Environmental protection regulations

The specific emission limits for all new passenger car and light commercial vehicle fleets for brands and groups in the EU for the period up to 2019 are set out in Regulation (EC) No 443/2009 on CO2 emissions from passenger cars and Regulation (EU) No 510/2011 on light commercial vehicles of up to 3.5 tonnes, which came into effect in April 2009 and June 2011, respectively. These regulations are important components of the European climate protection policy and therefore form the key regulatory framework for product design and marketing by all vehicle manufacturers selling in the European market.

The average CO2 emissions of new European passenger car fleets have not been allowed to exceed 130 g CO2/km since 2012. Compliance with this requirement was introduced in phases; since 2015 the entire fleet has to meet this limit. Regulation (EU) No 333/2014, which was adopted in 2014, states that the average emissions of European passenger car fleets may be no higher than just 95 g CO2/km from 2021 onwards; in 2020, this emissions limit will already apply to 95% of the fleet. Up to and including 2020, European fleet legislation will be complied with on the basis of the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). After 2021, the NEDC target value will be changed into a WLTP target value through a process defined by lawmakers; this change is not expected to lead to additional tightening of the target value.

The EU’s CO2 regulation for light commercial vehicles requires limits to be met from 2014 onwards, with targets being phased in over the period to 2017. Under this regulation, the average CO2 emissions of new vehicle registrations in Europe may not exceed 175 g CO2/km. From 2020 onwards, the limit under Regulation (EU) No 253/2014, which was adopted in 2014, is 147 g CO2/km.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, the European Commission published a regulatory proposal for the CO2 regime after 2020. In December 2018, the European Council, Parliament and Commission agreed on post-2020 fleet legislation, which has yet to be conclusively published in the Official Journal of the European Union. This legislation stipulates a reduction of 15% from 2025 and 37.5% from 2030 for the European new passenger car fleets and a reduction of 15% in 2025 and 31% in 2030 for the new light commercial vehicle fleets. In each case, the starting point is the fleet value in 2021. Policymakers are already discussing reduction targets for the transport sector for the period to 2050, such as the 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels cited in the EU White Paper on transport published in March 2011. These long-term targets can only be achieved through a high proportion of electric vehicles.

At the same time, regulations governing fleet fuel consumption are also being developed or introduced outside the EU28, for example in Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and the USA. Brazil has introduced a fleet efficiency target as part of a voluntary program for granting a tax advantage. To receive a 30% tax advantage, vehicle manufacturers must, among other things, achieve a specified fleet efficiency. The fuel consumption regulations in China, which set an average fleet target of 6.9 liters/100 km for the period 2012–2015, were continued into the period 2016–2020 with a target of 5.0 liters/100 km. Preparations for legislation up to 2025 have begun. In addition to this legislation on fleet consumption, China will impose a so-called “new energy vehicle quota” in the future. This means that from 2019 onwards, batteryelectric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles will have to account for a certain proportion of a manufacturer’s new passenger car fleet. Due to the extension of greenhouse gas legislation in the USA (the law was signed in 2012), uniform fuel consumption and greenhouse gas standards will continue to apply in all federal states in the period from 2017 to 2025.

The increased regulation of fleet-based CO2 emissions and fuel consumption makes it necessary to use the latest mobility technologies in all key markets worldwide. At the same time, electrified and also purely electric drives will become increasingly common. The Volkswagen Group closely coordinates technology and product planning with its brands so as to avoid breaches of fleet fuel consumption limits, since these would entail severe financial penalties. Volkswagen continues to regard diesel technology as an important element in the fulfillment of CO2 emissions targets.

EU legislation allows excess emissions and emission shortfalls to be offset between vehicle models within a fleet of new vehicles. Furthermore, the EU permits some flexibility in fulfilling the emissions targets, for example:

  • Emission pools may be formed,
  • Relief opportunities may be provided for additional innovative technologies contained in the vehicle that apply outside the test cycle (eco-innovations),
  • Special rules are in place for small-series producers and niche manufacturers,
  • Particularly efficient vehicles qualify for super-credits.

Whether the Group meets its fleet targets depends crucially on its technological and financial capabilities, which are reflected in, among other things, our drivetrain and fuel strategy.

In the EU, a new, more time-consuming test procedure – the Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), – for determining pollutant and CO2 emissions as well as fuel consumption in passenger cars and light commercial vehicles has applied to new vehicle types since September 2017 and to all new vehicles since September 2018. Other challenges arise in connection with stricter processes and requirements regarding WLTP, such as from test criteria and from homologation (achievement of approval).

The Real Driving Emissions (RDE) regulation for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles is also one of the main European regulations. New, uniform limits for nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions in real road traffic have applied to new vehicle types across the EU since September 2017. This makes the RDE test procedure fundamentally different from the Euro 6 standard still in force, which stipulates that the limits on the chassis dynamometer are authoritative. The RDE regulation is intended primarily to improve air quality in urban areas and areas close to traffic. It leads to stricter requirements for exhaust gas aftertreatment in passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. There are challenges associated with stricter processes and requirements regarding RDE, such as from test criteria and from homologation (achievement of approval).

The other main EU regulations affecting the automotive industry include:

  • EU Directive 2007/46/EC establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles,
  • EU Directive 2009/33/EC on the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles (Green Procurement Directive),
  • EU Directive 2006/40/EC relating to emissions from air-conditioning systems in motor vehicles,
  • The Car Labeling Directive 1999/94/EC,
  • The Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) 2009/30/EC updating the fuel quality specifications and introducing energy efficiency specifications for fuel production,
  • Renewable Energy Directive (RED) (2009/28/EC) introducing sustainability criteria; the follow-up regulation (RED2) contains higher quotas for advanced biofuels,
  • The revised Energy Taxation Directive 2003/96/EC updating the minimum tax rates for all energy products and power.

The implementation of the above-mentioned directives by the EU member states serves to support the CO2 regulations in Europe. These are aimed not only at vehicle manufacturers, but also at other sectors such as the mineral oil industry. Vehicle taxes based on CO2 emissions are having a similar steering effect; many EU member states have already incorporated CO2 elements into their rules on vehicle taxation.

There is particular momentum in the debate on driving bans for diesel vehicles in Germany. This was triggered by the failure of some municipalities and cities to comply with the limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) immissions. In many places, lawsuits have been filed and judgments issued. It is argued in this context that only driving bans for diesel vehicles can bring about the necessary short-term reduction in NO2 immissions. The discussion may result in sales volumes of diesel vehicles to decline further and to financial liabilities arising from customer-related measures and possible official or statutory requirements.

Local driving bans are already in place in a number of countries, though these mainly affect older vehicles. Regulations in Belgium that successively bar older vehicles from larger cities are one corresponding example. With a view to the future, large urban areas such as Paris and London are discussing banning vehicles with combustion engines.

Heavy commercial vehicles first put into operation from 2014 onwards are already subject to the stricter emission requirements of the Euro 6 standard in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 582/2011. Alongside the CO2 legislation for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, the EU has prepared more comprehensive regulation of CO2 emissions in heavy commercial vehicles. Simply setting an overarching limit for these vehicles – such as that in place for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles – would require an extremely complex set of rules because of the wide range of variants. For this reason, the European Commission has worked with independent scientific institutions and the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) to prepare a simulation-based method called the Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool (VECTO). This can be used to determine the CO2 emissions of heavy commercial vehicles of over 7.5 tonnes based on their typical use (short-haul, regional, distribution and long-haul trips, service on construction sites and as municipal vehicles, city buses, intercity buses and coaches). A legislative proposal for the CO2 certification of heavy commercial vehicles and regulations on the reporting and monitoring of CO2 figures was presented in May 2017; the legislation for the declaration of CO2 figures for heavy commercial vehicles came into effect in January 2018. A CO2 declaration will be compulsory for selected vehicle categories from 2019 (initially long-haul and regional distribution vehicles, later also buses and other segments), with the captured data first being used to enable the customer to compare information and for certification and monitoring purposes. Further vehicle categories are likely to be included as time progresses. As part of its strategy to decarbonize transport, the European Commission has also announced that it will be proposing CO2 standards for heavy commercial vehicles in order to achieve the targets of the Paris climate agreement. During trilogue negotiations in February 2019, the European Parliament and EU member states agreed on a joint proposal regarding the CO2 regulation for heavy trucks. Accordingly, truck manufacturers have to achieve the intermediate goal by 2025, namely a 15% reduction of CO2 emissions for their new vehicle fleets within the EU. The goal of achieving a reduction provision of 30% shall apply by 2030. The reference year for all reduction goals is 2019. The current proposal also provides for fines if the limits are exceeded. Before these provisions can bindingly enter into force, the Council and the Parliament must approve the resolutions.

As part of its efforts to reduce the CO2 emissions of heavy commercial vehicles, the European Commission has also amended the provisions regarding the maximum permissible dimensions and weights of trucks (Directive 1996/53/EC, the Weights and Dimensions Directive) and revised them through EU Directive 2015/719. According to these, cabs with a rounded shape and air conduction devices at the rear of the vehicle will make it possible to improve aerodynamics in future. In addition, the legislators increased the overall weight permitted for vehicles with alternative drive technologies by up to one tonne. The specific technical requirements for the development of aerodynamic cabs are currently being examined.

The European commercial vehicles industry supports the goals of reducing CO2 emissions and improving transport safety. However, it is not just the vehicles themselves that affect future CO2 emissions; individual components also play an important role, such as reduced rolling resistance tires or the aerodynamic trim of the trailer, as do driving behavior, alternative fuels including the required filling stations, transport infrastructure and transport conditions. As part of a field trial that took place up to the end of 2016, longer and heavier vehicles that can decrease fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions by up to 25% according to scientific studies by the German Federal Highway Research Institute, were also driving on German roads. Since the beginning of 2017, these longer vehicles have been used in regular operations on a certified road network.

Networking and digitalizing the transport system will also eliminate existing inefficiencies such as inadequate utilization of existing load capacities, empty trips or unnetworked route planning: vehicles that move in networked, intermodal transport systems in which flows of traffic are optimized through the use of artificial intelligence, save fuel and hence reduce CO2 emissions. Automated driving also presents considerable potential for more sustainable organization of goods transport in road traffic, for example through platooning, in which the driver of the first truck in a convoy of networked, partially self-driving trucks specifies the direction and speed. Driving in the slipstream of other trucks on motorways allows fuel consumption to be reduced and safety to be increased. However, platooning requires changes in the legal framework and establishment of the necessary infrastructure.

In the Power Engineering segment, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has introduced the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARine POLlution – MARPOL), with which limits on emissions from marine engines will be lowered in phases. A reduction of the sulfur content in marine fuel has been confirmed with effect from January 1, 2020. In addition, the IMO has decided on a number of emission control areas in Europe and in the USA/Canada that will be subject to special environmental regulations. Expansion to further regions such as the Mediterranean or Japan is already being planned; other regions such as the Black Sea, Alaska, Australia or South Korea are also in discussion. In addition, emission limits also apply, for example, under Regulation (EU) 2016/1628 and in accordance with the regulations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On specialist bodies and in public, we are emphatically championing a “maritime energy transition”. In a first step, we are supporting the switch to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel for maritime applications and also offer dual fuel and gas-powered engines for new and retrofitted vessels. For long-term, climate-neutral operation of seagoing vessels, we advocate power-to-X technology, in which excess sustainably generated electricity is converted into carbon-neutral gas or liquid fuel.

As regards stationary equipment, there are a number of national rules in place worldwide that limit permitted emissions. On December 18, 2008, the World Bank Group set limits for gas and diesel engines in its “Environmental, Health, and Safety Guidelines for Thermal Power Plants”, which are required to be applied if individual countries have adopted no national requirements of their own, or ones that are less strict than those of the World Bank Group. These are currently being revised. In addition, the United Nations adopted the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution back in 1979, setting limits on total emissions as well as nitrogen oxide for the signatory states (including all EU states, other countries in Eastern Europe, the USA and Canada). Enhancements to the product portfolio in the Power Engineering segment focus on improving the efficiency of the equipment and systems.

The allocation method for emissions certificates changed fundamentally when the third emissions trading period (2013–2020) began. As a general rule, all emission allowances for power generators have been sold at auction since 2013. For the manufacturing industry and certain power generation installations (e.g. combined heat and power installations), a portion of the certificates are allocated free of charge on the basis of benchmarks applicable throughout the EU. The portion of certificates allocated free of charge will gradually decrease as the trading period progresses: the remaining quantities required will have to be bought at auction. Furthermore, installation operators can partly fulfill their obligation to hold emission allowances using certificates from climate change projects (Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism projects). In certain (sub-) sectors of industry, there is a risk that production will be transferred to countries outside Europe due to the amended provisions governing emissions trading, a phenomenon referred to as “carbon leakage”. A consistent quantity of certificates will be allocated to these sectors free of charge for the period from 2013 to 2020 on the basis of the pan-EU benchmarks. The automotive industry was included in the new carbon leakage list that came into effect in 2015. As a result, individual facilities at Volkswagen Group locations in Europe will receive additional certificates free of charge by the end of the third trading period. Already back in 2013, the European Commission decided to initially withhold a portion of the certificates to be auctioned and not to release them for auction until a later date during the third trading period (backloading). The certificates will be directed into a market stability reserve that was established in 2018. The reserve will serve to offset any imbalance between the supply of and demand for certificates in emissions trading in the fourth trading period. Furthermore, the European Commission is planning further modifications in emissions trading when the fourth trading period begins (from 2021) that may lead to a tightening of the system and thus to price increases for the certificates.

In addition to the EU member states, other countries in which the Volkswagen Group has production sites are also considering introducing an emissions trading system. In China, for example, seven corresponding pilot projects are underway, which do not affect the Volkswagen Group. The Chinese government officially implemented a national emissions trading system at the end of 2017. Initially, this will only impact the power generation sector; a gradual expansion is being planned.