Europe’s truck makers now face the tough task of reducing new vehicle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by an average of 15 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030, after a provisional agreement on targets for carbon savings from road freight was reached by European institutions.
The proposed limits are a first for the EU, which currently does not impose restrictions on heavy vehicle CO2 emissions, in contrast with other countries including Canada, China, Japan and the US.
Manufacturers who fail to adhere to the targets would pay an “excess emissions premium” by way of penalty. The limits have still to be ratified, and will be subject to review in 2022.
The new CO2 targets reflect proposals originally made by the European Commission. The European Parliament had initially advocated even tougher targets of 20 per cent by 2025, and 35 per cent by 2030.
One hitherto untapped avenue for fuel economy, and thereby CO2 reductions, that will be open to truck designers is aerodynamic cab shapes. Tight rules governing maximum length currently restrict aerodynamic savings to small tweaks involving curved edges and spoilers on cuboid truck shells.
DAF Trucks, for example, can trace its flagship XF cab back to the late 1980s, but holds that there is little point in introducing an ‘all-new’ design to fill the same dimensional box.
It was recently announced that legislation relaxing these rules, to allow the addition of length for crash-safety and aerodynamic gain, is set to be brought forward from 2022 to 2020. It is suggested that the changes could contribute to reductions in fuel consumption of up to 10 per cent.
The changes will also align with proposals due for vote in the European Parliament which, similar to Transport for London’s Direct Vision Standard, will stipulate the amount of the area surrounding the cab that the driver should be able to see without using mirrors.
Heavy-duty vehicles (lorries, buses and coaches) are said to be responsible for 27 per cent of CO2 emissions associated with road transport in the EU, and to account for six per cent of the bloc’s overall CO2 emissions.
“The European Parliament and Council have reached an ambitious and balanced agreement,” said Miguel Arias Cañete, EU commissioner for climate action and energy.
“The new targets and incentives will help tackle emissions, as well as bring fuel savings to transport operators and cleaner air for all Europeans. For the EU industry, this is an opportunity to embrace innovation towards zero-emission mobility and further strengthen its global leadership in clean vehicles.”
A proportion of the savings are expected to come from the introduction of zero-emissions vehicles. However, the European vehicle makers’ federation ACEA questioned the commitment of governments to this objective.
ACEA secretary general, Erik Jonnaert, said: “We can now only call upon member states to urgently step up their efforts to roll-out the infrastructure required for charging and refuelling the alternatively-powered trucks which will need to be sold en masse if these targets are to be met.”
If an individual manufacturer can achieve more than two per cent sales of zero-emission (electric or hydrogen) trucks, then it will be rewarded with less stringent targets for the rest of its production. Zero-emissions trucks will also be permitted up to two tonnes of additional gross weight to compensate for the extra mass of batteries and other equipment.
ACEA is also concerned that other reforms that could reduce the carbon footprint per tonne/km of freight lifted, such as the introduction of longer truck-trailer combinations, have been postponed to 2025 or beyond.
Volvo Trucks president Roger Alm appeared rather more enthusiastic than some of his counterparts at rival manufacturers.
“Cutting climate emissions from heavy-duty vehicles is an incredibly important task, and it’s fundamental to our initiatives in sustainable transport,” he said.
“At Volvo Trucks, we’re well-positioned to take on this challenge. It’s natural for the EU to now introduce limits on CO2 emissions. In order to speed up the transition, we would however also like to see stronger financial incentives for the customers who take the lead and choose more climate-friendly vehicles.”
Volvo is to commence series production of electric trucks later this year, using technology proven on city buses.
“We’re at the stage where the technology will soon be ready for wider applications in heavy-duty transport,” said Lars Mårtensson, director of environment and innovation at Volvo Trucks.
“If demand is stimulated and the new charging infrastructure network is expanded, the volume will also be able to increase at a faster rate than would otherwise be possible.”
Traton subsidiary Scania also said it welcomed the challenge, but raised serious questions about infrastructure provision.
President and CEO Henrik Henriksson said he welcomed the 2022 review as an opportunity to address this and other issues.
“The ambitious targets and the transition into new powertrain technologies will also require substantial investments in truck-specific charging and refueling infrastructure for alternative fuels which, to a large extent, are not yet in place,” he remarked.
“This review should consider the availability of refuelling and charging infrastructure for alternatively-powered vehicles, as well as the market uptake of such vehicles. The review should also contain a method to better reflect a well-to-wheel perspective in order to include biofuels.
“Furthermore, longer and heavier vehicle combinations have to be considered. Such combinations are often used in Sweden, Finland and Denmark, as these vehicles are one of several methods used to increase the efficiency in the transport system.”