The right utility parameter – mass or footprint (or both)?

In 2009, the EU set legally-binding targets for new cars to emit 130 grams of CO2 per kilometer (g/km) by 2015 and 95g/km in 2020.  In July, the Commission announced the outcome of its review of the modalities (ways) of achieving the 2020 target. The regulation takes account of the “utility” or purpose of the cars produced by different manufacturers whose targets therefore vary. In 2009, the EU agreed to account for the utility of the vehicles and set targets for individual manufacturers by comparing the average weight (mass) of the cars they produce. This was largely because data was not available on the average size (footprint) of registered cars until 2011. The Commission’s new proposal is to continue to use mass as a measure of utility until 2020 in order to minimize changes to the regulation. 

Using the weight of cars rather than footprint as a measure of utility has a number of important limitations. Notably, it discourages lightweighting of vehicles, making it more expensive to achieve the targets. This briefing explains the benefits of shifting to a footprint measure. The briefing also outlines the option of providing manufacturers with a choice of using either a mass or footprint based metric from 2015 to 2020, before switching to a footprint system for post-2020 regulations.