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EU vehicle emissions

In the EU passenger cars and vans (‘light commercial vehicles’) are respectively responsible for around 12% and 2.5% of total EU emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the main greenhouse gas.

On 1 January 2020, Regulation (EU) 2019/631 entered into force, setting CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars and vans. It replaced and repealed the former Regulations (EC) 443/2009 (cars) and (EU) 510/2011 (vans).

Stricter CO2 emission targets have been in force since 2020. The average CO2 emissions from all new passenger cars registered in Europe already fell by 12% between 2019 and 2020, and further by 12.5% between 2020 and 2021. The main driver of the decrease in emissions is a surge in zero-emission passenger car registrations, which reached 10% of the EU fleet in 2021.

On 19 April 2023, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation (EU) 2023/851 amending Regulation (EU) 2019/631 to strengthen the CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars and new light commercial vehicles in line with the European Union’s increased climate ambition.

In particular, the amendment strengthens the emission targets applying from 2030 and sets a 100% reduction target for both cars and vans from 2035 onwards.

Benefits

The amended Regulation (EU) 2019/631 will:

  • contribute to reaching at least 55% net greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2030 compared to 1990 and to achieving climate neutrality by 2050, in line with the European Climate Law,
  • provide benefits to EU citizens and vehicle users from a wider deployment of clean and affordable zero-emission vehicles,
  • stimulate innovation in zero-emission technologies, strengthening the technological leadership of the automotive value chain and stimulating employment in the EU.

Target levels

The EU fleet-wide CO2 emission targets set in the Regulation are as follows:

2020 to 2024

  • Cars: 95 g CO2/km
  • Vans: 147 g CO2/km

These target levels refer to the NEDC emission test procedure.

Since 2021, the emission targets for manufacturers are based on the WLTP (Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure).

The WLTP-based EU fleet-wide CO2 emission targets in g CO2/km have been set out in the Commission Decision on the 2021 monitoring data.

2025 to 2029

  • Cars:  93,6 g CO2/km
  • Vans: 153,9 g CO2/km

2030 to 2034

  • Cars: 49,5 g CO2/km
  • Vans: 90,6 g CO2/km

From 2035 onwards, the EU fleet-wide CO2 emission target for both cars and vans is a 100% reduction, meaning 0 g CO2/km.

The annual specific emission targets of each manufacturer are based on these EU fleet-wide targets, taking into account the average mass of its newly registered vehicles.

Incentive mechanism for zero- and low-emission vehicles (ZLEV)

In the years from 2020 to 2022, a super-credits system applied for passenger cars with emissions of less than 50 g CO2/km (NEDC).

From 2025 to 2029, a different ZLEV crediting system will apply both for car and van manufacturers. It allows for the relaxation of a manufacturer’s specific emission target, if its share of new ZLEVs (vehicles with emissions between 0 and 50 g CO2/km (WLTP)) registered in a given year exceeds the following benchmarks:

  • Cars: 25% ZLEV
  • Vans: 17% ZLEV

A one percentage point exceedance of the ZLEV benchmark will increase the manufacturer’s CO2 target (in g CO2/km) by one percent. The target relaxation is capped at maximum 5% to safeguard the environmental integrity of the Regulation.

For calculating the ZLEV share in a manufacturer’s fleet, an accounting rule applies. This gives a greater weight to ZLEV with lower CO2 emissions.

Penalties for excess emissions

If the average COemissions of a manufacturer’s fleet exceed its specific emission target in a given year, the manufacturer has to pay – for each of its vehicles newly registered in that year – an excess emissions premium of €95 per g/km of target exceedance.

Pooling

Manufacturers can group together and act jointly to meet their emissions target. In forming such a pool, manufacturers must respect the rules of competition law. Pooling between car and van manufacturers is not possible.

Exemptions

Manufacturers responsible for fewer than 1 000 cars or fewer than 1 000 vans newly registered in the EU per year are exempted from meeting a specific emissions target in the following year, unless they voluntarily apply for a derogation target.

Derogations

Manufacturers may apply for a derogation from their specific emission target at the following conditions:

  • A “small-volume” manufacturer (responsible for less than 10 000 cars or less than 22 000 vans newly registered per year) can propose its own derogation target, based on the criteria set in the Regulation.
  • A “niche” car manufacturer (responsible for between 10 000 and 300 000 cars newly registered per year) can apply for a derogation for the years until 2028 included. The calculation method for the derogation targets is set out in the Regulation.

Eco-innovations

To encourage eco-innovation, manufacturers may obtain emission credits for vehicles equipped with innovative technologies for which it is not possible to demonstrate the full CO2 savings during their type approval.

The manufacturer must demonstrate these savings on the basis of independently verified data. The maximum emission credits for these eco-innovations per manufacturer are 7 g CO2/km per year (until 2024), 6 g CO2/km from 2025 until 2029 and 4 g CO2/km from 2030 until and including 2034. As of 2025, also the efficiency improvements for air conditioning systems will become eligible as eco-innovation technologies.

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In-service verification

Manufacturers are required to ensure correspondence between the CO2 emissions recorded in the certificates of conformity of their vehicles and the CO2 emissions of vehicles in-service.

Type-approval authorities will have to verify this correspondence in selected vehicles, as well as the presence of any strategies artificially improving the vehicle’s performance in the type-approval tests.

On the basis of their findings, type-approval authorities will have to ensure the correction of the certificates of conformity and may take additional measures, set out in the Type Approval Framework Regulation.

Type-approval authorities will have to report any deviations to the Commission, who will take them into account for the purpose of calculating the average specific emissions of a manufacturer.

The detailed rules implementing this measure are under preparation.

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Real-world emissions

In order to assess the real-world representativeness of the CO2 emissions and of the fuel or energy consumption determined at type-approval, as well as to prevent the growing of the gap between emissions tested in the laboratory and real-world emissions, the Commission is collecting real-world data of cars and vans using on-board fuel consumption monitoring (OBFCM) devices, starting with vehicles placed on the market in 2021.

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