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5th Mar 2024

EU poised to agree on weakened emission rules

  • France, the Czech Republic and Italy have led the push to weaken tailpipe emission rules (Photo: European Parliament)
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EU member states will most likely back a compromise text for new emission rules for cars and trucks on Monday (25 September), diplomats told EUobserver.

The final draft, as put forward by Spain, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency represents a significant watering down of an earlier EU Commission proposal.

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The EU has strengthened its emissions standards for vehicles since 1992 when the first version of the regulation was implemented as 'Euro 1.'

November last year, the commission put forth the seventh rendition, referred to as Euro 7, which includes stricter guidelines for particle emissions from tires and brakes.

But eight countries, including France and Italy, have pushed back against stricter limits on tailpipe emissions and pollutants such as nitrous oxides, arguing that more rules might distract from investment in electric vehicles.

Sales of vehicles with combustion engines are due to be banned by 2035.

But in the latest compromise, the implementation date was extended to 30 months, up from 24 months after the regulation enters into force.

"There isn't much left of the initial commission proposal," a diplomat from a country supportive of stricter rules told EUobserver, adding that higher ambitions for now seemed out of reach.

The Brussels-based Transport and Environment lobby group criticised the compromise, with vehicle emissions expert Anna Kajinska saying that the proposal is a" disaster for air pollution in Europe's cities."

"The Commission should think whether or not they even want this joke of a regulation to be adopted," she added.

E-fuels

Germany, Europe's largest car manufacturer, has tried to use divisions to its advantage and push through acceptance of vehicles running on e-fuels in the regulation.

According to one anonymous diplomat, few countries support Germany in this. However, the Spanish presidency may be forced to include German demands in the final text to gain sufficient support for the final text, although this is not yet clear.

E-fuels are expected to be unavoidable as a replacement in the maritime and aviation sectors but are currently not commercially available.

One pilot plant in Chile will soon be able to produce e-fuels at an estimated cost of €50 per litre of fuel compared to 50 cents for the equivalent in fossil fuels and even lower prices for electric vehicles.

Even if produced at an industrial scale, e-fuels would still be four to five times more expensive than direct electrification, which is an inherently more efficient technology.

A recent Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research analysis shows that even under exponential growth scenarios, e-fuels can only replace 50 percent of used fuel in aviation, maritime and industry sectors by 2035, making its use for retail vehicle transport unlikely.

If member states reach an agreement on Monday, they will still need to negotiate a final deal with the European Parliament.

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