Green deal
16. May 2024

New EU CO₂ standards for heavy-duty vehicles: the work begins


The European Council has reached a final decision on the new EU CO₂ standards for heavy-duty vehicles. This concludes a legislative process that led to overly idealistic emission reduction targets. But more work lies ahead. The standards include a revision clause for 2027 and further evaluation of the role of carbon-neutral fuels in achieving net-zero emissions.

IRU has acknowledged the European Council’s final approval of the trilogue agreement with the European Parliament on the new CO₂ standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

While steering clear of mandatory purchasing quotas for transport operators, as called for by IRU, the new CO₂ emission reduction targets set unrealistic implementation expectations for vehicle manufacturers given the current economic and infrastructure limitations. This will restrict the range of vehicle technologies available to transport operators in the future.

The law mandates that the European Commission promptly assesses the status of enabling conditions for the deployment of zero-emission vehicles and allows for a potential review of the law in 2027.

IRU EU Advocacy Director Raluca Marian said, “It looks like a done deal. But for us, the discussion is just beginning.

“From the perspective of the infrastructure necessary for the widespread deployment of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles, we are only at the beginning. From the perspective of the awareness and willingness of our sector’s customers to share the transition’s high cost, the journey has just started.

“At the same time, the EU has already set a very ambitious target for 2030. We are optimistic that a lot will be done in the meantime. But the Commission should soon start a proper analysis to realistically forecast what is achievable by 2030. In other words, the legislators have been idealistic so far. It is now time to add up the numbers and see what the EU economy can actually deliver.”

Key legislation highlights:

Emission reduction goals: The legislation sets overly ambitious targets for new heavy-duty vehicles, 45% emissions reduction target by 2030, 65% by 2035, and 90% by 2040.
Differentiation in bus categories: In a step towards practicality and as advocated by IRU, the legislation acknowledges operational differences between inter-city busses and coaches compared to urban busses.
Zero-emission urban buses: The 100% mandate for zero-emission urban buses has been pushed back to 2035, with an intermediate target of 90% from 2030 onwards.
eTrailer innovations: Amendments in type-approval regulations now include definitions for eTrailers, enhancing vehicle standards to align with modern technologies.
Industry implications, future actions
IRU acknowledges the role of the revised CO₂ standards in driving the sector towards greater sustainability. But it emphasises the need to address the practical challenges such as grid capacity, the availability of refuelling and recharging infrastructure, and the need for incentives for the uptake of zero-emission trucks and buses. Zero-emission vehicles must not compromise load capacity. Additionally, the decarbonisation role and benefits of carbon-neutral fuels should be fully considered.

Raluca Marina said, “The law provides that a new methodology for heavy-duty vehicles running exclusively on CO₂-neutral fuels will be assessed within a year following the law’s implementation. We fully support this. Our dynamic and resilient sector needs options for a wide variety of different operations. Our economy cannot afford disregarding any technology that can achieve decarbonisation goals. So why take a dogmatic stance against clean fuels?”

The real work starts now

From 2025 through 2027, the Commission will produce a series of reports assessing, among other aspects, the role of CO₂-neutral fuels and the uptake of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles.
A review clause, set for December 2027, will evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the new standards, ensuring that they remain aligned with technological and market developments.
IRU is committed to working closely with policymakers and industry stakeholders to ensure a successful and sustainable transition.

As these new standards begin to influence the future of the commercial road transport industry, IRU remains focused on advocating for realistic and achievable legislation, supported by measures that enable a smooth transition for all parties involved, as outlined in the IRU Green Compact.

Original article
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