The European Green Deal represents one of the European Commission’s most important projects in 2020. In January, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen again presented the plan at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Under the Green Deal, the European Union is to set an example by forging ahead on climate issues and determining standards for sustainable growth in global value chains. This should make Europe climate neutral by 2050.
The package of measures includes extending the European emissions trading system to include new sectors. Furthermore, the impacts of transportation on air, water and noise are to be investigated as part of a zero pollution ambition. The European Commission has announced that under the Green Deal, the legislation on fleet-wide CO2 emission standards for passenger cars and vans will be reviewed by June 2021. However, the current target values – the strictest anywhere in the world – already represent a major challenge for the automotive sector. They were passed at the end of 2017 and require a 37.5 percent reduction in CO2 output from passenger cars by 2030, and a 31 percent decrease for vans. A reduction of 30 percent was set for heavy-duty commercial vehicles. Given the development and product cycles that last five to seven years for passenger cars and up to ten years for commercial vehicles, it is already difficult to satisfy the ambitious requirements. It is not possible to implement the stricter CO2 performance standards under the European Green Deal, because it will not be technically or economically feasible to optimize conventional technologies and alternative powertrains within the short time-frame.
Holistic view for reaching the targets together
Climate protection has top priority, and the automotive industry supports the ambitious Paris climate targets. The VDA therefore welcomes an ambitious EU climate action policy. A holistic view will be needed if we are to achieve the objective of a CO2 reduction in the mobility sector together. This should take into account not only new vehicle technology but also driving styles and mileages, the vehicle fleet and the CO2 impact of fuels and electricity. Promoting alternative fuels such as hydrogen and e-fuels in particular represents a major lever for reducing CO2 output from vehicles already on the roads. Just for comparison: an improvement of 1 gram in the existing fleet – say, by using a lower CO2 fuel – is as effective as an improvement of 20 grams in the new vehicle fleet.
The infrastructure also plays a key role. Investments in the charging infrastructure are necessary in particular for promoting and expanding electric mobility – to prevent it from being restricted to urban areas, and to ensure that it is available to everyone. However, for European companies to remain internationally competitive, the path taken must be economical, ecological and socially acceptable. The shift to climate-neutral mobility will only be successful if the best solutions become established through competition.