Stricter EU CO2 standards for buses and trucks

The European Parliament has approved stricter CO2 standards for buses and trucks. This includes the requirement that all new buses should be emission-free by 2035 and almost all new trucks by 2040.

The European Council still must give the green light, but this is considered a formality. A complete ban on combustion engines for lorries is therefore off the table, unlike in the city bus and car sectors.

Phase-out scenario

Unlike passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, of which no new ones with combustion engines will be allowed to be sold from 2035, heavy vehicles, including vocational vehicles, such as garbage trucks, tippers, or concrete mixers, will be subject to a phase-out scenario.

By 2030-2034, the CO2 emissions of trucks weighing over 7,5 tonnes must fall by 45% compared to 1990, by 65% by 2035-2039, and by 90% as of 2040. By 2030, new urban buses will need to reduce their emissions by 90% and become zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Emissions reduction targets are also set for trailers (7.5%) and semi-trailers (10%), starting from 2030.

By 2030, new urban buses must reduce their emissions by 90% and become zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Starting in 2030, emission reduction targets are also set for trailers (7.5%) and semi-trailers (10%).

Backdoor for small lorries

However, the European Commission must conduct a detailed review of the new rules’ effectiveness and impact by 2027. This is the result of a compromise that came about because Germany’s smallest governing party, the FDP, threatened to block the law, which would have forced Germany to abstain from the final vote.

The compromise essentially involves whether to apply the rules to small lorries, the role of a methodology for registering heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) exclusively running on CO2-neutral fuels, and the role that a carbon correction factor could have in the transition towards zero-emission HDVs.

25% of greenhouse gas emissions

“The transition towards zero-emission trucks and buses is not only key to meeting our climate targets but also a crucial driver for cleaner air in our cities,” says the Dutch rapporteur Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA). “We are providing clarity for one of the major manufacturing industries in Europe and a strong incentive to invest in electrification and hydrogen.”

Earlier proposals of the EU to cut CO2 emissions of heavy trucks and buses by 90% from now until 2040 got mixed responses from the industry and environmentalists.

Although trucks and buses make up just 2% of the total vehicles on the road in the EU, they are responsible for more than 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from road transport in the EU and account for over 6% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions.

400 000 e-trucks needed

In 2022, nearly 66,000 electric buses and 66,000 medium- and heavy-duty trucks were sold worldwide, representing about 4.5% of all bus sales and 1.2% of truck sales worldwide.

According to Eamonn Mulholland, an expert on Europe’s truck CO2 standards of the International Council of Clean Transportation (ICCT), sales of e-trucks have been tripling between 2022 and 2023. Shares of zero-emission city buses also accelerated last year, overtaking diesel sales to become the most popular powertrain and reaching an all-time high of over 40% by the end of 2023.

Scania, a commercial vehicle manufacturer, has stated to the news site Electrive that the 2030 target requires approximately 400,000 zero-emission trucks to run on the streets by 2030. China continues to dominate production and sales of electric (and fuel cell) trucks and buses.


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