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.