Trucks: EU fails to address growing climate menace

October 28, 2021

Weak EU targets do next to nothing to encourage truckmakers to produce electric trucks

Rising inflation and empty shelves; autumn in Europe has so far been marked by a rapid rebound in demand for goods and a growing shortage of drivers. What is a boon for trucking services presents a challenge to Europe’s decarbonisation plans. 

A new T&E report shows that European policies aimed at keeping trucking emissions in check are failing, with trucking still a long way from being on track to reach the EU’s net zero target for 2050.

Truck emissions have been continuously rising for decades, up 29% compared to 1990. In 2019 the EU sought to address this by introducing CO2 emission standards for trucks. Now that the first set of data for trucks sold betweenJuly 2019 and June 2020 is publicly available, T&E has analysed the figures to see how truckmakers are progressing in meeting the targets.

The data shows that truckmakers are meeting EU targets, but that the goals are too weak. Improvements in aerodynamics and fuel efficiency mean trucks can already achieve the EU’s modest 2025 CO2 reduction target while producing just a few zero-emission vehicles. Yet this still leaves trucking behind where it needs to be if the industry is to play its part in limiting global heating to 2°.

Swedish truckmaker Scania leads the way in terms of CO2 emissions from new trucks with emissions 5.3% lower than the average for the most common type of long-haul truck. Laggards Renault and IVECO, on the other hand, have the highest emissions: 2.6% and 2.4% above the long-haul average – the most common type of truck – respectively. But efficiency gains alone will not decarbonise an industry that is expanding every year, warns T&E.

Lucien Mathieu, acting freight director at T&E, said: “We are seeing soaring demand for logistics services and with it a spike in emissions. With trade rebounding, now is the time to raise the ambition for truck emissions targets. They are currently far too weak to encourage truckmakers to produce zero-emission vehicles.”

Truckmakers have themselves made voluntary commitments for electric sales which go beyond what the EU requires. According to their public announcements, these voluntary commitments would take the market to around 7% zero-emission vehicles in 2025 and 43% in 2030 – higher than the 2% needed in 2025 to meet existing voluntary targets. These voluntary announcements show that the EU can set a realistic – but more ambitious – target of at least 30% zero-emission trucks by 2028 and over 50% in 2030, says T&E.

Lucien Mathieu concluded: “The European Commission is addressing car emissions with plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars, yet it is still miles away from bringing trucking in line with its Green Deal ambition.”

Following the publication of the report, the European Commission announced that in 2022 it would strengthen truck CO2 standards to make zero-emission trucks more affordable. This is the perfect chance to put trucking on a firm path to zero-emissions, says T&E. 

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