Manufacturers have already accomplished a great deal of work over the last ten years to improve the efficiency of combustion engines and aerodynamics, and to make cars lighter in construction. The two most promising approaches today involve reducing the size of cars and electrification.
To achieve these aims, a bonus/malus calculated by weight as well as the use of cars in electric mode could be applied on a general European level. The introduction of a standard limiting the carbon footprint associated with the production of these cars, moreover, would ensure that low-emission cars, and their batteries are manufactured with low-carbon electricity. Clearly, for the European Union, the stakes are not only environmental, but economic and social.
Transport is the black sheep of the Kyoto Protocol. Since 1990, most economic sectors have reduced their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the European Union. Transport alone, which accounts for more than a quarter of this geographical zone’s emissions, has seen its record worsen: +28% in 2017 compared with 1990. While the financial crisis of 2008 halted the continuing increase in emissions, the fall in oil prices in 2014, and economic recovery stopped this downward trend.
Passenger cars are responsible for nearly half of GHG emissions from transport, and thus are the subject of special attention by the European Commission, whose goal is to achieve a 60% reduction in GHG emissions from the transport sector by 2050 compared with 1990.
By 2021, European automobile manufacturers will be compelled to reduce average emissions from new car sales from more than 120 grams of CO2 per km in 2018 to 95 grams, which corresponds to about 4 litres of fuel consumption per 100km. Measurements are taken in the certification cycle — that is, in the laboratory on a chassis dynamometer. Manufacturers who fail to attain this standard will be fined 95 euros per gram of excess CO2 per car sold, a fine that could amount to billions of euros for the least compliant among them.
In April 2019, Europe also committed itself to a further 37.5% reduction in average CO2 emissions for new cars by the year 2030 compared with that in 2021. This is a new threshold of 60 g/km that involves cutting emissions in half compared with those in 2018. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) — a non-governmental organisation specialising in environmental regulation — adherence to the Paris Agreement would essentially require a redoubling of efforts, with a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions for new cars by 2030. France, with the National Low-Carbon Strategy (SNBC) and the Multiannual Energy Programme (PPE), seeks to achieve a 50% intermediate reduction in CO2 emissions from new cars by 2030 compared with those in 2021; fuel consumption will be set at under real-world driving conditions of 4 litres per 100km for new cars with combustion engines and a 45% share of the market for electric cars (of which 35% will be battery electric vehicles (BEV) and 10% plug-in hybrids (PHEV).
As CO2 emissions from new cars have risen over the past two years because of a reduction in the share of diesel engines and an increase in that of SUVs, will automobile manufacturers manage to reach the 95 g/km threshold by 2021? And what about the additional 37.5% reduction by 2030? What tools need to be implemented to ensure that France can fulfil commitments made under the Paris Agreement, the SNBC and the PPE, and at the same time reduce the fuel bill for French people?