BRUSSELS – New carbon-dioxide emissions standards for cars, vans and trucks within the European Union will lead to more electric vehicles and alternative drivetrains including hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles, experts say.
The European Parliament, the EU's elected legislative body, on April 18 approved the first EU regulation on emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles. Truck manufacturers will have to cut average CO2 emissions 15% by 2025 and 30% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels.
The parliament adopted new standards for cars and vans three weeks earlier. Compared to 2021, new-car emissions in 2030 will have to be 37.5% lower and new-van emissions 31% lower.
These laws, which also include goals to improve market share of zero- and low-emissions vehicles, need approval by the EU Council of Ministers, representing member states before they can take effect. But as they have been informally approved, this is expected to be a formality, with votes happening as early as this summer.
The new rules are undeniably challenging. But Jim Saker (below, left), director of Loughborough University U.K. School of Business and Economics’ Centre for Automotive Management, tells Wards they may not go far enough for environmentalists.
Moreover, the goals might exacerbate “the past practice of trying to get average emissions targets across a manufacturers’ range by either producing the odd small car, for example an Aston Martin Cygnet, or more blatantly FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) striking a deal with Tesla to count their electric cars as part of its fleet in the EU, thereby lowering FCA’s average emissions ahead of the new regulations,” Saker says.
More positively, he says: “The product mix will inevitably start to change towards EVs and potentially in the longer run hydrogen or fuel-cell powertrains. Hybrids will continue to grow until an EV or hydrogen infrastructure is put in place. There will be continued developments, like the (London) Metropolitan Police purchasing Toyota Mirais and having a single hydrogen refueling facility.”
For Saker, the new rules’ toughest challenge will be for companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, which have a strong diesel powertrain presence across their range, given the new laws’ stricter diesel-emissions standards. Some EU countries, including the Republic of Ireland, which has significant diesel penetration, also will struggle to comply with the new legislation.
Truck manufacturers, meanwhile, can have zero-emissions vehicles counting as more than one when measured against the EU target. There will be a move toward developing smaller e-goods vehicles where recharging is viable for haulers, which can be traded off against larger models where emissions-based powertrains are more practical.
“There are already signs of increased investment by manufacturers, especially companies such as JLR that relied on diesel-based powertrains” and need to shift to alternative fuels, Saker says.
Ultimately, this could mean more competition from China, especially regarding EVs, “along with the potential well-publicized disruptors such as Apple, Google and Dyson,” he adds.
In the parts sector, too, European Association of Automotive Suppliers’ head of government affairs, Benjamin Krieger, says demand for battery cells will rise and, as a result, “A strong proportion of the electric vehicle’s final value” is imported from Asian producers.
Achieving the new standards will be difficult for OEMs, he says. “Suppliers and all segments of drivetrain technology will have to contribute to further lowering average fleet emissions, from efficient combustion with various degrees of electrification up to battery-electric vehicles and fuel cells,” Krieger says.
With e-vehicles needing fewer parts than combustion engines, parts-manufacturing jobs may disappear but new opportunities will emerge around electrification, he predicts, and R&D budgets for alternative drivetrains also are expected to grow.
Recognizing the challenging targets, Krieger adds, “the focus on increasing combustion engine efficiency will have to be maintained.”
But the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Assn. (ACEA) fears there will be more disruption and is struggling to see a silver lining in the new emissions standards. It claims the standards not only are “extremely ambitious” but also “unrealistic.” These “aggressive” goals will require a much stronger market uptake of electric and alternatively powered vehicles than is currently possible given the lack of infrastructure, the association contends.
Emphasizing EVs’ current unaffordability for the average consumer, ACEA says van emissions targets should be much lower than in the new laws. Their situation is completely different, notably because of price sensitivity, the trade group says. A van buyer’s top concern, unlike a car buyer’s, is purchasing and operating cost – and diesels still comprise more than 96% of new van fleets in the EU.