Europe’s lost decade of truck fuel economy

Emissions from heavy-duty vehicles (HDV), which include trucks and buses, increased by 36% between 1990 and 2010 and are estimated to continue growing in the foreseeable future. HDV emissions currently represent around 30% of all road transport CO2 emissions and unless additional measures are taken by 2030 HDV emissions will increase to over 40% of road transport CO2.  By 2030 HDV would emit around 15% of emissions not covered by the EU ETS (non-ETS/ESD) – which EU member states will have to reduce by 30% by 2030. The main reason for the increase of HDV carbon emissions is the stagnation of truck fuel efficiency coupled with increasing demand for road freight. 

A new report  by the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT), based on an extensive, multi-annual real world testing programme, adds to the existing evidence demonstrating truck fuel consumption has stalled for decades. The report suggests truckmakers have focused technological development on enhanced performance and engine power rather than on reducing fuel consumption. The European Commission suspects EU truckmakers ran a cartel that “agreed the timing and price increase levels for the introduction of new emission technologies’ for much of the period covered by the ICCT report. Despite this, and in sharp contrast to the US, the EU has made little or no progress in tackling truck CO2 emissions.

In the US a similar lack of truck fuel economy progress led to the US Environment Agency (EPA) introducing its first HDV fuel efficiency and CO2 targets in 2011. In July 2015 the EPA has made a new proposal for post 2020 standards that would make US trucks the most technologically advanced and fuel efficient in the world.

The European Commission has lost a full decade on truck fuel economy. The 2016 ‘decarbonisation of transport strategy’ offers a new opportunity to finally take meaningful action to tackle HDV CO2 and should set the EU on a firm path towards 2025 CO2 standards for HDV.