Lowering the bar: how the car industry can improve efficiency targets

Publication - May 20, 2010
Transport is the fastest growing sector for greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. In 2007, transport accounted for 28% of the EU’s overall emissions and passenger cars are responsible for over half of these. Recognising the problem, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has singled out the transport sector, alongside the power sector, as a priority area for climate action during his second term in office.

Executive summary: In April 2010, the European Commission proposed a European strategy on clean and energy efficient vehicles. The Commission recognised that “Ambitious emission targets will be crucial in driving innovations in the long-term and will take account of their contribution to achieving the overall level of greenhouse gas reduction needed in the transport sector.”

Under EU legislation adopted in 2009, the average new passenger car sold in 2015 should comply with a CO2 target of 130 grammes per kilometre (g/km). By 2020, the target is 95g/km. A review of this legislation is scheduled no later than the end of 2012, to agree the modalities of how carmakers should reach the 2020 target.

The first studies have been carried out for the European Commission into the feasibility of the 95g/km target as well as others. These studies have focused on technology improvements as a solitary means of achieving the reduction, ignoring other means such as lowering performance and a shift toward smaller cars. Unsurprisingly, a target of 85g/km has been identified as “the maximum attainable target under the assumptions in the study,” (AEA 2009: 23).

Greenpeace has commissioned a separate study to demonstrate the feasibility of reaching an even lower target of 80g/km by 2020. This target would increase the emissions savings from the legislation to 100 million tons (Mt) CO2 by 2020, instead of 80 Mt CO2 saved with a target of 95g/km by 2020, according to earlier research carried out for Greenpeace.

The study is released as EU ministers discuss the regulatory framework, as part of the European strategy on clean and energy efficient vehicles.

Num. pages: 4