Backgrounder: reducing CO2 emissions from cars and vans

Brussels, 17 June 2015 – Ahead of tomorrow’s European Commission ‘Driving Road Decarbonisation Forward’ conference, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) calls for a comprehensive approach to future CO2 emissions reduction.

The automobile industry in Europe has invested heavily in innovations designed to bring down significantly the CO2 emissions from each kilometre cars are driven. Advances to vehicle engine technology have been supplemented with efforts to reduce the weight of vehicles. As a result, the average new car coming on to the road in 2021 will produce 42% less CO2 per kilometre than the new car bought in 2005.

For now, CO2 emissions from road transport have not decreased as hoped. There are limits to how much more change can be brought to the internal combustion engine and how much further cars can be refined. Therefore, if we are to combat CO2 emissions from road transport, we need a fundamental rethink about how we approach this challenge.

It is vital we maintain the mobility that is essential to our economic prosperity – including the crucial contribution of the automobile industry to jobs and growth – as we seek to mitigate harmful climate change. This means a new comprehensive approach to CO2 emissions reduction which adds a broader conception of how we reduce CO2 emissions per kilometre and takes into account how we also reduce unnecessary kilometres driven (through ITS and infrastructure design), alongside continuing innovations in vehicle technology.

Adopting alternative lower carbon fuels and powertrains will be key. Any commitment to reduce CO2 emissions per kilometre further from the 2020 target of 95g of CO2 per kilometre can only be met through a rise in the market share of alternative powertrain cars. In addition, because of its relative efficiency, any efforts to replace diesel with petrol-driven cars will only make the CO2 emissions situation worse. New, cleaner car models will contribute to lowering the fleet’s CO2 emissions, so encouraging swifter fleet renewal is also vital.

The testing procedure for cars – which includes the measurement of CO2 emissions – is also going to be changed, moving from the current NEDC testing procedure to the much more relevant WLTP, which will better reflect real driving conditions. Even if we insist on further reductions from vehicle operation alone, any new post-2020 CO2 emissions targets should be based on the fully implemented WLTP testing procedure.

We must also ensure that in seeking new approaches for reducing CO2 emissions, we do no create a conflict between Europe’s ambitious climate change policies and the need to protect jobs and growth in Europe. 12.1 million people – more than 1 in 20 of the entire EU population in a job – are directly or indirectly employed by the automobile industry. It is also Europe’s leading R&D industry with €41.5bn invested annually. Given the range of factors that contribute to the level of CO2 emissions from each individual vehicle, it makes no sense for the full burden of reducing CO2 emissions to be borne by the automobile industry alone – especially in the context of a highly competitive global market in vehicle manufacture and industrial production.


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