EU not to phase out combustion trucks before 2040
Trucks with combustion engines will still be able to be registered in the EU after 2035. A possible phase-out would take place in 2040 at the earliest, according to an internal Commission document on the revision of CO2 fleet limits for heavy-duty vehicles.
This document was made available to Euractiv. The EU Commission’s proposals are due to be published on Feb. 14. The document, which has now been leaked, leaves the targets for reducing CO2 emissions until 2029 unchanged. No exact figures have yet been set for the period after that, the report says.
The proposal defines three reporting periods with emissions reduction targets yet to be defined for 2030 to 2034, 2035 to 2039 and 2040 onward. According to the report, a potential emissions reduction target of 100 per cent, which would amount to a ban on new diesel trucks, would be set for 2040 at the earliest. “If it came at all,” the report says. The Benelux countries and Denmark had already asked for such an end date for new internal combustion trucks and buses via a letter to the EU two weeks ago.
The de facto end date for passenger cars in 2035 (officially a reduction in CO2 emissions of 100 per cent) was still justified on the basis of the useful life of passenger cars – if the passenger car population is to be emission-free in 2050, the average useful life of passenger cars of 18 years (according to a study by ETH Zurich) means that new registrations of internal combustion cars will have to be stopped with a certain lead time. Should the draft apply to trucks and new diesel vehicles be allowed until at least 2040, this use-life argument would not be applied here. Fedor Unterlohner, manager for freight transport at the environmental organization Transport & Environment (T&E), also criticized this to Euractiv: “With an 18-year average life span of trucks in Europe, 2040 would be too late for the climate.” T&E had called for the 2035 deadline to apply to heavy-duty vehicles as well.
Reactions from the industry, compiled by Euractiv, differ from those of T&E. “A tightening of the target by 2025 is simply unrealistic due to the market maturity of technologies and the lead time requirements,” said a spokesperson for the German car industry association VDA “The fact that the current proposal on CO2 standards for heavy-duty vehicles does not provide for this is positive.” The association also urged faster infrastructure expansion for battery-electric trucks and heavy commercial vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells.
A politically mandated minimum for these truck-ready H2 refuelling stations and charging parks is still being negotiated between EU institutions under the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR). The EU Parliament adopted its position in October 2022, but some member states still oppose these targets due to the expected costs. According to Euractiv, the next meeting between negotiators from the Parliament, the Commission and the Swedish Council Presidency is scheduled for Feb. 7.
Incidentally, in addition to the targets for trucks, the draft is apparently intended to extend the application of fleet limits to other vehicle classes. For example, according to the report, a specific target for city buses is included, requiring manufacturers to sell a minimum proportion of zero-emission vehicles. However, this share is not yet specified in the draft. So there is still some negotiating before the proposals are likely to be officially unveiled.
Meanwhile, the EU Commission has presented a package of measures to strengthen Europe’s competitive position against China and the USA – including as a production location for electric cars. To this end, the rules for state aid are to be relaxed, unused funds from the Corona aid pot are to be used, eco-projects are to be approved more quickly and trade agreements to secure scarce raw materials are to be pushed. The focus is primarily on manufacturers of wind turbines, solar cells, batteries, electric cars and from the hydrogen sector – in other words, manufacturers of components and machines that also play an important role for electric trucks.