11 Mar 22

Auto industry heavyweights disagree on policy makers toughening up emissions testing

It seems the European Union has ruffled some feathers in its efforts to toughen up on emissions testing. Although eager to distance themselves from “Dieselgate” some high-profile automotive executives are speaking out, saying that the Union’s timetable for electric mobility will be missed by a long shot and policy is stifling innovation and progress.

In February, Reuters reported that the European Union is planning to toughen up its methods for measuring carbon dioxide emissions from plug-in hybrid cars by 2025. This new methodology could involve some car makers having to sell many more BEVs to meet EU emission targets and avoid fines.

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Fuel meters may be part of a new emission test

It is thought that data from fuel consumption meters, which must be built into new cars from 2021, will be incorporated into the test. This will show a more realistic picture of how much hybrid cars rely on their internal combustion engine over the electric battery. The Reuters article speculated that Euro 6 and WLTP were being discussed and could be revised.

Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis, is known for being critical of policy makers. His view is that the European Commission is not taking a prudent approach to the energy transition. Quoted in an article by Ewout Kieckens for Innovation Origins, he said that although he respects the laws and will “try to do our best with whatever elements of them are dictated to us”, electrification is a technology that has been chosen by politicians, not by the industry.

Light hybrids cost half as much as EVs

Tavares highlights the fact that EV batteries are not carbon-friendly. An electric vehicle has to travel at least 70,000km before the carbon footprint of its battery production is offset.  “A light hybrid vehicle costs half as much as an electric vehicle. Therefore, in the end, wouldn’t it be better to accept highly efficient hybrid fuel cars so that they remain affordable and yield some immediate reductions in CO₂?”

Tavares believes hybrid cars are a better option and cheaper than EVs and it seems he’s not alone.

Herbert Diess of the Volkswagen Group has also voiced concern and thinks Europe’s transition to electric cars has its limitations. Diess was quoted in The Verge as saying: “I think the plan to shift to a proportion of 50% EVs by 2030 is very ambitious. We have a market share of about 20% here in Europe. In order to maintain that 20% market share, bearing in mind the proportion of 50% EVs, we will need six gigafactories. Those factories would have to be operational by 2028 to meet our target for the year 2030. That’s almost impossible to do.”

“This is an opportunity, not a threat”

However, Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson, who will step down as Volvo boss later this month, disagrees and in a statement this week said the car industry should see the EU's tougher emissions rules as a "fantastic opportunity" rather than a threat.

He went on to say that the car industry would gain credibility if it said:” OK, we are ready to do this because it's a good idea and good for our industry." But then we would need to say to the politicians, "Can you help us by making sure we have carbon-free electricity from the grid?" And also ask them, "Can you encourage others to invest in the charging infrastructure?"

He added that having a more progressive stance would have other benefits.

"It would be good for our competitiveness and it would help us attract talents from younger generations because they don't want work for a company that's against the shift to electrification." Under Samuelsson Volvo has set 2030 as the year it wants to be an electric-only brand.

Only time will tell who will win out in this debate. In the meantime, fleet owners will have to find ways to address sustainability in an imperfect world.

Image: Shutterstock

Authored by: Alison Pittaway