Commission’s transport package fudge fails to back its ‘electric ambitions’ with convincing enforcement design

ThinkstockPhotos-177433954 Credit: Think Stock Photos

BRUSSELS – Today, 8 November, the European Commission published its long-awaited, though hollow transport package, containing a number of (un)decisive legislative proposals determining fuel economy standards for new cars and vans, criteria and targets for the procurement of clean vehicles by public authorities, as well as plans for financing the Union’s alternatively fueled charging infrastructure. While the introduction of minimum quotas for the production of zero emission vehicles is a welcome and much-needed step, Bellona regrets the omission of penalties for non-compliant car makers.

This is a missed opportunity for EU industry to position itself in the electric mobility race, and puts at risk the attainment of EU climate and clean air targets” comments Teodora Serafimova, Policy Manager at Bellona Europa.

CO2 emission reduction targets: too little, too late 

The package calls for 30% CO­2 emission cuts from new cars and vans by 2030 (from 2021). In addition, a 2025 target is introduced, requiring cuts of 15% (compared to 2021): a welcome step in helping to provide investor certainty. In light of a growing number of European cities planning to phase out new sales of fossil fueled vehicles by 2025, and given the EU target of completely eliminating fossil fuel use in cars by 2050, Bellona finds the proposed targets to be falling short.

The Commission goes a step further by introducing a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) quota requiring car makers to ensure 30% of their new car sales are zero emission vehicles by 2030. Regrettably this target’s effectiveness is undermined by the absence of an enforcement mechanism, meaning no consequences are envisaged for non-compliant car makers.

This is bad news for ensuring transport does its fair share towards the attainment of EU climate goals, while further disadvantaging the competitiveness of its car making industry. The Chinese government has announced plans for a new law that will require car makers to meet EV sales quotas of 8% by 2018, 10% by 2019 and 12% by 2020. India recently announced plans to only sell zero emission, electric vehicles, as of 2030.

Clean Vehicles Directive recast offers improvement, but lacks in ambition

Another piece of today’s package was the Commission’s legislative proposal for the reform of the Clean Vehicles Directive (CVD). The CVD sets criteria to orientate public procurement of clean vehicles in the EU, but has suffered a number of key weaknesses. These have included excessive complexity, absence of ‘clean vehicle’ definition, absence of targets for the procurement of clean vehicles, and limited scope, in terms of type of vehicle categories covered. As a result, the CVD has seen limited transposition by public authorities and has had a limited impact on the uptake of zero emission vehicles.

Today’s proposal takes us in the right direction by tackling the main weaknesses of the CVD. The Commission proposes basing the definition of ‘clean vehicles’ for light duty vehicles on a CO2 tailpipe emissions threshold which would be progressively tightened over time. For medium and heavy duty vehicles, the Commission proposes a set list of technologies that would classify a vehicle as ‘clean’. This list would be replaced by a CO2 tailpipe emissions threshold, once the Commission’s emissions measurement tool for heavy duty vehicles, VECTO, is finalised.

While these changes offer an improvement, Bellona regrets the lack of differentiation between low- and pure zero-emission vehicles, like electric vehicles. EV battery prices have dropped by 65% since 2010, and a new study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts EVs’ total cost of ownership (TCO) will be lower than that of their ICE counterparts by as early as 2022. Electro-mobility is also rapidly becoming a viable solution for the heavier transport modes: Protera recently announced its e-bus rode over 1600 km on a single charge.

In light of rapid technological advancements, and positive future outlook, EVs should be granted a priority treatment through a ‘multiplier’ effect to encourage their uptake towards the attainment of public authorities’ procurement targets.

While the introduction of procurement targets for 2025 and 2030 is important, Bellona regrets their limited ambition level. A growing number of cities are pledging to phase out sales of fossil fueled vehicles by 2025 and are already setting procurement targets exceeding the Commission’s ambition. Just recently, 12 major cities around the world announced a joint pledge to only add purely electric buses to their fleets from 2025.

Bellona Europa

europe@bellona.org