Message from the Secretary General – November 2016

Although ratification of the ambitious climate agreement that was reached in Paris at the end of 2015 is still ongoing, Marrakech hosted a follow-up conference earlier this month. The main objective of this COP22 gathering was to translate the ambitions of the first universal climate agreement into an agenda for concrete action.

Here at ACEA, we hope that the pragmatic mind-set of COP22 will contribute to shaping a holistic policy framework that allows vehicle manufacturers to continue to drive down CO2 emissions while generating jobs and economic growth for millions of Europeans.

Indeed, identifying the best possible response to the climate change challenge is a major priority for Europe. It is not only important in relation to these international climate negotiations, but it is also at the centre of many policy initiatives being tabled by the European Union. The automobile industry welcomes the European Commission’s recent initiative to explore how to further decarbonise transport across all modes in Europe, and has already made significant improvements to new vehicle CO2 performance. In the case of passenger cars, for example, the average emissions of a new car hitting Europe’s road in 2015 were 36% lower than in 1995; that is quite a feat in just two decades! Looking further ahead, our industry is committed to continue reducing CO2 across all vehicle segments, from passenger cars to heavy-duty vehicles.

More than ever the need for decarbonisation is clear, and in order to deliver on their commitment manufacturers are investing in all kinds of powertrains. This includes hybrid, electric, fuel cell and natural gas technology, but also highly-efficient combustion engines. The latter will keep playing a major role in years to come, or at least for a transitional period; this also includes the latest generation of diesel vehicles meeting the strict RDE requirements. At the same time, we continue to make good progress on alternative-fuel vehicles. Not only is the range of electric cars improving rapidly, we increasingly also see a role for alternative powertrains in the regional and urban use of heavy-duty vehicles, with buses among the first vehicles making the shift towards zero-emission transport.

However, we should also take into account market realities. In order to make alternative-fuel vehicles more attractive for consumers we need to create the right ecosystem. This is not just a question of vehicle technology, it is also about providing the necessary infrastructure for convenient charging across the EU and introducing effective incentives to support the uptake of innovative powertrains. Europe’s automobile industry is making significant investments in low-emission technology, but these investments will not be enough if we don’t have a coherent European framework supporting this major transformation. Moreover, manufacturers have little influence over how the cars, vans, truck and buses they produce are used. For this reason, Europe should adopt an integrated strategy to tackling road transport emissions.

Firstly, because new vehicles represent such a small fraction of the fleet, it is important to look at the entire vehicle fleet rather than just new vehicles. The average age of road vehicles in Europe has been increasing since 2000, and for cars it is currently close to 10 years. As older vehicles are replaced with newer models, emissions from road transport will fall. To give you an idea of the potential, steady fleet renewal could reduce CO2 emissions from cars by as much as 37% by 2030 according to a recent study.

Secondly, the technology of new vehicles is just part of a bigger picture. After all, there are many more factors than just the vehicle alone that affect CO2 emissions. This means not only focusing on reducing emissions from new vehicles, but also looking at all factors influencing emissions during the use of a vehicle. Such a comprehensive approach can reduce emissions more effectively by drawing on the full spectrum of solutions, whether this relates to intelligent transport systems, improving infrastructure or altering driver behaviour (for example through eco-driving training).

So, when we are talking about translating global climate change ambitions into concrete actions, in line with the COP22 agenda, we need to go beyond the traditional targets-only paradigm. We need to adopt a more holistic approach, combing what manufacturers can do through innovative technology with addressing other factors that affect CO2 emissions from road transport. A more effective approach will look at the full fleet and how it is used. Combined with our industry’s continuous improvements to vehicle technology, these measures have the potential to combat CO2 emission more successfully.

To gain a better insight into the potential of such an approach, ACEA commissioned various studies throughout 2015. For cars and vans, we managed to bring together the expertise of more than 50 transport-related stakeholders. This consultation exercise identified a wide variety of technologies and approaches that, according to the various stakeholders, can play a major role in reducing CO2 from cars and vans by 2030. In parallel, independent research body Transport and Mobility Leuven (TML) undertook a study to quantify the reduction potential of this integrated approach for trucks. According to the study, the potential gains are more than double the CO2 reduction rate from a traditional vehicle-only approach. Finally, ERTICO conducted two in-depth studies, highlighting the potential of intelligent transport systems to reduce CO2 from both cars and trucks.

Together, the reports and studies clearly demonstrate that this holistic approach is not just a theoretical concept. Instead, it is a real-world paradigm shift supported by a wide range of stakeholders and a necessity if we are serious about further reducing CO2 from road transport. In order to provide you with this bigger picture on the CO2 debate, we have summarised all findings on a dedicated website: This new website, for the first time, brings all the studies and materials together in an accessible and visual way, providing a valuable source of information.

Of course, by listening to so many stakeholders we came to better understand the potential of all innovative solutions out there, but stakeholders and studies alike also reminded us that such measures have to be realised in the most cost-effective way. Joining forces to reduce CO2 emissions will allow us to drive down total road transport emissions more effectively, but at the same time we will need to ensure that Europe’s strategic automotive industry remains competitive in the future. To that end, this new website also provides a clear picture on regulation and the competitiveness of the EU auto industry. Our sector allocates almost €45 billion to R&D each year in order to address future challenges, but the relative costs of reducing emissions must be similar and proportionate across sectors. Not only should comparable efforts be made by all industrial sectors within Europe ,but also versus the rest of the world and across all modes of transport, including air, maritime and rail.

For more information about reducing CO2 emissions from road transport more effectively, I highly recommend everyone to visit:

Erik Jonnaert
Secretary General of ACEA

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