Legacy automakers fall behind on EVs and urge to slash clean air laws rather than try to catch up

In a disappointing move that could result in billions of euros in health and environmental costs, the European Union today caved to pressure from the automobile industry to rethink its landmark rules setting strict limits for toxic emissions from cars and trucks. As legacy automakers lose ground in the transition to EVs, automobile lobbies are urging governments to kill off clean air laws.

In a report in Automobile News Europe, the European Union today showed its readiness to pull back on its landmark rules that put strict limits in place on allowable toxic emissions from gas and diesel vehicles, succumbing to pressures from automakers and governments claiming that it’s just too expensive and not “realistic” for them. Experts say weakening the rules could cost €100 billion in health and environmental costs.

The European Parliament approved its negotiation position for its Euro 7 pollution rules, which govern emissions for ICE vehicles of all types. The new proposal rewrites the original, removing more ambitious requirements and subsequently caving to pressures from some countries and auto lobbies that say the plan is out of reach. While the original proposal would save thousands of lives and improve air quality, the automotive industry argues it is too costly to adhere to, and would result in a price hike that would make even small, cheaper cars unaffordable for the average consumer.

The new rules would replace the current Euro 6 standards – and auto lobbies have been working feverishly to kill it off for months. Today’s vote includes maintaining the Euro 6 limits on pollution from cars, including nitrous oxides, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide, with the addition of including for the first time limits on particulate emissions from brakes and tires. However, the weakened rules limit admissible levels of nitrous oxide emissions from trucks, as well as delay the timeframe for when the rules will apply, pushing it back to three years rather than 2025. 

Carmakers and some European countries argue that since the EU already has a deadline to end sales of CO2-emitting cars in 2035, the EU should just focus on EV production rather than improving the current environmental impact from diesel and gas engines.

Next up, the European Parliament enters into negotiations to finalize the document with the European Commission and the European Council, including top ministers from EU countries. Approval could come as early as the beginning of 2024, with the regulations going into effect from 2026 for cars and 2027 for heavy trucks.

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