Environment and Climate

Climate protection policy for heavy commercial vehicles

In addition to CO₂ regulation for cars and light commercial vehicles, the European Commission is also planning a regulation recommendation for heavy commercial vehicles.

Climate protection policy for heavy commercial vehicles

Heavy commercial vehicles play an indispensible role in freight and passenger transport in Germany and Europe. With over 460 billion tonne-kilometers, they carry about 71 percent of freight transported in Germany. At the same time, heavy commercial vehicles are responsible for about 5 percent of total CO2 emissions in Europe. the commercial vehicles industry has been able to apply numerous technological innovations to massively reduce the CO2 emissions of their vehicles in recent years. The fuel consumption of heavy commercial vehicles, according to investigations by technical publications, has fallen by around 60 percent per tonne-kilometer since the mid-1960s. At the same time, the introduction of Euro standards have permanently reduced pollutant emissions, especially nitrogen oxides and particulates.

CO2 emissions by heavy commercial vehicles should continue to drop in upcoming years. Statutory regulations following the pattern of CO2 regulations for passenger cars, however, do not make sense for heavy commercial vehicles. This is because, in contrast to passenger cars, commercial vehicles have a completely different initial position. Heavy commercial vehicles are used exclusively under commercial considerations. With a share of around 30 percent, fuel costs are generally the largest single item among all operating costs. For this reason alone, operators of heavy commercial vehicles have a massive interest in new vehicles with ever-lower fuel consumption. They thereby place substantial market pressure on manufacturers to continue to reduce vehicle fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions.

Commercial vehicles are also operated under an extraordinarily diverse range of variants – from long-distance routes to regional and urban distribution, to travel and city buses or construction vehicles. Depending on their application, there are substantial, functionally driven differences in fuel consumption. In addition, hardly any new vehicles are completely finished when they roll off the manufacturer’s assembly line. Rather, trailer and body manufacturers complete the vehicles, without the vehicle manufacturers even knowing about it in individual cases. At the same time, bodies and trailers have a substantial effect on weight, aerodynamics and other factors that significantly influence fuel consumption. Finally, in contrast to passenger cars, no generally applicable test cycle exists for heavy commercial vehicles, so that previously no generally recognized information has been available about fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The EU Commission decided several years ago to first provide transparency on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of heavy commercial vehicles. Using the VECTO (Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool) simulation program, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of commercial vehicles will be able to be determined realistically and certified in the future. VECTO thereby makes it possible to consider both individual vehicles and combinations of vehicles with trailers and bodies. The influence of various components on fuel consumption can also be analyzed. VECTO thus provides transparency on the fuel consumption of commercial vehicles while simultaneously increasing competitive pressure among vehicle manufacturers to offer ever more efficient vehicles.

To sustainably reduce CO2 emissions from road freight transport, additional steps beyond this are needed. Within the integrated approach, all potential sources of CO2 reduction must be enhanced, from vehicle technology measures to renewable fuels to optimized vehicle operation. European commercial vehicle manufacturers, their suppliers and many other participants have come out with such an integrated approach. European commercial vehicle manufacturers have made it clear since 2014 at the IAA (International Motor Show) that annual CO2 savings in road transportation could be doubled by applying an integrated approach.

New design potential for trucks and buses

In 2015, the European Union created possibilities for extensive technical changes to commercial vehicles and omnibuses. According to them, future commercial vehicles and combinations of vehicles can become longer overall if they meet certain prerequisites. The requirements of EU Directive 2015/719 make it possible to redesign the vehicles without any loss of loading area. In order to be able to implement the directive in practice, the European type approval rules will also be adapted by the end of 2016. The new rules are intended to improve commercial vehicles in many ways. Their focus is on aerodynamics, protecting pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles in case of collision, and driver comfort. For omnibuses, maximum permissible weights were raised. This gives additional room for alternative drivetrains and technical measures such as barrierfree design of travel coaches, such as lift systems.

In order for truck cabs to become more aerodynamic, they must become longer. This changes both the location of the driver and the external shape of the truck. The redesign must follow numerous legal requirements, such as for lighting and underride protection, at the same time. In addition, new technologies for reducing consumption are to be added to the vehicles. Various approaches are currently being taken to the redesign of cabs. Product cycles for commercial vehicles are generally much longer than for passenger cars. Commercial vehicle manufacturers can therefore first improve existing models with moderate aerodynamic changes. These changes can be implemented quickly up to market readiness, without have to expand the existing type approval process in comparison with current commercial vehicles. A more ambitious approach plans a complete redesign of the cab and drivetrain. As a prerequisite for this, however, a large number of adaptations to existing regulations must be made.

For trailers, aerodynamic body parts known as rear flaps can be mounted on the rear in a short time. These aerodynamic rear flaps can be mounted with no additional review of the type approval if they are no longer than 50 centimeters. For longer aerodynamic body parts, however, a great deal of evidence of safe operation is required.

Dr. Martin Koers
Dr. Martin Koers Head of Department Economic and climate protection policy

Tel: +49 30 897842-350 Fax: +49 30 897842-600
Nach oben springen