European plans announced yesterday would force carmakers to cut carbon dioxide emissions by a third by the end of the decade, slashing motorists around £3,000 over the lifetime of each new car.
In the latest prong of its attempt to hit climate change targets, the European Commission recommended cutting average emissions from new cars to 95 grams CO2 per km and vans to 147g by 2020.
The EC said the proposals – which are likely to be fiercely resisted by Europe’s powerful automative industry – would save car users hundreds of pounds each year in lower fuel costs.
They would also lead to almost a halving of climate change emissions from passenger vehicles in a decade. Average emissions from new cars were 172g in 2000.
The current target is 130g by 2015, which is likely to meet early, with average emissions of 135g last year.
Carmakers will be expected to meet the new target by making engines more efficient, installing warning systems for dropping tyre pressure and improving the efficiency of air conditioning.
Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, said: ''With our proposals we are not only protecting the climate and saving consumers money. We are also boosting innovation and competitiveness in the European automotive industry. And we will create substantial numbers of jobs [through work on fuel efficiency] as a result. This is a clear win-win situation for everyone.”
Auto firms warned that the new target would impose extra costs and make them less competitive. There was strong opposition by German carmakers in 2007 and 2008 to a proposed EU target of 120g by 2015, which was subsequently diluted to 130g.
Despite the opposition, the EC insisted its new targets were “achievable, economically sound and cost effective.”
On average, it calculated, each new car would save its owner around €340 (£270) in fuel costs in the first year, and an estimated total of €2904-3836 (up to £3,000) over the car's lifetime (13 years), compared with the 2015 target.
For vans the average fuel cost saving was put at around €400 (£315) in the first year and €3363-4564 (up to £3,600) over their 13-year lifetime.
The European Consumer Organisation said the targets would help motorists cope with endlessly rising fuel costs. Monique Goyens, BEUC’s director general, said: “Fuel prices know only one direction and projections expect them to continue rising. As consumers depend on their cars to get to work or bring their kids to school, saving on fuel costs is essential.”
She added: “Substantial recent CO2 reductions have shown car makers’ protests against the current targets to be wide of the mark. We believe the new 95 gram target is achievable and urge European legislators to start considering even more ambitious targets for 2025 and 2030.”
The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said it would work with its members to conduct a full analysis of how the proposed targets should be reached “as well as their feasibility.”
In a statement, it said the auto industry shared concerns about global warming and was trying to find sustainable solutions, but described the EC’s targets for 2020 as “extremely challenging.”
Ivan Hodac, ACEA Secretary General, said: “It is clear that CO2 levels from vehicles have to continue on their downward trend and the industry is committed to deliver on this. These are tough targets - the toughest in the world.”
They would be far more stringent than those in the US, China or Japan, the ACEA warned, adding that the increased manufacturing costs would disadvantage European carmakers.
“Considering that most manufacturers are losing money in Europe at the moment, the industry needs as competitive a framework as possible. Targets - while ambitious - must be feasible,” Mr Hodac stressed.
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