CO2 Standards in Cars and Vans

The revision of the CO2 standards in cars and vans, as well as the currently ongoing revision for heavy-duty vehicles, offered an opportunity to speed-up and make more efficient the decarbonisation of road transport, by opening this regulation to technology inclusiveness by accounting for the CO2 reduction from fuels with low and net-zero CO2 emissions. This could take the form of credit certificates from fuels as a complementary compliance mechanism for vehicle manufacturers (as in the Frontier Economics proposal and in the Cerulogy study on heavy-duty road transport), or a carbon correction factor to the CO2 tailpipe emissions for compliance assessment, to reflect the GHG emission intensity and the share of CO2 Neutral Fuels. One more possibility would be for vehicles to be labelled “zero emissions” when fuelled 100% by CO2 neutral fuels over their lifetime.

Regrettably, the  adopted revision of the CO2 standards for light-duty vehicles does not include any form of recognition of the role of liquid fuels for decarbonising  road transport. The revised Regulation foresees an increased objective of 55% reduction of CO2 emissions for cars and vans by 2030 compared to 2021 and adds a 2035 target of 100% reduction which looks de facto as a ban on the sales of new internal combustion engine vehicles. To prevent this from happening, we need the Commission to honour their commitment with the Council to make a proposal for the registration of new vehicles fuelled exclusively and permanently with CO2 neutral fuels to be labelled zero CO2 emission. We call on them to make a workable proposal which includes all CO2 neutral fuel options, synthetic fuels and biofuels, that will spur EU investments in good time.

On the other hand, the Commission proposal of revision of the CO2 standards for heavy-duty vehicles disregarded the previous binding obligation to develop a methodology for the life-cycle assessment of GHG emissions, featuring also increased intermediate targets as well as a 2040 target of 90% reduction, and completely disregarding the role of CO2 neutral fuels for decarbonising the heavy-duty segment.

Since the publication of the Commission’s proposals, international developments have changed dramatically with severe implications for energy and raw materials dependencies. Therefore, additional considerations must be done to avoid unnecessary risks.  Scaling up sustainable renewable fuels is complementary to the benefits of electrification. Such a regime would not just ensure that we follow the most efficient and cost-effective pathways towards climate neutrality, but it would also maintain a level of consumer choice, affordability and equal access to mobility for all European citizens which is essential to our way of life.

The decarbonisation of transport is much more about the decarbonisation of the energy employed, rather than the power-train technology: an ICE fuelled with renewable sustainable fuels has a carbon footprint comparable to that of an electric vehicle powered with green electricity. When powered by climate-neutral fuels, the ICE is a climate-neutral technology platform. Besides, renewable sustainable fuels are fully compatible with existing vehicles, logistic infrastructure and refuelling facilities. Moreover, the contribution of fuels to the vehicle CO2 regulation is an essential trigger to unlock the production at an industrial scale of climate-neutral fuels for the hard-to-abate sectors (heavy-duty road, aviation and maritime transport), at an affordable price.

We would like to stress that sustainable renewable fuels are meant to complement and not lessen the EU’s efforts on electrification of road transport during the transition to zero-emission mobility until favourable conditions for battery-electric and hydrogen mobility are not fully in place across all of the EU Member States (e.g. in terms of consumer acceptance, charging infrastructure, the GHG intensity of the electricity mix or reliable access to essential raw materials). In the case of both light-duty and heavy-duty CO2 standards, the recognition of sustainable renewable fuels would ease EU’s ability to reach its climate-neutral transport objectives timely while leaving no one behind. The technologies for sustainable and renewable fuels are capital intensive and road transport can play a critical role as a lead market, as a no-regret option to scale up these fuels for the benefit of aviation and maritime.

FuelsEurope, in close cooperation with other industrial associations of the automotive supply chain, of commercial transport and of various renewable, sustainable fuels suppliers, is ready to engage with the Members of the European Parliament and the Council to review the proposal and design the most effective regulation to achieve the EU’s climate objectives.