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Emission Standards

EU: Cars: Greenhouse Gas Emissions


The first carbon dioxide emission targets for new passenger cars were set in 1998/99 through voluntary agreements between the European Commission and the automotive industry represented by three manufacturer associations: ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association), JAMA (Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association) and KAMA (Korean Automobile Manufacturers Association). These agreements targeted fleet-average CO2 emissions of 140 g/km by 2008/09. While significant CO2 emission reductions were achieved in the initial years, since around 2004 the manufacturers could no longer meet their voluntary targets. In response, the Commission developed a mandatory CO2 emission reduction program.

The CO2 emission regulations include two sets of mandatory, fleet-average CO2 emission standards: one for passenger cars and one for light commercial vehicles (LCV). The standards were tightened several times, with the newest regulation setting CO2 targets for 2025 and for 2030.

  • Passenger cars:
    • 2009-2015 Targets: CO2 emission targets for new passenger cars were adopted in April 2009 [2874]. The regulation established a CO2 emission target of 130 g/km to be reached by 2015. The regulation also defined a long-term target of 95 g CO2/km to be reached from 2020.
    • 2015-2021 Targets: A second set of CO2 emission targets was finalized in March 2014 [3047]. The emission target of 95 g/km must be fully met by each manufacturer by 2021.
    • 2021-2030 Targets: A third set of CO2 emission targets was adopted in April 2019 [4202]. CO2 emissions have to be reduced by 15% by 2025 and by 37.5% by 2030, relative to a 2021 baseline. The regulation will be reviewed in 2023.
  • Light commercial vehicles (commonly referred to as vans):
    • 2011-2017 Targets: CO2 emission targets for vans were adopted in May 2011 [2875] and amended in 2012 [2876]. The original regulation established a fleet-average CO2 emission target of 175 g/km to be phased-in by 2016, as well as a long-term target of 135 g CO2/km from 2020. The 2012 amendments delayed the full phase-in of the 175 g/km target from 2016 to 2017 and relaxed the long-term CO2 target from 135 to 147 g/km.
    • 2017-2020 Targets: A regulation adopted in February 2014 [2878] confirmed the 147 g/km CO2 emission target to be reached by 2020.
    • 2020-2030 Targets: A third set of CO2 targets for vans was adopted in April 2019, together with the passenger car standards [4202]. CO2 emissions from vans are to be reduced by 15% by 2025 and by 31% by 2030.

The 2020/2030 regulation introduces “benchmarks” for zero- and low-emission vehicles (ZLEV), defined as vehicles with CO2 emissions up to 50 g/km. The ZLEV benchmarks are 15% from 2025, and 35% for cars and 30% for LCVs from 2030. The benchmarks are not mandatory, but manufacturers with a higher share of ZLEV vehicles are rewarded with more relaxed CO2 targets. ZLEV vehicles are expected to include battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV), as the 50 g/km threshold is considered too challenging for conventional vehicles.

Test Cycles. The regulatory targets apply to tailpipe CO2 emissions that are measured over the same test cycles used to measure emissions of criteria pollutants: the NEDC and the WLTP test, which replaced the NEDC over the period of 2017-2019. During the transition period, until the end of 2020, the CO2MPAS correlation tool is used to verify compliance with the NEDC CO2 targets in vehicles that are type approved using the WLTP procedure. Two versions of the CO2MPAS tool were developed, for cars [3639][3640] and for vans [3641][3642]. After the transition period, beginning from 2021, the European Commission will develop a set of WLTP-based CO2 targets for cars and LCVs.

The regulations cover only CO2 emissions, other greenhouse gases are not regulated. Information on the reduction of CO2 emissions from transport can be found in the European Commission website [2877].

Passenger Cars

Emission Targets. Passenger cars (vehicle category M1) must meet the following fleet-average emission targets (NEDC test):

  • 2015: A CO2 emission target of 130 g/km must be reached by each vehicle manufacturer by 2015 using vehicle technology [2874]. (To meet the EU CO2 emission target of 120 g/km, a further emission reduction of 10 g/km was to be provided by additional measures, such as the use of biofuels.)
  • 2020/2021: A CO2 emission target of 95 g/km must be met by 95% of each manufacturers’ new passenger cars registered in 2020, and by 100% of cars from 2021 onwards [3047].
  • 2025: A CO2 emission target equal to a 15% emission reduction from the 2021 target [4202]. Using the current 2021 NEDC target of 95 g/km as a baseline, this would translate to 80.8 g/km.
  • 2030: A CO2 emission target equal to a 37.5% emission reduction from the 2021 target [4202]. Using the 2021 NEDC target as a baseline, this would translate to 59.4 g/km.

The specific emissions target for each manufacturer in a calendar year is based on the vehicle mass. It is calculated as the average of the Specific Emissions of CO2 (g/km) of each new passenger car registered in that calendar year, where:

Specific Emissions = T + a × (M - M0)(1)

In the above formula:
T - CO2 emission target: T = 130 g/km for 2012-2019; and T = 95 g/km for 2020-2024.
a - coefficient: a = 0.0457 for 2012-2019; a = 0.0333 for 2020-2024.
M - mass of the vehicle (kg)
M0 - average vehicle mass: M0 = 1372 kg for 2012-2015; M0 = 1392.4 kg for 2016 [3200].

From 2016, the value of M0 is adjusted annually to reflect the average mass of passenger cars in the previous three calendar years (changing to one year for 2022, and two years for 2024 and later). Thus, the nominal CO2 targets are directly applicable to vehicles of an average mass, while lighter cars have lower CO2 targets and heavier vehicles have higher CO2 targets.

The 2015 targets are phased-in over the period from 2012 to 2015. Manufacturers must meet their average CO2 emission targets in 65% of their fleets in 2012, 75% in 2013, 80% in 2014 and 100% from 2015 through 2019. The 2020 targets must be met in 95% of manufacturers’ fleets in 2020, and in 100% from 2021.

Incentives. Certain types of low emission vehicles receive additional incentives:

  • Super-credits—Through 2022, vehicles with CO2 emissions below 50 g/km receive super-credits. Under the 2015 regulation, each such vehicle is counted as 3.5 cars in 2012 and 2013, as 2.5 cars in 2014, 1.5 cars in 2015, and as 1 car from 2016 through 2019. The 2020 regulation also allows super-credits, capped at 7.5 g/km, to apply from 2020 to 2022. Each car emitting ≤ 50 g/km counts as 2 cars in 2020, 1.67 cars in 2021, 1.33 cars in 2022, and as 1 car from 2023.
  • ZLEV factors—From 2025, the specific emission target given by Equation (1) is multiplied by a ZLEV factor, determined based on the sales and specific CO2 emissions of zero- and low-emission vehicles (CO2 ≤ 50 g/km) in each manufacturer’s fleet [4202]. ZLEVs in Member States whose share of ZLEVs in their national fleet is less than 60% of the EU average in 2017, and which have fewer than 1,000 new ZLEV registrations in 2017, are counted as 1.85 vehicles until 2030, or until the first year when the ZLEV share in that Member State exceeds 5%. The ZLEV factor varies from 1 for manufacturers who fail the ZLEV benchmark, to 1.05 for those who exceed it. Hence, manufacturers who exceed the ZLEV benchmark can receive a 5% benefit (increase) of their specific CO2 target.
  • E85 vehicles—CO2 emissions of vehicles capable of running on a mixture of gasoline with 85% ethanol (E85) were reduced by 5% until the end of 2015. This reduction applied only where at least 30% of the filling stations in a Member State provided E85.

Flexibilities. Certain flexibilities are available for manufacturers, as follows:

  • Pooling—Several manufacturers may form a pool to jointly meet their CO2 emission targets.
  • Low volume manufacturers—Manufacturers with fewer than 10,000 new cars registered per annum may apply to the European Commission for a derogation from the specific emission targets. Several conditions apply.
  • Eco-innovation—Manufacturers may apply for credits for innovative CO2 reducing technologies which are not accounted for in the current test cycle—for example, energy efficient lights. The total contribution of eco-innovation credits is limited to 7 g CO2/km in each manufacturers average specific target.

Excess Emissions Premium. Manufacturers who miss their average CO2 targets are subject to penalties:

  • From 2012 to 2018, the penalties are €5 per vehicle for the first g/km of CO2; €15 for the second gram; €25 for the third gram; €95 from the fourth gram onwards.
  • From 2019, manufacturers pay €95 for each g/km exceeding the target.

Light Commercial Vehicles

Emission Targets. The regulations are applicable to vehicles category N1 with a reference mass not exceeding 2,610 kg (from 2025, zero-emission vehicles above 2,610 kg are counted as LCVs within the scope of the CO2 regulation if the excess reference mass is due only to the mass of the energy storage system). LCVs must meet the following emission targets (NEDC test):

  • 2017: A fleet-average CO2 emission target of 175 g/km has been fully phased-in by 2017 [2876].
  • 2020: The average CO2 emissions of new LCVs registered from 2020 have to meet 147 g CO2/km [2878].
  • 2025: A CO2 emission target equal to a 15% emission reduction from the 2021 target [4202].
  • 2030: A CO2 emission target equal to a 31% emission reduction from the 2021 target [4202].

The structure of the legislation is similar to the passenger cars regulation. The annual specific emission targets for each manufacturer are calculated by averaging the indicative specific emissions obtained from the formula:

Specific Emissions = T + a × (M - M0)(2)

T - CO2 emission target: T = 170 g/km for 2014-2019; and T = 147 g/km for 2020-2024
a - coefficient: a = 0.093 from 2014; a = 0.096 for 2020-2024.
M - mass of the vehicle (kg)
M0 - average LCV mass: M0 = 1706 kg from 2014; M0 = 1766.4 kg for 2020.

From 2018, the value of M0 is adjusted annually to reflect the average mass of new light commercial vehicles in the previous calendar years.

The 2017 targets were phased-in from 2014 to 2017. Manufacturers had to meet their average emission targets in 70% of their LCV vehicle fleet in 2014, 75% in 2015, 80% in 2016, and 100% from 2017.

Incentives. Vehicles with extremely low emissions, below 50 g/km, are given additional incentives:

  • Super-credits—One low emitting vehicle was counted as 3.5 vehicles in 2014 and 2015, as 2.5 vehicles in 2016, 1.5 vehicle in 2017, and 1 vehicle from 2018. There are no super-credits under the 2020 regulation.
  • ZLEV factors—The specific emission target given by Equation (2) is multiplied by a ZLEV factor which depends on the sales of ZLEV vehicles (while the calculation is similar to that for passenger cars, the exact formulas are different). Manufacturers who exceed the ZLEV benchmark can receive a 5% increase of their specific CO2 target. There is no penalty for failing the ZLEV benchmark.

Excess Emissions Premium. The penalties for manufacturers who fail to meet their average targets are:

  • Until 2018 the penalty is €5 per vehicle for the first g/km of exceedance, €15 for the second g/km, €25 for the third g/km, and €120 for each subsequent g/km.
  • From 2019, the penalty is €120 for each g/km exceeding the target.

The regulations includes a number of other provisions similar to those legislated for passenger cars. These include credits for eco-innovations [3048] (≤ 7 g/km) and exemptions for low volume manufacturers (< 22,000 LCVs per year).