Environment and Climate

CO₂ regulation of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in Europe

Official CO₂ limits for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles have been in force for a number of years. EU Regulation EC 443/2009 set an official CO₂ limit for passenger vehicles of 130 g/km CO₂ for 2012, phased-in gradually by 2015.

CO₂ regulation of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in Europe

Official CO₂ limits for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles have been in force for a number of years. EU Regulation EC 443/2009 set an official CO₂ limit for passenger vehicles of 130 g/km CO₂ for 2012, phased-in gradually by 2015. With effect from 2020/2021, the European passenger car fleet must not exceed 95 g/km. As for passenger cars, CO₂ limits were decided for light commercial vehicles (so-called vans up to 3.5 metric tons). Here, EU regulation EU 510/2011 envisages an official CO₂ limit of 175 g/km CO₂ with effect from 2014. With effect from 2020 the European van fleet must not exceed 147 g/km.

The passing of the CO₂ regulations poses a considerable challenge for the automotive industry. For example, the passenger car target of 95 g/km CO₂ in 2020 requires a 35 gram reduction in only five years (2015 to 2020). That requires an average annual saving of seven grams per year. This target can only be achieved if manufacturers invest massively in new technologies and boost their sales of models with alternative drive systems.

Effective limits should be demanding, but not excessively so. Costly solo initiatives by the EU are counter-productive to ensuring European competitiveness. That is to say, if one compares passenger car limits in an international context then it is very clear that the EU has the world’s most ambitious fleet targets: in the USA, these targets prescribe only 121 g/km CO₂ by 2020, in China 117 g and in Japan 105 g.

In regulatory terms, the CO₂ regulations for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles comply with the same basic principles. Noncompliance with the limits incurs penalties related to the amount by which the target is missed. The central elements of the respective regulations for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles are outlined in the overview on page 77.

The important thing is that the European yardstick for passenger cars of 130 g/km CO₂ for 2015, for example, does not apply for individual vehicle models but relates to the entire European fleet average. Individual manufacturers are not therefore subject to absolute values across the board but to company-specific CO₂ targets that can be calculated using the formula shown in Figure 1. The permitted CO₂ value based on the relevant vehicle weight is calculated for each vehicle with a new European authorization. Based on these vehicle parameters, manufacturers can then determine the average value for their fleets. In other words, it is not necessary for each individual manufacturer to comply with the European fleet value of 130 g/km CO₂. Such an approach would be tantamount to a uniform European value and would fail to take account of the respective manufacturers’ differing segment structure. Instead, each manufacturer is allocated a manufacturer-specific value depending on the products they sells. The European fleet figure is calculated as the average for all manufacturers selling new cars in the EU.

The basis for the calculation chosen by the EU Commission ensures that manufacturers of large passenger cars, whose vehicles naturally create greater CO₂ emissions in absolute terms compared with producers of smaller vehicles, are not systematically disadvantaged as would be the case with a “single value.” Nevertheless, the demands on manufacturers of larger passenger vehicles in terms of results is greater than those on their competitors. That is because while the regulations governing larger passenger vehicles allow them a higher fuel consumption as a basic principle, at the same time they require superior reduction performance.

To achieve the passenger car CO₂ target for 2020, having regard to the phasing in by 2021, manufacturers have to electrify all parts of their vehicles’ drivetrain. Incentives for quickly ramping up the electrical vehicle market are therefore fundamental. Especially fuel-efficient vehicles are awarded multiple offsets using so-called “super-credits” and rewarded for their extraordinary climate footprint. For example, a passenger car emitting less than 50 g/km CO₂ newly registered in 2020 is not simply included in the CO₂ fleet calculation but is counted twice.

So-called Eco-innovations are intended to provide similar scope for potential With the engine’s efficiency reserves increasingly depleted, the vehicle needs to be seen all the more as a holistic system. These are technologies that do not show up in the official measurement method for measuring fuel consumption (NEDC): for example solar roofs for cooling the passenger compartment or converting waste heat into electrical energy. Such systems can markedly reduce energy consumption in the car, and thus reduce fuel consumption. Unfortunately, the EU Commission has so far handled the recognition of the impact of eco-innovations on the CO₂ balance in a very restrictive and bureaucratic manner. What is required here is to collaborate in making approval regulations for such technologies less bureaucratic within the foreseeable future.

The upshot of the numerous activities is that great progress has been made in recent years in reducing fuel consumption. If, for example, one looks at new passenger car registrations in the EU in recent years, one can see that the 130 gram mark (measured in grams per kilometer) was bettered for the first time in 2013.

This progression cannot however be extrapolated in a straight line. The “low-hanging fruit” – namely technical measures that can be implemented quickly and cost efficiently, have been all but exhausted.

Yet the EU Commission is already planning to submit its initial thinking for the period after 2020.

Dr. Martin Koers
Dr. Martin Koers Head of Department Economic and climate protection policy

Tel: +49 30 897842-350 Fax: +49 30 897842-600
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