Car and truckmakers want €520bn red-carpet treatment for their vehicles

Leaked plans by car and truckmakers to cut carbon emissions of their vehicles in Europe – by resurfacing all roads in the EU at a cost of more than €520 billion – have been criticised as an abdication of the sector’s climate responsibility. Industry body ACEA’s ‘Joining forces’ initiative calls for greater efficiencies through major investments such as in lower rolling resistance tarmac, but fails to identify new CO2 standards for vehicles.

The cost of the grandiose road resurfacing scheme would equate to saving carbon at €1,000 per tonne of CO2, or according to the road paving industry’s own estimate, while the current ETS carbon price is €5/tonne. ACEA’s report also claims new cars produced in 2021 will emit 42% less CO2 than in 2005 though research indicates over half of this will not have been achieved on the road.

Carlos Calvo Ambel, transport and energy analyst at T&E, said: ‘The car industry is completely out of touch with reality. They want governments to spend over €1,000 resurfacing roads for every person in the EU. B€500 billion to resurface all of Europe's roads but carmakers plan to do nothing themselves. This won't restore the public's trust in them after dieselgate.’

ACEA’s claimed greenhouse gas saving were immediately called into question by a new independent expert study that concluded that other expensive fixes such as ‘intelligent transport systems’ would only cut CO2 emissions by 1% beyond business as usual. Instead, EU policies, and vehicle efficiency standards in particular, would make a sizeable in road transport emissions, a report the document by consultants Ricardo Energy & Environment found.

Road transport accounts for about 20% of Europe’s total GHG emissions, and reducing its impact will be crucial in achieving the EU’s 2030 climate targets. Ambitious new EU standards for cars, vans and trucks would, according to the study, deliver an ‘indispensable part’ of the effort required to meet the emissions reductions required.

Carlos Calvo Ambel concluded: ‘Fuel efficiency standards are a proven and effective way to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles. They stimulate growth and jobs, save drivers money and reduce emissions. So what we really need is ambitious fuel economy legislation for new cars and trucks, for starting from 2025.’

‘Eco driving’ training for motorists would deliver less than one-fifth of the greenhouse gas (GHG) savings that ACEA claims while the expert study’s figures on savings from using biofuels and gas in road transport also contrast sharply with independent experts.

Policy changes at national level – such as speed enforcement, road charging, smarter taxation of fuels and support for electrification of transport – will complement standards for also be needed if climate goals are to be met, Ricardo also said.