• Commission drive to limit CO2 from vans

    The Commission is expected to act this month to close a gap in EU legislation by limiting carbon dioxide emissions from road transport. It is putting the final touches to proposals to tighten environmental standards for vans and light trucks, but the car makers’ lobby is fighting to get the proposals weakened, while environmental groups fear that some large cars could be reclassified as small trucks to allow the makers to be less strict about emissions.

    According to reports in the Financial Times newspaper, the draft standard for 2013 will be 175 g/km, with a long-term target of 135 g/km also part of the plans. A package of fines for vehicle makers who exceed the agreed limits is part of the legislation, but the proposed level of fines is not known.

    The European car makers’ umbrella organisation Acea has attacked the proposals, saying they are ‘an unbelievable thing to suggest during such a deep crisis in the industry’.

    Acea’s campaign against the standards continues the lobbying role it played over car CO2 standards – where the 120 g/km limit, originally set for 2005 and then put back to 2012, was weakened to effectively 137 g/km by 2015 – and carried on when the environment commissioner Stavros Dimas first suggested tightening van standards earlier this year.

    In January, Dimas suggested the 175 g/km limit should apply to light commercial vehicles by 2012. However the current draft proposals are reported to recommend 175g by mid-2013.

    In a letter published in the European Voice newspaper, T&E director Jos Dings said the car industry’s attacks were ‘getting old’. ‘It is the same tune that carmakers have been singing since environmental standards were first proposed for cars in the early 1990s, usually accompanied by the words “too costly”.

    ‘But these arguments sound increasingly hollow. Emissions from some diesel cars have plunged by 25% in the past two years, comparing equivalent models. But the advertised prices have not risen. So either the cost estimates are exaggerated or carmakers are selling some of their most popular models at a big loss.

    ‘Vans are, from a technological point of view, just large cars, indeed some “cars” are literally just vans with seats in the back. Adding technology to reduce emissions can be done quickly, nothing like the seven years the car makers say.’

    Within the transport sector freight has increased significantly in recent years with the largest growth occurring in the least energy efficient transport modes: road and air freight. Vans now represent 13% of light vehicle (car and van) sales in Europe, but the share is increasing rapidly. Sales of light vehicles have increased by 50% over the last decade.

    [mini story (box?)] The Swedish government wants to tax cars and vans the same way based on their CO2 emissions. It has taxed cars on their CO2 since 2005, and will add vans from 2011. The government envisages a basic tax of €35, and will then add around €2 for every gram of CO2 above 120 g/km (it also has a multiplier for diesel-powered cars and vans).