Ambitious emission targets for road transport adopted. It’s time to start taking action

2024/05/15 at 3:44 PM

The Council of the European Union has approved a radical plan to decarbonise road transport. According to industry organisations, the new CO2 emission limits have so far been “idealistic”, and their implementation requires specific actions towards the construction of infrastructure and develop technology.

Source: Pixabay

The regulation, previously approved by the European Parliament, sets new CO2 emission reduction targets for trucks: 45 per cent in 2030, 65 per cent in 2035 and 90 per cent in 2040. New city buses will be 100 per cent electric from 2035. Emission limits for semi-trailers and trailers have also been introduced. However, a number of exceptions have been introduced to these rules.

The new regulations are among the most ambitious in the world and may set standards for the decarbonisation of road transport. “What seemed inconceivable just years ago is now the unequivocal path forward. This historic legislation offers clarity to industry, leveraging zero-emission heavy vehicles as the most technologically feasible and cost-effective route to meet Europe’s climate goals. The trucking industry, Europe’s second largest contributor to transport CO2 emissions, is about to experience a transformative shift”, said Felipe Rodríguez, Director of the Heavy-duty Vehicle Programme at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

Beginning of a long road

Representatives of the International Road Transport Union (IRU) are slightly less enthusiastic about the EU’s decarbonisation plan. According to this organisation, so far various EU plans have remained only declarations of will, and no real actions have been taken to develop infrastructure and technology. This has to change.

“From the perspective of the infrastructure necessary for the widespread deployment of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles, we are only at the beginning. From the perspective of the awareness and willingness of our sector’s customers to share the transition’s high cost, the journey has just started. At the same time, the EU has already set a very ambitious target for 2030. We are optimistic that a lot will be done in the meantime. But the Commission should soon start a proper analysis to realistically forecast what is achievable by 2030. In other words, the legislators have been idealistic so far. It is now time to add up the numbers and see what the EU economy can actually deliver”, comments Raluca Marian, IRU EU Advocacy Director.

Future of combustion engines

During the legislative work, the most controversy concerned the definition of the zero-emission drive technology to be approved in Europe. Ultimately, it was agreed to continue using combustion engines provided that zero-emission fuels were introduced to the market. In 2025-2027, the European Commission will analyse the possibilities of replacing diesel and gasoline with zero-emission alternative fuels and the effects of their use on the environment and the economy. The report from these tests will be published in 2027 and will be the basis for making the final decision on the further approval of combustion engines in road transport. This conditional approval of combustion engines and zero-emission fuels is supported by the IRU.

However, there are concerns about the long-term impact of decarbonisation on the road transport market. Currently, this industry is very competitive, and a large part of road transport is performed by small and medium-sized companies. The costs of acquiring and operating electric trucks and the prices of zero-emission fuels are higher than in the case of classic diesel trucks. This, in turn, may be a barrier for smaller companies and contribute to the consolidation of the road transport market in Europe and increase the costs of logistics services, which will have a negative impact on the European economy.

Participants of the INTERMODAL IN POLAND 2024 Congress, which will take place on 12-14 June in Janów Podlaski and Małaszewicze, will debate how EU transport decarbonisation regulations will affect the TFL industry. More information about this event can be found at: https://intermodalinpoland.eu/

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