EU to strengthen the regulation on CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles
Listen to this story:
The EU Council has reached an agreement (‘general approach’) on a proposal to update and strengthen the regulation on CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles. The aim of the proposal is to further reduce CO₂ emissions in the road transport sector and to introduce new targets for 2030, 2035 and 2040. The new rules will contribute to the EU achieving its ambitions to fight climate change.
The proposal also aims to encourage an increasing share of zero-emission vehicles in the EU-wide heavy-duty vehicle fleet, while ensuring that innovation in the sector and its competitiveness are preserved and enhanced.
The general approach will serve as a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on the final shape of the legislation.
“With today’s agreement we have reaffirmed our commitment to reach our ambitious climate targets. Lorries, buses and coaches are an important part of road transportation, affecting the daily lives of millions of citizens. Citizens deserve to live in a greener and healthier environment, and we are now a step closer towards this objective. At the same time, we are ensuring the competitiveness of the industry, by clarifying the roadmap for new investments.” – Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, Spanish acting third vice-president of the government and minister for the ecological transition and the demographic challenge
Main changes agreed by the Council
The Council’s text strikes a balance between keeping the Commission proposal’s main ambition to reduce the climate impact of the heavy-duty vehicle sector and allowing member states some flexibility in the implementation of the amended regulation, while strengthening innovation and reinforcing the EU’s competitiveness in the sector.
Scope of the regulation
The proposal expands 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.
An exemption from the CO₂ reduction targets set in the regulation will apply to small-volume manufacturers and to vehicles used for mining, forestry and agriculture; to vehicles for use by the armed forces and fire services; to vehicles for use in civil protection, public order and medical care; and to vocational vehicles such as garbage trucks.
Member states amended the definition of ‘zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle’ by further lowering the proposed threshold, which still covers hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. Furthermore, member states added a sub-group of vehicles to include extra heavy combination (EHC) lorries in order to take better account of their characteristics, including with regard to their energy efficiency.
In line with the EU’s climate objectives for 2030 and beyond, the Council maintained the targets set by the Commission. Besides the 2025 CO2 emissions reduction target of 15% which was already provided for, the new rules introduce new targets:
- 45% emissions reduction from 2030 (increased from 30%)
- 65% emissions reduction from 2035
- 90% emissions reduction from 2040
Member states agreed to set the targets for trailers and semi-trailers at 7.5% (Annex I).
Zero-emission target for urban buses
The proposed amendment introduces a 100% zero-emission target for urban buses by 2035, while setting an intermediate target of 85% for this category by 2030. The Council agreed to exempt inter-urban buses from this target.
In addition, the Council added a series of provisions to make the review clause more comprehensive, such as considering national investments already made and possible constraints due to specific territorial morphology or weather conditions in member states. Member states also clarified the provisions on public procurement procedures for zero-emission urban buses, in particular on the assessment criteria related to security of supply, to ensure legal soundness.
The effectiveness and impact of the amended regulation on the abovementioned targets will be reviewed by the Commission in 2027, one year earlier than originally proposed by the Commission (Article 15). One of the issues the Commission will have to report on in its review is progress in the deployment of public and private recharging and refuelling infrastructure for alternative fuels for vehicles covered by this regulation.
In its review, the Commission will also have to produce an assessment of the role of a carbon correction factor (CCF) in the transition towards zero-emission mobility in the heavy-duty vehicle sector.
The general approach will serve as the Council’s mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on the final shape of the legislation. The outcome of the negotiations will have to be formally adopted by the Council and the Parliament.
The heavy-duty vehicle (HDV) sector is responsible for over 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from road transport in the EU. CO2 emissions standards for certain HDVs were set for the first time in 2019, with targets for 2025 to 2029 and for 2030 onwards, with a provision that there would be a review of the regulation by 2022.
On 14 February 2023, the Commission submitted a proposal for a revision of the CO2 emissions standards for HDVs. Although the proposal is not part of the ‘Fit for 55’ package, it is closely linked to it in that it contributes to the EU’s aim to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and to achieve climate neutrality in 2050.
The main proposed changes relate to the extension of the scope of the regulation to cover buses and trailers, the definition of zero-emission vehicles, and new EU-wide emission reduction targets for 2030, 2035 and 2040. These targets do not apply to trailers and urban buses, which are subject to specific CO2 emission reduction requirements.