Electric cars: European regulation setting the pace for carmakers


Roskill view: Since the introduction of the EURO regulations in 1993 to control transport emissions, the European Union has been marking the way for global automakers.  Although initially the reduction of emissions targets was somewhat progressive for gasoline cars, for diesel cars the reductions have considerably accelerated in recent years, forcing most automakers to look for solutions beyond downsizing engines. From the EURO 1 to the EURO 6 regulation, carbon monoxide (CO) targets for diesel cars have dropped by 82%, while Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) targets have dropped by more than 84%.

Last week, the EU proposal for new transport emissions targets was released by the EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action amid comments of a European car industry transformation and China’s technological lead in electric cars. The proposal calls for a 30% reduction in the average CO2 emission of carmakers’ fleets by 2030 compared with 2021 levels. It also sets an interim goal of a 15% reduction by 2025 to help ensure automakers start investments early. Additionally, the draft included a now familiar credit system for carmakers to encourage the rollout of electric vehicles and fines for exceeding carbon dioxide limits. Similar credit systems have already been implemented in California and are expected to be implemented in China by 2019.

Coincidentally, one day after the EU proposal release, Group PSA (Peugeot, Citroen, Opel) vowed to move Opel models onto its own technology faster than initially planned to improve their emissions performance. All Opel models will offer electric or plug-in hybrid versions by 2024.  This follows Volvo’s announcement that all its vehicles would have a plug by 2019. Jaguar-Land Rover also announced in September that all new models will have an electric option from 2020.  BMW promised in September that it would have 12 fully electric car models by 2025.  Meanwhile Volkswagen and Daimler are making multi-billion investments in battery technology and electric powertrains.

Some experts suggest that strict regulations can’t force a positive attitudes from the consumer towards electric cars. However, diesel cars sales have started to decline this year, perhaps anticipating the sought-after shift in consumer behaviour.