Dieselgate: CJEU Clarifies Prohibited Defeat Device Definition as UK Electric Truck Adoption Studied: GMPB

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Briefing: E-trucks: NGO calls on UK to make the switch; Air pollution levels across Europe still not safe, especially for children; How to guarantee green batteries in Europe; It’s time for Europe to address diesel defeat devices once and for all; Public transport’s funding crisis – and how to fix it.

E-trucks: NGO calls on UK to make the switch. T&E appointed Element Energy to examine both the technological and economic feasibility of the electric battery truck transition. Despite the electric passenger car transition already being heavily underway, the electric truck transition is still relatively new. The UK government has set a target upon which beyond the year 2035, there will be a ban on the sales of new ‘non-zero emission’ trucks of up to 26 tonnes, with the ban extending to 2040 for any trucks weighing above. One concern around the transition to electric transport surrounds the development of charging infrastructure. However, Richard Hebditch, Director of Transport and Environment UK, claimed that ‘The UK’s island geography and density means lorries do relatively short journeys’ meaning most charging of trucks can be done at their home depots. Element Energy found that 65-75% of the UK’s rigid heavy goods vehicles could operate equally as productively as diesel engines with a reliance on their own charging infrastructure at their home depot. According to the study, 93% of the 400,000 truck charging stations by 2050 will be in depots. – Hannah Santry

Air pollution levels across Europe are still not safe, especially for children. The European Environment Agency recently voiced their concerns surrounding the health of children and adolescents due to levels of air pollution. Air quality assessments published late last month showed that air pollution still exceeds WHO guidelines and is causing 1,200 premature deaths a year within Europe for those under 18. Ozone and nitrogen dioxide were seen to affect the lung development of children in the short-term, with long-term concerns over fine particles. Furthermore, maternal exposure was seen to be related to the risk of preterm birth. It was also found that asthma in children was linked to long-term exposure to air pollution and can even increase the risk of asthma hospitalisation for those under 18.  According to a briefing by the European Environmental Agency, brain development was seen to directly link to air pollution, contributing to cognitive impairments in young children, with a potential role in some types of Autistic Spectrum Disorders. As part of the European Green Deal’s Zero Pollution Action Plan, the European Commission has set a target goal of reducing premature deaths caused by fine particles by 55% before 2030. However, Euronews.Green suggested that until the target is met, improving air quality surrounding school grounds would help reduce harm to children. Such measures include the implementation of cycling infrastructure and enforcing traffic bans and speed limits. – Hannah Santry

How to guarantee green batteries in Europe. At least 30 million zero-emission electric vehicles are predicted to be on EU roads before 2030. This means battery production will significantly increase over the next few years with an expected increase of 14-fold by 2030. In response, the European Parliament has updated the EU’s battery directive and the new rules cover the entire product life cycle, including from the designing of batteries to recycling. Batteries will have a label stating their carbon footprint to improve transparency which is mandatory for EV and rechargeable industrial batteries exceeding 2kWh. According to Transport and Environment, the importance of understanding the lifecycle of a battery and its associated emissions is crucial to ensure effective sustainable transitioning. T&E estimates that lithium-ion batteries produced within the EU grid will have a 78 Gco2e/kWh carbon footprint, whereas producing batteries on Sweden grids could reduce this to just 64 gCO2e/kWh, with an increase to 85 gCO2e/kWh in Germany. This means that location of battery production should play an important role when considering how to minimise the environmental impacts of batteries. When producing batteries using renewable energy, competition associated with the decarbonisation of the grid should be avoided because it can encourage the fossil fuel generators elsewhere on the grid. – Hannah Santry 

It’s time for Europe to address diesel defeat devices once and for all. Defeat devices are calibration strategies which intend to disable or reduce the efficiency of diesel vehicles, which alarmingly often occurs under real-world driving conditions. Vehicles using defeat devices emit the highest levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and the “Dieselgate scandal” revealed the usage of them in Volkswagen cars between 2009 and 2015. There seems to be one obvious solution; clearer guidelines and EU regulations surrounding defeat devices to ensure a definitive definition of them. The Court Justice of the EU (CJEU) conducted four rulings to clarify what exactly comes under the category of a prohibited defeat device, which reinvestigated diesel cars showing high NOx emissions – the rulings also limited their use when “only immediate risks of damage” are present. The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) released a new report explaining and estimating the prevalence of prohibited defeat devices sold in Europe between 2009 and 2019. Their analysis showed that “suspicious” levels of NOx emissions were found in 77% – 100% of tests on diesel vehicles, of other 1,400 vehicles tested. “Extreme” levels of NOx emissions were found in 40% – 75% of tests, indicating an almost certain presence of a prohibited defeat device. Worryingly, the majority of these vehicles are still being driven today. Despite the recent CJEU rulings, it is clear there needs to be tighter EU sanctions on defeat devices to ensure complete road safety. – Zoe Picton  

Public transport’s funding crisis – and how to fix it. The Urban Transport Group has released a briefing analysing the largely reduced budget for the UK Department of Transport (DfT), which was confirmed in the recent Spring Budget. In order to compensate for the impact of lower patronage in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, many bus services have been reduced. This has a plethora of negative consequences for a large range of people throughout the UK: nearly a quarter of all households have no car or van; people without access to a car make over four times as many bus trips; non-white adults are more likely to live in a household not owning a car or van; and people with a disability are more likely to travel by bus than non-disabled people. Clearly, reduced bus services are detrimental to many different groups of people. Light rail too has become increasingly expensive with the rising cost of energy prices. The Government has included light rail within the current energy cap regime for businesses – but this has only been in place until April 2023, with no explicit clarification of what will happen to the service looking forwards. The Cycling and Walking Investment strategy has also been cut from £3.8 billion to £3 billion. To resolve these funding cuts, the Urban Transport Group has suggested a long-term approach to funding local public transport services, including devolving the funds to local transport authorities. – Zoe Picton