Europe already has tough standards for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions in current and future vehicles.

Now they're going to get significantly tougher between 2021 and 2030.

At its weekly cabinet meeting, held Wednesday, the European Union formally adopted far more stringent requirements for reductions in vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide through 2030.

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Under the newly adopted plan, passenger cars and light trucks must cut CO2 emission by 15 percent over their 2021 levels by 2025, and by 30 percent by 2030.

The EU commission acknowledged that these levels would be hard to meet, and would increase the cost of cars sold to all buyers.

It estimated that by 2030, an average new car could cost roughly €1,000 ($1,160) more, and an average light van about €900 ($1,050) more.

Shell fuel station in Europe

Shell fuel station in Europe

As is common with such rules, savings in fuel costs over the vehicles' lifetimes would make up for the additional upfront cost several times over.

"These additional costs are significantly lower than the fuel savings from which consumers will benefit over a vehicle's lifetime," the Commission said in its report.

More than two years after the Volkswagen diesel emission scandal erupted into public awareness, it's become clear how differently cars certified as complying with given emission limits actually behaved in real-world driving.

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That issue had bubbled up as buyers complained that new cars achieved real-world fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent lower than published ratings.

Further investigations proved that CO2 emissions were commensurately higher than the limits as well.

The new limits for 2025 and 2030 will be accompanied by far more stringent emission testing, including real-world driving cycles, which manufacturers suggest will be far harder to meet than the previous lab-test routines.

European Union battery alliance announcement

European Union battery alliance announcement

But the commission plans to make incentives available to Europe's carmakers to switch to new and greener powertrains more quickly than they otherwise might.

And its report laid out the problem using blunt language:

The EU automotive industry risks losing its technological leadership in particular with respect to zero- and low-emission vehicles, with the US, Japan, South Korea and China moving ahead very quickly in this segment.

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The region's auto industry is at "a turning point," said EU internal market commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, noting in particular China's plan to end sales of gasoline and diesel-powered cars at some point in the future.

The EU plans to invest €800 million ($930 million) in pan-European charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, and another €200 million ($230 million) in battery technology.

The commission's full report, Proposal for post-2020 CO2 targets for cars and vans, can be downloaded here.


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