The car makers were none too happy. Their European lobbying organisation, ACEA, had previously suggested 20% as being a fair drop from 2021 levels, and only then conditional on there being a “real market uptake” on electric cars.
Instead, the target is nearly twice as tough and includes a quota of 35% of zero- and low-emission cars by 2030. Car makers can relax their CO2 target by meeting a benchmark share of low-emission vehicles.
ACEA secretary general Erik Jonnaert warned it would impact jobs as demand for locally built combustion engines dropped and said the pace of change was too fast. “It would essentially force the industry into a dramatic transformation in record time,” he said, which suggests the sweeping promises of electrification made by Europe’s car makers aren’t as advanced as they have been claiming.
The EU wants to both cut CO2 levels but also return Europe to the forefront of automotive innovation. An assessment into the likely impact of the CO2 reduction published by the European Commission last year said reduction standards have been a “fundamental tool” to push for innovation in low-carbon technologies. “But today, the EU is no longer the clear leader in this race, with the US, Japan, South Korea and China moving ahead very quickly,” it said. The assessment also concluded that the fuel savings would outweigh the extra cost of electrification.
One interesting development was that the EU governments voted to keep the so-called derogation, or relaxed targets, for manufacturers selling fewer than 300,000 vehicles annually in Europe. This helps Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), as well as Suzuki, Mazda, Honda and Mitsubishi, and stays despite a recommendation from the European Commission that it be dropped for the 2030 targets.
It was saved after lobbying from Slovakia (where JLR has its new plant) and Hungary (home of Suzuki’s manufacturing in Europe) but, interestingly, the UK didn’t lobby for it. “The UK focus was on trying to get an ambitious proposal rather than try to push for derogation,” said Greg Archer, director of clean vehicles at European green pressure group Transport & Environment.
The derogation is an enormous help to JLR, which needs to hit a CO2 target of 132g/km by 2021.
Could they game the system?
Measuring the average CO2 of each brand’s sales output is fiendishly difficult and could offer a chance to game the system. What car makers want by 2021 is to be as low as possible on CO2 so they don’t incur fines on the existing targets, but also as high as possible so their target is less arduous for 2025 and 2030.