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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

Biofuel stakeholders warn of ‘1-technology approach’ as EU favors EVs in new heavy-duty CO2 targets

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

The European Commission proposed Feb. 14 ambitious new CO2-emissions targets for new heavy-duty vehicles from 2030 onwards.

Trucks, city buses, and long-distance buses are responsible for more than 6 percent of total EU greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions and more than 25 percent of GHG emissions from road transport.

“These strengthened emissions standards would ensure that this segment of the road-transport sector contributes to the shift to zero-emissions mobility and the EU's climate and zero-pollution objectives,” the European Commission stated.

The commission proposes phasing in stronger CO2-emissions standards for almost all new heavy-duty vehicles with certified CO2 emissions, compared to 2019 levels, specifically:

  • 45 percent emissions reductions from 2030

  • 65 percent emission reductions from 2035

  • 90 percent emissions reduction from 2040

The commission also proposes to make all new city buses zero-emission as of 2030.

“In line with the European Green Deal and REPowerEU objectives, this proposal will also have a positive impact on the energy transition by lowering demand for imported fossil fuels and enhancing energy savings and efficiencies in the EU’s transport sector,” the European Commission stated. “It will provide benefits for European transport operators and users by reducing fuel costs and total cost of ownership and ensure a wider deployment of more energy-efficient vehicles. It will also improve air quality, notably in cities, and the health of Europeans. Moreover, this is a key sector to support the European clean-tech industry and boost international competitiveness. The EU is a market leader in the production of trucks and buses and a common legal framework helps to secure that position for the future. In particular, the revised standards provide a clear and long-term signal to guide EU industry investments in innovative zero-emission technologies and boost the rollout of recharging and refueling infrastructure.”

The current heavy-duty emissions standards date from 2019, “but are no longer in line with the EU’s climate objectives,” the European Commission stated. “Existing legislation does not provide a sufficiently clear and long-term signal to investors and does not reflect the new reality in the energy sector and the rapid developments in the heavy-duty vehicle industry globally. … To support this proposal, investments need to be channeled into zero-emission vehicles and into the recharging and refueling infrastructure, and the commission has already proposed the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation to develop the necessary charging infrastructure to support the green transition of the heavy-duty vehicles sector. In particular, the commission proposed to install charging and fueling points at regular intervals on major highways: every 60 kilometers for electric charging and every 150 kilometers for hydrogen refueling.”

The European Commission said it is working “intensively” with the co-legislators to finalize the negotiations on these proposals.

Last week, in advance of the anticipated proposal, the European Biodiesel Board, together with other members of the European industry, wrote an open letter calling for recognition of the decarbonization potential of sustainable and renewable fuels.

The letter was signed by almost 120 stakeholders, including associations and companies representing fuel and automotive suppliers, vehicle manufacturers, dealers, repairers and transport operators.

Additionally, more than 90 scientists from the energy, automotive and environmental sectors support the request to consider renewable and carbon-neutral fuels for compliance with the CO2 regulation for heavy-duty vehicles.

On Feb. 15, renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel producer Neste Corp. called for the European Commission to allow for an inclusive approach to decarbonization solutions for heavy-duty vehicles.

“Neste supports ambitious climate policies—our renewable solutions helped our customers reduce greenhouse-gas emissions globally by 11.1 million tons last year,” said Minna Aila, Neste’s executive vice president of sustainability and corporate affairs. “Yet we believe that this is only possible because of the range of options we currently have available. We would be cautious to avoid scenarios that lock Europe into a one-technology approach or create dependence on one energy carrier. As the commission proposal now enters the legislative process, we would like to see support for all renewable and sustainable fuels that also reduce emissions, in particular those that offer immediate solutions. Focusing too narrowly on specific technologies may unintentionally exclude some regions where it will be particularly difficult to electrify and the communities that live there.” According to Neste, there are around 6.2 million heavy-duty trucks in circulation in the EU and their average lifespan is 14 years.

“In addition, the European Commission impact assessment ahead of the CO2-standards regulation shows that at least 70 percent of newly sold trucks would be running on diesel in 2030,” the company stated. “To decarbonize these heavy-duty vehicles, policymakers should explore several parallel solutions, as the heavy-duty fleet could face substantial challenges to electrify. With the right policy mechanisms in place, for example allowing the contribution of renewable fuels and recognizing the significant greenhouse-gas savings derived from their use, we avoid excluding heavy-duty vehicles from both immediate- and future-decarbonization solutions as we collectively work to deliver a fossil-free road-transport sector.”



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