Trucks and coaches in the EU will be required to cut emissions to near zero by 2040 under new targets to reduce pollution in road transport, which produces a fifth of the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the rules, to be announced by the European Commission on Tuesday, heavy vehicles will have to reduce their emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and 90 per cent by 2040. City buses will have to be zero emission by 2030, according to three EU officials that have seen the plans.
Environmental campaigners criticised the targets, however, arguing that they are not ambitious enough and not in line with an EU-wide ban on combustion engines for cars in 2035 that is due to receive its final approval in the European parliament this week.
“This target would pull the plug on the rapid electrification of trucks. The electric car surge will not be repeated [for heavy goods vehicles],” said Fedor Unterlohner, freight manager at the environmental campaign group Transport & Environment.
EU policymakers “need to demand a 2035 deadline for polluting lorries if the last polluting lorries are to be off the road in time for the net zero goal,” he said.
The aim of the commission is to push the bloc towards its goal of climate neutrality by 2050 with road transport being one of the EU’s most polluting sectors.
Heavy duty vehicles are responsible for 28 per cent of Co2 emissions from road transport in the EU although they only make up 2 per cent of vehicles. The length of a truck’s life — on average 18 years — means that despite the new targets lorries emitting Co2 could still be on the road in 2050 when the EU is meant to hit its net zero goal.
Lorry manufacturers have a history of heavy lobbying in Brussels, particularly on emissions reductions targets. In 2014, the commission raised an antitrust investigation into a cartel of Europe’s biggest truckmakers, which had grouped together to control when new emissions technologies would come to market.
Seven of Europe’s largest truckmakers have already pledged to stop selling vehicles that produce emissions by 2040. The industry has also argued that lorries are harder to decarbonise than cars because their heavy loads and long distances means that battery power is less suitable than for lighter vehicles.
For policymakers, the challenge with haulage is that making targets too stringent could have an adverse effect on the supply chain for goods and services, as many haulage companies are run by small and medium sized businesses which cannot easily afford to upgrade their vehicles.
But Brussels hopes the new rules will promote more investment in the sector, according to a draft proposal seen by the Financial Times.
“The [heavy duty vehicle] Co2 emission performance standards trigger manufacturers to increase the supply of zero-emission vehicles so that consumers can benefit from more affordable zero emission vehicle models,” it said.
Rules for more electric charging infrastructure that could stipulate charging points every 60km along main roads are due to be agreed by EU lawmakers this year.
Manufacturers argue that increasing interim emissions reduction targets will push investment into decarbonising combustion engines at the expense of developing new zero emission technology such as green hydrogen, made using renewable energy.
“I cannot believe that can be the intention of the commission,” said Lars Stenqvist, chief technology officer at Volvo Group, which produces trucks, buses and construction equipment.
“We believe that we cannot rely on the combustion engine running on fossil free biofuels and renewables by 2040 because our analysis shows there will not be enough fuel available,” he added.
So-called “vocational vehicles”, such as rubbish lorries, will be exempt under the new rules. One EU official said this was because they ran short routes and could be easily electrified, putting more of a burden on the rest of the sector to decarbonise.
The commission declined to comment on the proposed rules.