The European car industry has issued a statement criticising the European Union's proposed 30% cut in CO2 emissions from cars and vans by 2030 from 2021, when a fleet average of 95g/km has already been proposed for car makers.
The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) described the target as "aggressive when we consider the low and fragmented market penetration of alternatively powered vehicles across Europe to date".
The ACEA was warmer about the timing of the proposals, but suggested that a 20% reduction instead of 30% across the same timeframe would be "achievable at a high but acceptable cost".
The association's secretary general, Erik Jonnaert, said: "Europe needs much more investment in recharging and refuelling infrastructure, before we can expect consumers throughout the entire EU to embrace such vehicles.” He also emphasised the fact that affordability is a key factor in the development of EVs, which are vital to the proposals.
The EU's proposals bring the 2030 target down to a 66g/km fleet average as the European Commission aims to encourage more widespread adoption and investment in zero-emissions vehicles by car manufacturers.
EC vice-president for energy Maroš Šefčovič said: “Today's set of proposals is setting the conditions for European manufacturers to lead the global energy transition rather than follow others. It will entice them to manufacture the best, cleanest and most competitive cars, hence regaining consumers' trust.”
The 2021 proposals were the first part of a two-step process to reduce Europe-wide total CO2 emissions by 40%. At the time, the plans came under fire from Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche, who added that even a 20% reduction between 2021 and 2030 would be “a steep reduction”.
The push is being presented by the EU as encouragement to develop more electric vehicles, along with the promise of supported battery production facilities and charging infrastructure. There is, however, the possibility of levies imposed on non-conforming manufacturers, with commissioner for climate action and energy Miguel Arias Cañete saying: "We need the right targets and the right incentives. With these CO2 measures for cars and vans, we are doing just that. Our targets are ambitious, cost-effective and enforceable. With the 2025 intermediary targets, we will kick-start investments. With the 2030 targets, we are giving stability and direction to keep up these investments."
A tipping point at which electric vehicle sales outweigh those of petrol and diesel cars has not yet happened. It’s thought that the latest development could edge the industry closer to that point, because it is likely to spur more urgency in electric vehicle development as well as encourage new investment in batteries.
Šefčovič has already expressed concern in Europe’s progress in the area, having launched a summit to further the development and manufacture of batteries last month.
Reacting to the news, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The automotive industry has delivered huge improvements in CO2 emissions over the past decade and continues to invest heavily to drive future reductions. The targets proposed today, however, are a significant and potentially unrealistic challenge.
“Plug-in electric cars account for less than 2% of the UK market and, while there are 45 models on the market and many more introductions planned for 2018 and beyond, increasing the take-up of such low-emissions vehicles is not solely in the gift of industry. Major investments in infrastructure and consistent government incentives and fiscal measures are essential.
"The internal combustion engine will continue to play a critical role and government must recognise that technologies such as new, low-emissions diesel cars are essential to the achievement of these targets – and the Government’s own climate change ambitions. It must end the confusion surrounding diesel and ensure the competitiveness of the industry so that it can develop the technological solutions and safeguard the many jobs the industry creates.”
A Volkswagen AG spokesman said: "The EU Commission’s draft law contains some ambitious targets as well as expected specifications regarding CO2 reduction. The decisions to make provision for a percentage reduction by 2030 as well as the application of the principle of technological neutrality are positive.
"However, the draft fails to give answers to decisive issues which call for a political contribution. That calls for incentives, a review of existing tax regulations and favourable electricity prices.
"In essence, the commission has once again only presented a regulation for new vehicles and refrained from making any proposals concerning CO2 reduction for the existing fleet of almost 250 million vehicles. The decarbonisation of road fuels, for example, through 'power-to-gas' or via synthetic fuels, would certainly have merited more attention. For example, Audi e-diesel has the potential to make conventional combustion engines operate almost CO2-neutrally.”
PSA boss Carlos Tavares said at a recent mobility event: "We cannot just look at the CO2 emissions of automobiles without stepping back. Stepping back means that the mobility device needs to be zero emissions, but we also need to care about the CO2 emissions of the energy production, energy mix, that we are progressing as fast on these as on the mobility devices.
We also need to realise that if we select one technology and say that this is the technology that everybody should be using, we need to enlarge the scope of CO2 emissions evaluation to the manufacturing of this technology; that the manufacture of batteries is not going to create more emissions than an ICE car with clean energy behind it. All of this needs vision about how much we need to step back to have a global perspective on global mobility."