addressed by recent EU legislation, the new “Strategy for reducing Heavy-Duty Vehicles’ fuel consumption and CO2 emissions” marks the European attempt to address emissions from HDVs. The strategy focuses on short-term action to certify, report and monitor HDV emissions as an essential first step towards curbing emissions. The strategy is addressed to the European Parliament and the Council, which are invited to endorse it and help deliver the actions outlined.
Comparability among HDVs has so far been difficult largely due to the considerable variety of models and sizes of trucks available, which are highly customized to market needs and produced in much smaller quantities than cars and vans.
The Commission has developed a computer simulation tool, VECTO, to measure CO2 emissions from new vehicles. With the support of this tool the Commission intends to bring forward proposals for legislation next year which would require CO2 emissions from new HDVs to be certified, reported and monitored. This will contribute to a more transparent and competitive market and the adoption of the most energy-efficient technologies.
When this legislation is in force the Commission may consider further measures to curb CO2 emissions from HDVs. The most apparent option is to set mandatory limits on average CO2 emissions from newly-registered HDVs, as is already done for cars and vans.
Other options could include the development of modern infrastructure supporting alternative fuels for HDVs, smarter pricing on infrastructure usage, effective and coherent use of vehicle taxation by Member States and other market-based mechanisms. An impact assessment will be done to identify the most cost-effective option or options.
Studies carried out while preparing the strategy suggest that advanced technologies can achieve cost-effective reductions in CO2 emissions from new HDVs of at least 30%.
Background. In Europe, HDVs are defined as freight vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes (trucks) or passenger transport vehicles of more than 8 seats (buses and coaches). The HDV fleet is very heterogeneous, with vehicles that have different uses and drive cycles. Even trucks are segmented into several categories, including long-haul, regional delivery, urban delivery and construction.
HDV emissions represent about a quarter of road transport emissions and 5% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions. The Impact Assessment that underpins the HDV Strategy shows that CO2 emissions from HDV transport grew by some 36% between 1990 and 2010.
Projections based on a no-policy-change scenario imply that in 2030-2050 total EU HDV emissions would remain close to current levels, and thus around 35% higher than in 1990.
The Commission strategy is based on a holistic approach that covers emissions from the entire vehicle, including not only key components such as the engine, transmission and auxiliary elements such as air compressors but also properties such as air drag and rolling resistance. This holistic approach is not strictly comparable with that of the US and Japan, the Commission said.
The heavy-duty vehicle CO2 rule issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2011 does not cover the complete emissions of each vehicle, but only the cabin and chassis parts, in combination with a separate rule on engine emissions. It also relies to a large extent on self-declarations from manufacturers. Existing information points to the much lower energy efficiency of HDVs in the US, mainly due to much lower historical fuel prices than in Europe, according to the Commission.
Commission and EPA staff have been in regular contact and the latter have agreed that a holistic approach is preferable, according to the Commission. The EPA is currently preparing a revised rule for 2018 with the aim of covering the entire vehicles’ emissions.
For its part, Japan has a fuel consumption rule with targets based on the best-performing vehicles. Over the long term the various national legislations are expected to converge, as those addressing emissions of vehicles’ exhaust gases have done.
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