The European Commission announced last week its third and final package in the transport sector aiming at safer traffic, less polluting vehicles and more advanced technological solutions. A line-up of three Commissioners presented the ideas for the modernisation of mobility in Europe. Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union, stressed the need for Europe to take part in the global race in battery production to enable a transition to electric vehicles. The intention is to use raw materials, such as lithium and cobalt, found in some EU Member States.
“By producing key technological solutions at scale, including sustainable batteries, and deploying key infrastructure, we will also get closer to a triple zero: emissions, congestion and accidents,” he said.
Last November, the Commission published an action plan on alternative fuels infrastructure. The plan deals with the investment needs for meeting the EU objectives as regards refuelling stations for electricity, compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Electric road systems, where the vehicles are charged when driving, is still seen as an unmature technology by the Commission despite on-going demonstration projects in Europe. Such systems could extend the range of electric passenger cars and enable electric heavy vehicles which otherwise would have to be equipped with very large batteries.
The Commission has already proposed new targets for average CO2 emissions of new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles that will apply from 2025 and 2030.
Average CO2 emissions from new passenger cars registered in the EU in 2025 will have to be 15% and 30% lower in 2030 compared to 2021. This is still a long way from zero or low emission cars but will allow a smooth transition to such cars, according to the Commission. More than 80% of the new vehicles will still have an internal combustion engine in 2030.
In this package the Commission focussed on proposing similar CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles such as large trucks which account for 65 – 70 % of CO2 emissions from heavy vehicles.
The reduction target for 2025 is binding while the the target for 2030 is still indicative, pending a mid-term review. The scope of the standards will be extended to smaller trucks and buses. Currently 98 % of the trucks are driven by diesel.
According to the Commission, the reduction targets are consistent with the climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement and will allow transport companies to make savings thanks to lower fuel consumption.
The EU 2030 framework for climate and energy includes a target of at least 40% reduction of domestic EU green house gas emissions compared to 1990 levels, according to the Commission’s own impact assessment on setting emission standards for heavy vehicles.
Under the Paris Agreement, the EU has committed to avoiding climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions is a key prerequisite for fulfilling that commitment.
The targets proposed by the Commission are supposed to be technologically neutral and do not prescribe or exclude any specific technology or fuel type.
Asked by The Brussels Times whether CNG, which is considered as a possible alternative fuel for heavy transportation, will meet the reduction targets, a spokesperson referred to the impact assessment. “A number of technologies are currently available and will need to be further deployed to meet the proposed targets.”
However, the new emission standards may effectively rule out the use of natural gas as a long-term alternative fuel. The impact assessment mentions “conventional” LNG technology which offers emission reduction of only 5% as compared to similar diesel vehicles. CNG might result in a bigger reduction but it may not be enough.
“In view of the current technological development, it is however unlikely that LNG-based technology would qualify as low-emission vehicles,” the spokesperson said.
More certainty is promised when it comes to safe mobility. While road fatalities have more than halved since 2001, 25,300 people still lost their lives on EU roads in 2017 and another 135,000 were seriously injured. The long-term goal is to move close to zero fatalities and serious injuries by 2050 (“Vision Zero”).
The Commission is proposing that within three years all new models introduced on the market must have 11 safety features, such as advanced emergency braking and lane-keeping assist system for cars or pedestrian and cyclists’ detection systems for trucks. Only these two measures could save thousands of lives.
As regards connected mobility, the Commission is proposing a strategy to make Europe a world leader for autonomous cars and fully automated driving without the supervision of a human driver in the future.