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EU Council and Parliament agree on CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles

19 January 2024

The EU Council and Parliament reached a provisional political agreement on CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs).

The agreement maintains the target of a 90% emission reduction from new trucks over 7.5 tonnes and coaches by 2040, as proposed by the European Commission. The proposal aims to ensure an increasing share of zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) in the EU-wide heavy-duty vehicle fleet, as this level of emission reduction cannot be achieved using internal combustion engine technology alone.

The agreement is provisional pending formal adoption by both institutions, before it can be published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force.

The co-legislators expanded the scope of the regulation to make almost all new heavy-duty vehicles with certified CO2 emissions—including smaller trucks, urban buses, coaches and trailers—subject to emission reduction targets. The provisional agreement also extends the scope of the regulation to vocational vehicles such as garbage trucks or concrete mixers at a later stage (2035). In addition, the Commission will analyze the possibility of including smaller trucks under 5 tonnes in the scope.

The agreement also addresses the issue of retrofitted vehicles, i.e., conventional vehicles converted to ZEVs, allowing for the transfer of such vehicles between manufacturers. The co-legislators agreed to task the Commission with assessing, by 2025, the need to facilitate the market uptake of retrofitted HDVs through harmonized rules for their approval.

In line with the EU’s climate objectives for 2030 and beyond, the Council and Parliament maintained the emission reduction targets set by the Commission in its proposal for 2030 (45%), 2035 (65%), and 2040 (90%)—compared to 2019 levels—in addition to the 2025 reduction target of 15% which was already provided for in the current regulation. These targets will apply to heavy trucks over 7.5 tonnes and coaches.

The co-legislators set the targets for trailers at 7.5% and for semi-trailers at 10%. They also introduced the definition of ‘e-trailers’ to adapt the existing regulation to the technical developments in this new type of trailer, considering the potential of e-trailers to contribute to reducing the CO2 emissions of trailers.

The proposed amendment introduces a 100% zero-emission target for urban buses by 2035, while setting an intermediate target of 90% by 2030. The co-legislators agreed to exempt inter-urban buses from this target and place this type of HDVs under the general targets for coaches.

An exemption from the CO2 reduction targets set in the regulation will apply to:

The effectiveness and impact of the amended regulation are to be reviewed by the Commission in 2027. The co-legislators added a series of provisions to make the review clause more comprehensive.

In the review, the Commission will also evaluate the possibility of developing a common methodology for the assessment and reporting of the full lifecycle CO2 emissions of new HDVs and produce an assessment of the role of a carbon correction factor (CCF) in the transition towards zero-emission mobility in the HDV sector. The role of a methodology for registering HDVs exclusively running on CO2-neutral fuels will also be assessed.

The European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political party in the European parliament, did not support the deal, with its rapporteur Jens Gieseke saying that “the Greens and Social Democrats, backed by the left and liberals (...) have once again remained true to their prohibition ideology”.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) said in a statement that it fully supports an ambitious decarbonization agenda, however, “the agreed implementation timeline remains extremely challenging in the absence of vital enabling conditions,” including electric charging and hydrogen refilling infrastructure, and comprehensive carbon pricing schemes.

Source: EU Council