• T&E studies show cheap and quick ways to cut fuel consumption of vans

    The fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of vans can be cut much more quickly and cheaply than the European Commission's research suggests. That's the message from two new reports published by T&E. The first study says that fitting less powerful and smaller engines has been an overlooked but quick and cheap option to reduce emissions. The second report suggests emissions can be cut even more by limiting a vehicle's maximum speed.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]With the EU’s first law to regulate fuel consumption – and thereby carbon dioxide emissions – going through the legislative process, a battle is being fought over the maximum emissions that the average new van is allowed by 2016 and 2020. The Commission has proposed limits of 175g of CO2 per kilometre by 2016 and 135g by 2020, but these limits are already under attack from automotive industry interests.

    Yet two new reports on the fuel consumption from vans, prepared for T&E by the Dutch consultancies TNO and CE Delft, suggest the Commission’s thinking on vans is flawed. T&E policy officer Kerstin Meyer says, ‘Much of the political debate over the new proposals has focused on the costs of advanced technologies needed to meet the new standards. But our report, “Potential CO2 reduction from optimal engine sizing for light commercial vehicles”, suggests the official impact assessment for the new legislation ignored an altogether simpler and cheaper option.

    ‘We can cut emissions and save money at the same time if we make the most of smaller and less powerful engines. The findings suggest light commercial vehicles could be made up to 16% more fuel-efficient and up to 10% cheaper to buy simply by reversing the upward trend in horsepower and using smaller engines.’

    T&E has called for stricter limits than the Commission is proposing: 160 g/km by 2015 and 125 g/km by 2020. It says 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.

    ‘It’s time to call an end to the van engine power arms race’, Meyer added. ‘The report we have published shows that just by returning to the engine power of 10 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 Commission’s impact assessment completely ignored this potential and is thus too pessimistic about how far fuel consumption can be cut, at what speed, and at what cost.’

    Limiting speed

    In another report, T&E has shown that there would be significant advantages to introducing mandatory speed limiters in vans, which would limit the speed at 100 km/h. This speed reduction could lead to a decrease in CO2 emissions by up to 7% and a few per cent more if the speed limiter led to less
    powerful engines being used.

    It also finds a 110 km/h limit would reduce average CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by 4-5%. And these benefits could be even greater if vans had smaller engine sizes.

    The idea of limiting the speed of new vans appears to be quickly gaining support. It was initially floated in the legislation by the Parliament’s rapporteur, Martin Callanan. In recent votes both the transport and industry committees of the European Parliament have voted to back an obligatory speed limiter set at 120 km/h, and the idea was boosted when 85% of respondents to a survey by the German freight industry newspaper Verkehrsrundschau supported these limiters.