According to a report, weak targets could push firms to make millions more of the much more profitable petrol and diesel cars.
Europe’s biggest carmakers could produce millions more petrol and diesel cars than necessary up to 2030 in a “wasted decade” for cutting carbon pollution, which would be prompted by weak EU vehicle emissions targets, according to a report.
Transport and Environment (T&E), a think tank and campaign group, shared an analysis of car industry sales plans for electric vehicles exclusively with reporters, which showed that manufacturers could hit their 2030 EU carbon emissions targets with four years to spare.
But the report warned that manufacturers could stick close to their minimum requirements, as has been the case in recent years – opening up the potential for the industry to sell their more profitable petrol and diesel marques.
The study showed there was a gap between what could be achieved and where sales volumes would be if they are kept in line with the EU emissions rules, based on the car industry’s publicly stated commitments for EV production.
An electric revolution could be wholeheartedly embraced by some vehicle makers. However, T&E said that the sale of 18m battery-powered models would be jeopardized by leaving the rules unchanged and result in 55m extra tonnes of CO2 pollution – more than the annual emissions of all the cars in Spain.
If carmakers sold heavier vehicles they got easier targets, driving up sales of high-emitting SUVs and plug-in hybrid models, which – when not charged – could pollute more than fossil fuel engines, T&E said.
Even as they simultaneously green their fleets by making new electric cars, the surge in SUV sales has meant that average engine emissions from three carmakers are higher than they were five years ago. Last week, they all — Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, and Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler – signed a pledge at Cop 26 to only sell zero-emissions cars by 2040.
The clean vehicles manager of T&E, Alex Keynes said:
“The electric vehicle boom has been driven by EU clean car rules but will falter unless lawmakers step in. Now is the time to set properly ambitious targets if we are to avoid a wasted decade in the race to decarbonize cars.”
By 2025, carmakers must reduce emissions relative to 2021 levels by 15%, under the existing rules, and by a proposed 55% by 2030 – a bigger cut than previously planned. T&E, however, argued that the 55% cut is still too lenient, arguing that emissions should fall by 80% by 2030 – a level that would force carmakers to accelerate from their current plans.
Even the 55% carbon reduction target would be “very challenging” and warned that bans on “a single technology” would not be reasonable, in part because of limited electric charger provision in some countries, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) said.
The UK is not included in the emissions rules, where carmakers must report emissions separately following Brexit. Nevertheless, the UK has copied nearly identical rules that came into force on 1 January, and about half of all cars built in UK factories are exported to the EU.
Daimler’s spokesperson said that at the end of the decade, where market conditions are allowed, Mercedes-Benz would be ready to go all-electric. Adding that the UK had seen “an increase in customer demand for SUVs in recent years”.
Electrification was at the heart of its new “electric-first” strategy, with battery versions of all models available by 2030, a spokesman for Jaguar Land Rover said.
Because of growing electric and plug-in hybrid sales, emissions data showed Volvo was “one of the industry leaders in reducing CO2 emissions from the cars it sells”, it said. It plans to only sell electric cars by 2030 and to be “climate-neutral” by 2040.
Manufacturers were fully committed to bringing CO2 emissions down to zero and supporting the EU’s goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050, a spokesperson for ACEA said.
Adding that the car industry’s investment in EVs is outpacing funding for charging infrastructure while warning that failure to increase spending on the network could lead to electric car uptake stalling.
“The auto industry’s efforts must be met with the same level of ambition by the EU and its member states. It is essential that all players work together to create the right supportive framework that will drive consumers towards cleaner mobility options, and thus achieve our common goal of reaching climate neutrality in Europe.”