Europe’s vans to be speed limited now and more fuel-efficient by 2025

The European Parliament’s environment committee has sent a strong signal that it wants Europe’s vans to be more fuel-efficient than they are now. MEPs voted for a carbon dioxide emissions limit of between 105 and 120 g/km by 2025, down from 181 g/km in 2010. The 2025 target would equate to fuel consumption of 4 to 4.5 l/100km. The specific figure should be defined in 2017. The committee also voted to limit the speed of all new vans to 120 km/h from the start of next year.

Vans, or ‘light commercial vehicles’ as they are officially known, are the only commercial vehicles that have not had their speed regulated in Europe. They have also been given a relatively lax CO2 emissions target for 2020 – the average new car must emit no more than 95g by 2020, which equates to around 118g for vans given their larger size and heavier loads carried, but the vans target for 2020 is 147 g/km. So the environment committee’s vote was an important test of whether van makers would have to meet stricter standards.

The answer appears to be ‘no in 2020, but yes in 2025’. To the disappointment of environmental groups, MEPs approved the 147g target for 2020, but backed a stricter range for 2025. The legislation must still be approved by member states, and with van makers describing the 147g target as ‘extremely ambitious’, there is likely to be pressure from industry to water down the 2025 target.

T&E’s clean vehicles officer William Todts said: ‘The 147g target for 2020 is not better than business as usual – that’s why business organisations as well as NGOs had called for tighter targets. It is then very disappointing to see MEPs approving it. The technologies used in cars and vans are very similar, so targets should be equivalent too. The 2025 target range is a step forward but to be equivalent to cars it would have to be below 100 g/km.’

If ministers confirm the proposal, it will mean all new vans sold in the EU will have to have speed-limiting technology by 1 January 2014. Capping the top speed of vans will encourage the development of smaller engines, which in turn will reduce average fuel consumption and emissions at very low cost.

In other votes on the same issue, MEPs approved measures to reduce the gap between what vans are reported to emit in test conditions and what they really emit when on the road; this mirrors a similar problem with testing emissions from new cars. They also supported a limited system to encourage electric vehicles through so-called ‘supercredits’.