Last week, despite guarded recommendations by the European Commission and complaints from automobile manufacturers, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted for a 40% reduction in car emissions by 2030.

The European Parliament aims to persuade all 28 nations of the European Union to support the plan. The 40% figure came as a trade-off to appease both greens and those who fear harm to the car industry.

Moving the goalposts

After Volkswagen conceded, in September 2015, that they’d tampered with diesel engines to falsify emissions tests, vehicle emissions have become an even greater concern.

Following the scandal, all diesel vehicles have received broad scrutiny, with a lot of them found to emit much less pollution during tests than they do on our roads.

In last week’s meeting, the EU’s executive Commission supported only a 30% cut to emissions, while the environment committee wanted a 45% reduction.

The EU nations environment ministers will confer further this month, but a definitive ruling may not come before December this year.

This isn’t the first time legislation has changed to increase the percentage in which the European Parliament aims to reduce CO2 emissions. Last month, they raised the figure to a 30% cut by 2021 and before that; the aim was of a 15% decrease of CO2 by 2025.

Manufacturers must also make sure that, by 2025, zero and low-emission vehicles make up a 20% market share of their sales of new cars and vans. This figure increases to 35% by 2030.

The UK government has declared a ban on sales of all new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. Other countries such as Denmark, India, Ireland, and the Netherlands have set their deadlines for 2030.

A clear majority

Despite government guidance welcoming the proposal as in line with UK policy, British Conservative MEPs voted against the 40% target. This is surprising as the UK’s own 2050 target is to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 80% of the 1990 levels, equating to a minimum of 3% decrease in emissions year on year. Once we leave the EU, how will this affect the plans as we will no longer have to meet official targets?

Some countries haven’t yet announced their opinion on the proposal, but Germany has resisted any further rise to the current 30% decrease in CO2 output recommended by the European Commission.

Germany says it has its own strategies to decrease pollution from older diesel vehicles by inviting car manufacturers to offer trade-in incentives and hardware fixes.

German interest group, Verband der Automobilindustrie VDA—also known as the German Association of the Automotive Industry—, which represents chief car manufacturers such as BMW and Volkswagen, said the European Parliament was setting “completely unrealistic targets.”

VDA President Bernhard Mattes said, “It is ignoring the technical and economic feasibility” of the proposal.

“It will not be possible to implement the targets in this timeframe,” he added, arguing that lawmakers risked endangering jobs in many European countries.

Clean Vehicles Manager at Transport and Environment, Julia Poliscanova, disagrees and said: “This vote is good news for the climate, for jobs in Europe and for the millions of Europeans who will start to enjoy cleaner air in their cities.

“A clear majority of EU governments supports Parliament’s decision to accelerate the transition to clean and electric mobility.

“Only Germany, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria oppose higher ambition.

“We shouldn’t allow Germany to hold an entire continent to ransom over its failed diesel strategy.”

While potential job loss in the auto industry causes concern for many, others say these stricter targets will bring positive consequences for job creation in green technologies. MEPs have agreed that carmakers with average CO2 emissions above the targets must pay a fine into the EU budget, to pay for teaching workers affected by changes in the automotive sector to develop new skills.

The interesting aspect of this is that of Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania voting against the proposal, these three countries are developing rapidly and all contribute considerably to the current emissions figures. Do they perhaps need lower emissions targets to be able to increase their GDP or is there another reason for the resistance?

An electrifying future

Experts say there has to be an increase in the sale of electric and hybrid vehicles before it’s possible to see a considerable reduction in emissions, but while lots of people want an electric car, the cost is prohibitive to many.

Drivers also worry about the lack of available recharging sites and battery range. That said, this year’s Nissan Leaf boasts a range of 168 miles.

While prices for electric vehicle (EV) are reducing, you’re still looking at over £20k to buy a new EV. If that’s something you can afford, but you want to know more about the benefits, in terms of cost, you might the following information useful:

The UK Government provides an incentive for those who buy new Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles (ULEVs) with their Plug-in Car Grant. The dealership deducts the grant from the cost of the car when you buy. Depending on the category and model the car belongs to, you can get 35% (up to a maximum of £2,500 or £4,500) off the cost of the car.

A complete charge in a pure electric vehicle provides an average range of 100 miles and costs £2 to £4—much cheaper than it’ll cost you to drive 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car. Pure EVs costing less than £40,000 don’t pay Vehicle Excise Duty (VED or ‘road tax’). All other cars, including plug-in hybrids, pay a minimum of £130. For the first five years of ownership, EVs that cost more than £40,000 have a VED of £310—cheaper than the £450 VED for a conventional car costing £40,000 or more.

Plug-in cars emitting 75g/km CO2 or less get a 100% discount from the London Congestion Charge. A regular user of this zone could make an annual saving of over £2,500.

Grants exist from Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to install home chargers for plug-in vehicles via the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme. This provides funding of up to 75% (capped at £500), of the eligible expenses of installation.

There are many other benefits to driving an EV, not related to cost, and, while these cars aren’t without their downsides, like it or not, they look certain to be a part of our motoring Future.

What’s your view on the European Parliament’s target of a 40% reduction in car emissions by 2030? Do you think it’s achievable? Is this too ambitious a goal or are we not going far enough to tackle global warming? What are your views on EVs? Tell us in the comments.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x