Strict electric vehicle targets proposed by EU

EU parliament’s environment committee says 40 per cent of car sales should be electric by 2040

The EU Parliament’s environment committee has approved a proposal to enforce targets that would see, by 2025, car makers compelled to have 20 per cent of sales made up of full-electric vehicles

The EU could be on the verge of introducing tough new targets for the sales of electric cars, in the wake of findings that car makers are already cheating on the new WLTP emissions test.

The EU Parliament’s environment committee has approved a proposal to enforce targets that would see, by 2025, car makers compelled to have 20 per cent of sales made up of full-electric vehicles, or ‘Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles’ (ULEVs, which basically means plugin hybrids). By 2030, that figure is set to rise to 40 per cent of sales.

The proposals get tougher still. By 2040, says the Parliament, there should be no emissions at all from new cars, a target well in advance of what the industry has been talking about. The environment committee basically rejected outright the EU Commission's proposals on vehicle emissions, saying that they were too weak. The Irish Government has already proposed banning the sale of any car that's not fully electric by 2030.

Julia Poliscanova, clean vehicles manager at pressure group Transport & Environment (T&E) said: "The Environment Committee has done what the Commission failed to do: propose ambitious car and van Co2 reductions and close testing loopholes so emissions cuts happen on the road too, and not only in labs. The vote shows that MEPs recognise the benefits to drivers, jobs, the climate and the air we breathe of a faster shift to electric cars. The targets are, however, less than the 60 per cent needed to reduce transport emissions in line with the EU's Paris climate commitments."


The move by the Parliament’s environment committee comes just as the Commission has found that car makers are, once again, cheating on the emissions tests. The EU’s proposed limits on vehicle emissions which are due to come into force in 2025, with another, tougher and tighter, round of legislation due for enforcement in 2030. Under these new rules, car makers would be bound to reduce their average corporate fleet emissions, and will have to pay hefty fines for every gramme of carbon dioxide (Co2) that they’re over the limit by.

The catch? The 2025 and 230 figures will be based on the 2021 figures, which will be taken under the current WLTP (World Light duty vehicle Test Procedure) test, which came into force on September 1st. So, by setting themselves higher figures now, goes the theory, car makers will have easier targets to aim at in 2025 and 2030.

According to an investigation by the EU Commission, which oversees enforcement of the emissions tests and rules: “Carmakers are switching off the start-stop function in tests. They are also adjusting the gear-shift patterns and using depleted batteries to burn more fuel and emit more Co2” said the Commission report. “In addition carmakers are declaring higher values than they actually measure, again inflating the official emission values. As a result, the targets for 2025 and 2030 would also be substantially weakened due to the inflated 2021 starting point. This would de facto reduce the level of ambition.”

The Commission’s investigators have pointed out that while the WLTP system was specifically designed to prevent car makers from returning unrealistically low numbers for fuel consumption and emissions, no such safeguard exist to stop them artificially inflating their claims.

El?bieta Bie?kowska, the EU commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, and Miguel Arias Cañete, the commissioner for Climate Action & Energy, have both written to the Commission as a whole calling for action on this topic. “Inflated WLTP emissions in 2020 would result in less strict emissions targets in 2021” the two commissioners said. “As the 2021 WLTP targets also act as the starting point for the 2025 and 2030 targets, such inflation would in turn lead to lower real-life emissions reductions in the target years. As only some manufacturers might inflate the starting point, this could also lead to distortion of the playing field between manufacturers.”

The current target, and it is only a target, for the 2021 figure is a fleet average of 95g/km. By contrast, the current European vehicle emissions average under the new WLTP test is closer to 130g/km. Currently, the proposal for the 2025 figure is a reduction of 15 per cent from the 2021 baseline. The EU Parliament’s environment committee has now proposed that the figure should be toughened up to 20 per cent. The full Parliament will vote on the proposals next month.

It's not just a matter of manipulating official figures, either. T&E points out that, by previously over-stating the performance of their cars in the past, car makers have cost the European consumer as much as €150-billion in extra real-world expense, compared to the claimed fuel economy figures. In Ireland, the figure is estimated to be an extra €2.4-billion that we've all shelled out between 2000 and 2017.

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring