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 open 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). This could also consist of customer-side benefits when a new ICE/Hybrid vehicle is guaranteed a long-term supply of low-carbon liquid fuels.

Regrettably, the Commission proposal did not include any form of recognition of the role of liquid fuels for decarbonising light-duty transport.  The Commission proposed an increased objective of 55% reduction of CO2 emissions for cars and vans by 2030 compared to 2021 and added a 2035 target of 100% reduction which looks de facto as a ban on the sales of new diesel and gasoline internal combustion engine vehicles.

Since the publication of the Commission’s proposal, international developments have changed dramatically with severe implications for energy and raw materials dependencies. Therefore, additional considerations must be done to avoid unnecessary risks; industrial, economic, social and in terms of delayed GHG reductions. 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 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 cars 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.