11 March 1988

The European Commission said it welcomed an offer from the car industry to manufacture cleaner vehicles but added it could not yet say whether the offer was good enough.

European Union environment ministers warned in December they would legislate to force industry to cut the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in car exhaust gases if the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) did not come up with acceptable plans of its own before the end of March.

"The new proposal is clearly an improvement," European Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard said in a statement. But, she added, "I cannot say today that I endorse the ACEA proposal. There are still some open questions." Bjerregaard said technical experts in the Commission - the EU's executive arm - would study the details of the offer and tell EU environment ministers on March 23 whether they thought it was tough enough to make legally binding limits unnecessary.

ACEA told Bjerregaard on Tuesday car makers were prepared to cut average fuel consumption to six litres per 100 kilometres for petrol engines and 5.3l/100km for diesel vehicles. As a result CO2 emissions should fall to an average of 140 grammes per kilometre by the year 2008. ACEA estimates the average CO2 output of European cars today is 171g/km, compared with 175g/km for Japanese makes and more than 200g/km for the US fleet.

The Commission originally wanted CO2 output cut across the board to 120g/km by 2005 but ACEA said this was unrealistic. However, the industry pledged on Tuesday to make models which produce only 120g of CO2 per km available by 2000.

In return for these concessions, the industry said it wanted the 15-nation EU to agree not to impose "dissuasive" taxes or "unjustifiable" pollution limits on diesel-fuelled cars. "The only reliable way we can see (of cutting pollution from diesel vehicles) is to develop direct injection engines. The EU can't adopt measures which will make it more difficult for us to get this technology on the market," said ACEA's Didrik de Thibault. De Thibault said manufacturers would later try to develop direct injection engines for petrol cars, followed by electric vehicles and hybrid electric/combustion engine cars.

ACEA said its pollution reduction plans would only be feasible if the oil refining industry brought low sulfur fuels onto the market by 2005. Without these fuels, the lean burn engines being developed would not work properly and would create increased amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx), de Thibault said. European manufacturers also wanted a guarantee from the Commission that US, Japanese and Korean cars would have to satisfy the same pollution limits before they could be imported into the EU, he added.

Source: Reuters