Opening remarks by Executive Vice-President Timmermans at the press conference on the revision of CO2 emission standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

Check against delivery”

This morning, I already had a debate in Parliament on the CO2 emission standards for cars and vans, where we have recently reached an ambitious agreement in trilogue. It was already approved in Council and this morning, it was also voted in Parliament. And I think this is break-through legislation, one of the most important parts of our Fit for 55 package. I salute the Parliament for taking this historic decision.

In 2050, nearly all of the vehicles on our roads have to be zero-emission. Our Climate Law requires it, our cities demand it, and our manufacturers are gearing up for it.

Right now, trucks and buses are responsible for more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions from road transport, and about 6% of all greenhouse gases emitted in Europe. Moreover, 99% of trucks and buses currently on our roads have internal combustion engines, and they are all diesel engines. It makes them heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels, and it also importantly contributes to air pollution. Still, over 300.000 Europeans every year die prematurely because of air pollution.

Until now, our legislation for this sector only covered heavy trucks. Now, we propose to expand the scope: small and large trucks, city buses, long-distance buses, and trailers. Trailers as such do not have emissions obviously, but by setting stricter requirements for their energy efficiency (aerodynamics mainly), they will help reduce CO2 emissions from the main truck, and enable longer distances when driving battery-powered engines or hydrogen powered fuel cells.

And because of this more complete scope of the legislation, we will see broader benefits: reducing air pollution, and improving the quality of life and the health of our citizens.

As with the legislation on cars and vans, it only concerns new registrations, so trucks and buses coming to the market in the future. This means that fleets will gradually get cleaner, as the vehicles are renewed by their operators.

Our objective is pretty straightforward: all trucks and buses will have to head for a zero-emission future. It will be a gradual shift: by 2030, we require that they emit 45% less compared to 2019, in 2035 this will have to be 65% less, and in 2040 it will be 90% less than in 2019.

The targets are fleet-based, so manufacturers must meet them as an average over their entire fleet. So 90% by 2040 means that the vast majority of new trucks and long-distance buses coming on the market will be zero emissions, powered by batteries, fuel cells, or even hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines.

We will eventually have to move to a 100% target, but at this stage we cannot yet say when all uses of trucks and buses can be made zero-emissions with the technologies currently available – especially where it concerns challenging driving circumstances such as very steep mountains and icy conditions. As someone who uses an electric car very often, I know that lower temperatures means that the battery lasts less. You have to take these conditions into consideration in certain parts of Europe.

For city buses, however, the situation is quite different. By 2030, all new city buses will have to be zero emission.

This is ambitious but it is entirely possible. I’m really happy with this proposal, as these kinds of changes show citizens that the transition to a clean and healthy future can happen fast. You see in all of our cities across the European Union a huge push for zero-emission public transport because people want cleaner air. They got used to cleaner air, one of the very few positive effects of Covid, they got used to cleaner air and want that to remain the norm. That’s why they are pushing so much for zero-emission mobility.

And of course it is also technically feasible: the routes are always very clear, it is easy to arrange charging, and all of that makes it easier. Rides are shorter, predictable routes and overnight you can charge the buses in the depots.

In addition to this, cities can pool their economic weight to buy these buses together – I have been pushing for that for years now – through the Clean Bus Platform. This can bring the purchasing cost of these buses down even further. The total cost of ownership is already lower than with combustion-engine buses. But buying them still is a challenge sometimes, for cities where public finances have been squeezed. If you pool the resources, if you stimulate the production in Europe, you can bring the prices down.

I have heard many European manufacturers saying that they want to be part of this. Both the ones who build the engines and the batteries but also the ones who build the buses. So I think this is something that will really have huge results and everybody is really looking out for this.


Finally, when we look at the broader industrial transition, heavy-duty vehicles are a sector where many European manufacturers are already at the forefront. The EU is a market leader in the production of trucks and buses, and setting this legal framework already now will help it secure that position towards the future. This is a valuable part of the Green Deal Industrial Plan.

Let me be as clear as I can be. We do not want a repetition of what happened with solar panels, where we invented them and then all the production went to China. We want the production to be also European production. There is huge potential in Europe. Just take Poland as an example, where the production of electric buses is really expanding very rapidly. This is an opportunity for European industrial strength and we should certainly use it.

Demand for zero emission trucks and buses will only be increasing. The earlier we get there, the better for our planet, industry, citizens and the quality of life in the villages, towns and cities where they all live.

To be very clear, we took into account the more challenging conditions of rural areas, where we will not apply the same rules as in the cities. In rural areas, the buses for longer-range transport will be treated as trucks, not as city buses. That will give rural areas more space to go through this transition. Already now, public transport in many of our rural areas is a challenge and we want public transport to improve, not to decrease. That is why, we have given them special attention in our proposal.

Thank you.