The road to zero-emission vehicles: emissions standards from 2025 and beyond

The road to zero-emission vehicles: emissions standards from 2025 and beyond
23 July 2020

In December 2019, EU leaders endorsed the objective of making the EU climate-neutral by 2050. The Paris Agreement requires the entire transport sector to accelerate towards zero emissions. Transport accounts for around a quarter of GHG (Greenhouse gas) emissions in the EU currently. Passenger cars and vans ("light commercial vehicles") are responsible for around 12% and 2.5%, respectively, of total EU emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas.

COEmissions

Greenhouse gas emissions are the source of global warming – a large part of these are CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, but Greenhouse Gas Emissions include other gases, such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20). The European Green Deal, presented in December 2019, reinforces the focus on the transport sector to reduce CO2 emissions. The EU Green Deal is the roadmap for making the EU’s economy sustainable, and it is seeking a reduction of 90% in greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector by 2050 to achieve climate neutrality. Sustainable mobility is one of the policy areas of the European Green Deal.

The Paris agreement (December 2015) sets out an action plan to keep the global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to keep it to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

When the transition period for the UK exit from the EU ends, at the end of December 2020, new CO2 emissions standards for passenger cars and LCVs in the UK will be defined. These are likely to be at least as stringent as the EU’s targets. The details of the new targets will be added to Ricardo’s Emissions Legislation Database EMLEG once they are published.

Reducing climate impacts

While there are environmental impacts with a temperature increase of 1.5°C, scientists say this is the level associated with less devastating effects than higher levels of global warming. Additional warming, beyond 1.5°C temperature increase, will result in increasingly severe impacts. Scientists suggest that greenhouse gas emissions need to drop rapidly to get on track to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. In this context, the UK government wants almost every car and van to be zero-emission - it expects to see as many as 70% of new car sales and up to 40% of new van sales to be low emission by 2030. The government expects that the transition will be led by industry and consumer demand. The government will consider interventions if enough progress isn’t made by the time this is reviewed in 2025.

Both consumer demand and regulatory pressures are encouraging manufacturers and suppliers to make renewed investments and strong efforts to provide solutions to the CO2 reduction challenge. The industry’s response will depend on the nature of the detailed legislation itself and automakers will continue to make technological improvements. There is a need for those in the transport industry to monitor what the emissions standards are continuously and to understand and monitor how the legislation is changing.

Emissions data and targets post-2025

Data on CO2 emissions of all new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles are being recorded and collected by the European Commission. This process allows monitoring of the overall emissions and assessment of compliance with the targets for manufacturers. CO2 emissions average targets of 95 g/km for passenger cars and of 147 g/km for light commercial vehicles are in place for the year 2020. A regulation on post-2025 targets for passenger cars and LCVs was finalised last year.#

Regulation 2019/631, published in April 2019, sets post-2025 CO2 emissions targets for passenger cars and LCVs and this was amended by Regulation 2020/22. The regulation sets the EU fleet-wide CO2 emissions targets from 1 January 2025, for both passenger and LCVs as follows:

  • From 1 January 2025, an EU fleet-wide target for the new passenger cars fleet corresponding to a 15% reduction of the EU fleet-wide target in 2021
  • From 1 January 2025, an EU fleet-wide target for the new light commercial vehicles fleet corresponding to a 15% reduction of the EU fleet-wide target in 2021
  • From 1 January 2030, an EU fleet-wide target for the new passenger cars fleet corresponding to a 37.5% reduction of the EU fleet-wide target in 2021
  • From 1 January 2030, an EU fleet-wide target for the new light commercial vehicles fleet corresponding to a 31% reduction of the EU fleet-wide target in 2021

CO2 emissions targets for manufacturers will be defined starting from these required reductions in the emissions of the EU-wide fleet, based on the average mass of new vehicles in the market for the manufacturer. A proportion of new vehicles on the market for each manufacturer will be expected to be zero and low-emission vehicles. If the percentage of vehicles with zero and low emissions exceeds the benchmarks, the targets for the manufacturer will be relaxed. The following benchmarks have been defined as follows:

  • From 1 January 2025, a zero- and low-emission vehicles benchmark equal to a 15% share of each of the new passenger cars and new light commercial vehicles fleets will apply.
  • From 1 January 2030, the following zero- and low-emission vehicles benchmarks will apply:
    • A benchmark of 35% share of the fleet of new passenger cars.
    • A benchmark of 30% share of the fleet of new light commercial vehicles.

Within EMLEG you can discover the official CO 2 emissions standards as well as exhaust emissions standards for all the main markets (EU, US and California, China, India and Japan), as well as several other countries worldwide. New information is added to EMLEG as new standards are released. EMLEG contains further details of the regulation and calculations of EU CO 2 emissions targets for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.

EMLEG is an online database that provides a way to quickly track and interpret emissions standards by country and market sector. Discover more about EMLEG and request a demo.