Dusseldorf, Berlin, Vienna For Michael Brecht, the new guidelines that the EU wants to set for CO2 emissions from trucks are downright absurd. If it were up to Brussels, according to the head of the works council of Daimler Truck, the world’s largest truck manufacturer, trucks that want to cross the Brenner Pass in Austria would, to put it simply, emit as much CO2 when driving up as when rolling down.
The head of the works council himself knows that he is exaggerating the proposal of the EU Commission. But not only for the 57-year-old are the requirements of the new Euro 7 emissions standard far too strict, which according to the will of the EU will come into force from July 2025 shall apply.
Above all, there is criticism of the significantly stricter test conditions stipulated by the law – and which now also apply in extreme situations, such as on the mountain or at particularly low temperatures. Specifically, the controversy is sparked by the word “any” in the Commission’s proposal. Accordingly, in future the limit values should be observed in every driving scenario (“any trip composition”). In the case of trucks, scenarios of “usual use” are assumed.
Broad resistance is forming against Euro 7
Even experts believe that this needs to be specified. “De facto, ‘any’ is mathematically unattainable,” says Thomas Koch, engine expert at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). He expects additional production costs “of at least 500 and probably even 1000 euros” depending on the vehicle – significantly more than the Commission indicates in its proposal.
VDA boss Hildegard Müller therefore also believes that it is currently unclear “whether the new Euro 7 emissions standard will be technically feasible at all”. Works council head Brecht sees his employer and the industry in a dilemma if the proposals from Brussels are implemented one-to-one. “We should now actually direct all available resources into the development of electric drives,” says the employee representative.
Instead, the EU wants to use the new regulation to improve the combustion engine technology that is being phased out again “down to the smallest granularity” – which ties up engineering know-how. “The priorities aren’t right there,” says Brecht. And with this attitude, the works council is currently not alone. Because there is broad resistance against Euro 7.
Minister of Transport Wissing on Euro 7: “Promote mobility, not prevent it”
In November, the EU Commission presented its proposals for stricter emissions standards. After all, road traffic is responsible for a good part of air pollution in cities. With the new standard, Brussels aims to ensure cleaner vehicles on the road and better air quality to protect citizens’ health and the environment. 35 percent less nitrogen oxide emissions from passenger cars by 2035 is a declared goal of Euro 7. The value for buses and trucks is to drop by more than half.
However, the Commission proposal still has to be passed by the Council and Parliament. An important consultation phase for the EU law ends on Thursday. Until then, feedback on the previous proposal will still be taken into account – and there should be a lot of it.
The criticism of the design of the emissions standard is great. The regulation could increase vehicle prices, delay the electric revolution and cost thousands of jobs, according to the tenor from the industry. In the case of truck manufacturers, the Commission’s proposal even turns two screws at the same time: the emission limit values and the test conditions.
Euro 7 would have what it takes to shift “considerable technical and financial resources from battery technologies back to the combustion engine,” warns Christian Levin, head of the VW truck division Traton, in the Handelsblatt. “A focused ramp-up of zero-emission vehicles in conjunction with targeted fleet renewal would be much faster and more effective,” says the manager.
The pressure is particularly high domestically. Most recently, the prime ministers of the three auto federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Lower Saxony had urged Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in a letter not to accept the current Euro 7 draft. It is about “regulation with a sense of proportion”, according to the state princes Winfried Kretschmann (Greens), Markus Söder (CSU) and Stephan Weil (SPD).
Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) also took a position on Monday. “Regulation must encourage mobility, not prevent it,” he said. In its design, Euro 7 not only endangers the further ramp-up of e-mobility, but also countless jobs. Because the regulation is also likely to make many vehicles more expensive, “mobility could degenerate into a luxury good”.
Renault boss sees 300,000 jobs in the industry at risk from Euro 7
The employee side also heavily criticizes the current proposal. The Handelsblatt has received a position paper from IG Metall. It says at one point: With Euro 7, the Commission “managed in one fell swoop to offend both environmental organizations and the automotive industry.”
While from an ecological point of view the limit values, especially in the passenger car sector, should not be ambitious enough, companies are bothered by the absurd framework conditions for compliance with the standard. The threatening scenario here: “Earlier shutdown of certain plants”, as suggested in the IG Metall paper. “The lack of planning security is worrying,” the union said on request.
Days ago, Luca de Meo, CEO of French carmaker Renault and currently President of the European industry association ACEA, warned that up to 300,000 jobs in Europe would be at stake as a result of Euro 7. At Renault alone, the EU Commission’s proposal would probably lead to the “closure of at least four plants within a short period of time,” de Meo rumbles in an open letter.
Volkswagen now also shares “the assessment that Euro 7 in its current form would have negative employment effects for the European automotive industry”.
Engine expert Koch: The emission standard should be significantly more expensive than calculated
Already at the mobility summit with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in mid-January, the car bosses had criticized the EU plans and urged Brussels to work for less strict regulation. The current Euro 7 proposal is expensive and hardly helps to reduce emissions. Alternatively, the federal government should rather work to reduce the exhaust gas values in normal operation again.
This is also emphasized by VDA boss Müller: “The automotive industry advocates a significant reduction in the emission limit values, particularly for nitrogen oxides, while maintaining the tried-and-tested EU6 test boundary conditions.” In addition, measures against improper use are advocated in order to ensure legal certainty. Means: CO2 limits down, but please measure as before.
In the case of trucks, one could possibly commit to an ambitious end to combustion engines, but the Euro 7 requirements would be lowered, according to negotiating circles. The EU Commission is apparently preparing a ban on new combustion trucks for 2040.
It is questionable whether industry and trade unions will be able to assert themselves politically. Germany has not found a unified position on the plans of the EU Commission for months. While the FDP and above all Federal Transport Minister Wissing insist on accommodating the car industry, the lead Ministry of the Environment with Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) is relying on strict rules.
The German position is currently being “coordinated among the ministries,” it says. In March, the preparatory body for the meeting of the European heads of state wants to meet and discuss in Brussels. The German position must be in place by then. However, it is an advantage to publish them early, since other member states are orienting themselves towards Germany, according to government circles.
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