EU weakens fuel efficiency standards for vans

The automotive industry, backed by the governments of Germany, Italy and France has succeeded in severely weakening an EU law setting CO2 standards for new vans.

The deal, agreed this evening at a behind-closed-doors meeting of representatives of the European Commission, Parliament and member states, will lead to higher fuel costs for millions of small businesses across Europe and runs counter to evidence of rapid progress in car emissions in recent years according to Transport & Environment (T&E).

The 'trilogue' agreement (1) between representatives of the three European institutions is for the average new van sold in the EU to emit 175g CO2/km in 2017 and 147g CO2/km in 2020. The original Commission proposal of 135g CO2/km in 2020 was weakened under enormous pressure from carmaking nations, led by Germany.

Kerstin Meyer, senior campaigner at T&E said: “The industry said it couldn’t make a 14% improvement in van efficiency over nine years, meanwhile it managed to improve car efficiency at more than three times that rate last year (2). Policymakers must to a better job of holding the industry to account when it makes such claims.“

Because CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency are directly linked, weaker emissions standards mean vans will use more fuel. Fuel is a major cost to small businesses who depend on vans to run their operations. Unlike the automotive industry, which has received billions of euros of taxpayers money during the financial crisis, small businesses have received little help.

Meyer commented: “The automotive industry, which has benefited from billions of euros of taxpayers money in subsidies, low interest loans and research grants has once again bullied politicians into getting an easy ride. Meanwhile, thousands of small businesses that have received little help in the crisis but depend on vans to run their operations, will suffer from higher fuel bills for years to come. “

The vehicle industry claims that it would be prohibitively expensive to make vans more fuel efficient. But research carried out for T&E by TNO/CE Delft showed that by simply returning to the engine power levels of 1997, fuel costs and CO2 emissions could be cut by up to 16%, vehicle purchase costs by up to 10%, and total cost of ownership by up to 12%. The changes required could also be introduced quickly and in existing models (3). In short, the cost of buying and running vans would go down rather than up.

(1) 'Trilogue' deals are not binding so member states and the Parliament will need to formally approve the agreement in order for it to become law. The deal will be discussed by European environment ministers on Monday.

(2) See T&E carmaker CO2 report 2009. Cutting van emissions to average 175g CO2/km by 2016 reflects a 14% reduction on their 2007 level of 203g CO2/km.

(3) See report briefing.

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Nico Muzi
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