The new findings come as the European Parliament's Transport and Industry committees are set to vote on new fuel efficiency/CO2 standards for new vans on 22 and 24 June.
Much of the political debate over the new proposals has centered on the costs of advanced technologies needed to meet the new standards. But the study, carried out by consultants TNO and CE Delft on behalf of Transport & Environment, the sustainable transport campaigners, shows that the official impact assessment for the new legislation ignored the potential for 'optimal engine sizing' to cut emissions and actually bring down the costs of new vans.
Kerstin Meyer of Transport & Environment said: "It's time to call an end to the van engine power arms race. This study shows that just by returning to the engine power of ten years ago, vans could be cheaper to buy, and much more fuel efficient. It's a win win for the millions of businesses that depend on keeping costs down, especially in a crisis."
The study shows that 'optimal engine sizing', i.e. returning to engine power levels of 1997, can cut fuel costs and CO2 emissions by up to 16%, cut vehicle purchase costs by up to 10%, and cut total cost of ownership by up to 12%. Moreover, optimal engine sizing can be introduced quickly and in existing models.
The 175 g/km target proposed for 2016 by the Commission could be met using optimal engine sizing alone, and at the same time make vans cheaper to buy instead of more expensive.
In addition the long-term target of 135 g/km would be significantly easier to meet.
The European Commission’s impact assessment completely ignored this potential and is hence far too pessimistic about how far fuel consumption can be cut, at what speed, and at what cost.
The results of the study justify earlier and lower CO2 standards for vans than the European Commission proposes. T&E’s proposal is 160 g/km by 2015 and 125 g/km by 2020, as opposed to 175 g/km by 2016 and 135 g/km by 2020 proposed by the Commission.