Select Committee on European Scrutiny Eighteenth Report




COM(01) 543

Draft Directive amending Council Directives 70/156/EEC and 80/1268/EEC as regards the measurement of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption of N1 vehicles.

Legal base:Article 95 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated:24 October 2001
Forwarded to the Council:25 October 2001
Deposited in Parliament:5 December 2001
Department:Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration:EM of 23 January 2002
Previous Committee Report:None, but see footnote below
To be discussed in Council:No date set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


  6.1  In order to prevent technical barriers to trade, Council Directive 70/156/EEC[38] seeks to approximate Member States' laws on the type-approval of motor vehicles, and Council Directive 80/1268/EEC[39] subsequently established the methods to be used in this connection for measuring the fuel consumption of passenger cars. More recently, further measures have been taken in recognition of the increasing contribution which such cars make to emissions of carbon dioxide, and the need to tackle these if the Community is to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the period 2008-2012 by 8% as compared with 1990 levels. In particular, Council Decision 1753/2000/EC established a scheme for monitoring average carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars[40], in connection with attempts to reach a voluntary agreement with European, Japanese and Korean manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency.

  6.2  All these measures are underpinned by a series of highly technical annexes, setting out detailed conditions covering all aspects of type-approval, and the measurement of pollution from petrol and diesel engines.

The current proposal

  6.3  This proposal would introduce mandatory harmonised requirements for measuring carbon dioxide emissions from light goods vehicles (below 3.5 tonnes maximum laden weight). According to the Commission, this segment covers a wide variety of vehicle types, and each base model usually has a large number of different versions arising from a combination of different configurations: thus, the 11 major European manufacturers produce 94 base models, each having at least 10 different versions. The Commission also says that about 1.8 million of such vehicles were sold throughout the Community in 2000, as compared with 14 million passenger cars, and that they accounted for approximately 10% of total road carbon dioxide emissions[41], a figure which it suggests is likely to increase in the future.

  6.4  It is therefore proposing that Council Directive 80/1268/EEC should be amended to bring within its scope new type-approvals as from 1 July 2003. Existing type-approvals would be covered as from 1 January 2006 for vehicles in Class I (less than 1305 kg unladen weight), and as from 1 January 2007 for the larger vehicles in classes II and III. As with passenger cars, assessments would relate to unladen weights, and, whilst the Commission recognises that the payloads usually carried by vans will increase carbon dioxide emissions, it suggests that their relative ranking would remain the same, and that it might be possible at some later date to incorporate a loading factor. The amendment would not, however, apply to vehicles where the manufacturer produces less than 2000 units a year world-wide, and where they comply with Community legislation governing emissions from diesel engines.

The Government's view

  6.5  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 23 January 2002, the Minister of State at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr John Spellar) notes that the proposal relates to the measurement of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel efficiency, and in itself will have neither an environmental impact nor major costs implications, other than the cost of testing (see paragraphs 6.8 and 6.9 below). However, he points out that the Commission's underlying aim is to facilitate the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from these vehicles, either through future Community action, voluntary agreements with manufacturers, or national incentive schemes.

  6.6  The Minister says that, whilst this is in line with the Government's aim of reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions, the scope for doing so from these vehicles is unclear, since the Commission has failed to identify what the potential might be. He adds that industry believes that it would be unrealistic to expect a reduction in fuel consumption similar to the 25% cut agreed for cars in 2008 relative to 1995, since the main means of achieving the latter will be to increase diesel market share and petrol engine efficiency, whereas the vast majority of light commercial vans already have diesel engines. He also suggests that, since fuel savings are so important for commercial operators, manufacturers already design vehicles to be as fuel-efficient as possible; similarly, as purchasers buy vans with the load carrying capacity they require, the scope for downsizing is limited (though some carbon dioxide reduction may be achievable by reducing transmission, tyre and aerodynamic resistances, as well as the unladen vehicle weight).

  6.7  In view of this, he says that industry has argued that the proposal should be confined to class I vehicles, which are mostly car-derived, and produced in a smaller range of variants than the larger class II and III types. Also, class I vehicles are sold complete, whereas classes II and III are sold as chassis-cabs, allowing a variety of load compartments to be added: consequently, limiting the scope of the proposal in this way would greatly reduce the costs and complexity involved. The Minister also says that industry has asked that vehicles with only minor differences should be grouped into a family, with only the worst case being tested, and that the exemption in the proposal for low-volume manufacturers should be extended beyond those complying with emission levels for diesel engines.

  6.8  The Minister says that the Government is currently giving consideration to the detailed cost implications of the proposal, but is concerned that, in its present form, it could necessitate a ten-fold increase in the number of tests which a manufacturer would have to conduct, perhaps requiring expensive new test facilities. He also comments on the Commission's contention that, since carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption can be recorded during the tests on pollutants from positive-ignition vehicles, the costs are likely to be negligible. He says that this is incorrect, as many such vehicles are tested to the very different diesel emissions directive, and would therefore require additional testing. He also points out that the directive on positive ignition engines allows manufacturers to test just the largest, heaviest vehicle from a group of variants, and that, since those worst case figures are likely to be used for public consumption, they will in practice be obliged to test almost all the variants they produce.

  6.9  Pending a more detailed examination, the Minister has provided with his Explanatory Memorandum an initial Regulatory Impact Assessment. This suggests that reductions in average carbon dioxide emissions from commercial vehicles arising from this proposal would be unlikely to exceed 10%, and it points out that light goods vehicle traffic is expected to increase by 25% between 2000 and 2010. Taking these two factors together, it concludes that replacing the entire light goods fleet with new vehicles would lead to an annual reduction of around 500,000 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to about 0.34% of current UK emissions overall. The Assessment also suggests that, for a manufacturer producing small volumes of commercial vehicles, the overall cost of tests might be of the order of £20,000 a year, whereas it could range from £130,000 to £230,000 for larger manufacturers. More significantly, costs of around £10 million per manufacturer could arise if new test facilities were required.


  6.10  It seems clear from the Minister's comments that there is more to this apparently innocuous proposal than meets the eye, and that it deals with an area of some technical complexity. In view of this, we think that, before we take a view, it would be prudent to await the further Regulatory Impact Assessment which the Minister has promised to supply. In the meantime, we are not clearing the document.

38   OJ No. L.42, 23.2.70, p.1. Back

39   OJ No. L.375, 31.12.80, p.36. Back

40   (19245) 9681/01; see HC 155-xxxvi (1997-98), paragraph 15 (29 July 1998). Back

41   According to the Government, the corresponding figure for the UK is 13%. Back

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