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Reducing CO2 emissions from vans

Vans ('light commercial vehicles') account for around 12% of the EU market for light-duty vehicles.

Van on the Move © iStockphoto

 As part of the strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles, in 2011 the EU adopted legislation setting CO2 emission targets for new vans sold on the European market. This has subsequently been extended to cover the period to 2020. The law is similar to that for new cars.

The Vans Regulation limits CO2 emissions from new vans to a fleet average of 175 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2017 – with the target phased in from 2014 - and 147 g/km by 2020. These targets represent reductions of 3% and 19% respectively compared with the 2012 average of 180.2 g CO2/km.

In terms of fuel consumption, the 2017 target is approximately equivalent to 6.6 l/100 km of diesel. The 2020 target equates approximately to 5.5 l/100 km of diesel.

Key elements of the legislation are as follows:

Limit value curve

Emission limits are set according to the mass of vehicle, using a limit value curve. The curve is set in such a way that a fleet average of 175 grams of CO2 per kilometre is achieved by 2017 and 147 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2020. The limit value curve means that heavier vans are allowed higher emissions than lighter vans while preserving the overall fleet average. Only the manufacturer's fleet average is regulated, so manufacturers are still able to make vans with emissions above the limit value curve provided these are balanced by vehicles with emissions below the curve.

Phasing-in of requirements

The EU fleet average target of 175 g CO2/km will be phased in between 2014 and 2017. In 2014 an average of 70% of each manufacturer's newly registered vans must comply with the limit value curve set by the legislation. This proportion will rise to 75% in 2015, 80% in 2016, and 100% from 2017 onwards. The 2020 target is effective in 2020 with no delay.

Types of vehicles affected

The legislation affects light commercial vehicles, which means vehicles used to carry goods weighing up to 3.5 tonnes (vans and car-derived vans, known as "N1") and which weigh less than 2610 kg when empty.

Penalty payments for excess emissions

If the average CO2 emissions of a manufacturer's fleet exceed its limit value in any year from 2014, the manufacturer has to pay an excess emissions premium for each van registered. This premium amounts to €5 for the first g/km of exceedance, €15 for the second g/km, €25 for the third g/km, and €95 for each subsequent g/km. From 2019 onwards, the cost will be €95 from the first gram of exceedance onwards. This value is equivalent to the premium for passenger cars.


The test procedure used for vehicle type approval does not cover all aspects of energy use in vehicle operation. In view of this, the CO2-reducing effects of certain innovative technologies cannot be demonstrated under the type approval test. Manufacturers can be granted emission credits equivalent to a maximum emissions saving of 7g/km per year for their fleet if they equip vehicles with such innovative technologies, based on independently verified data.

Super credits

The vans Regulation temporarily gives manufacturers additional incentives to produce vehicles with extremely low emissions (below 50g/km). Each low-emitting van will be counted as 3.5 vehicles in 2014 and 2015, 2.5 in 2016, 1.5 vehicles in 2017 and then 1 vehicle from 2018 onwards. This approach will help manufacturers further reduce the average emissions of their new van fleet. They will be able to claim this 'super credit' for a maximum of 25,000 vans over the 2014-17 period.

Pools acting jointly

Manufacturers may group together to form a pool and act jointly in meeting the emission target. In forming a pool, manufacturers must respect the rules of competition law and the information that they exchange should be limited to average specific emissions of CO2, their specific emissions targets, and their total number of vehicles registered.

Targets for smaller manufacturers

Manufacturers which are responsible for fewer than 1000 new van registrations per year in the EU are exempted from having a specific emissions target. Independent manufacturers which are responsible for fewer than 22,000 van registrations per year can propose their own emissions reduction target which is subject to approval by the Commission. The Commission decides on the basis of a set of agreed criteria which include the manufacturer's emissions reduction potential.

Monitoring of emissions

The Commission has set out rules on the data required to monitor the CO2 emissions of new vans. The Member States are required to deliver this data from 2012 onwards.

Long-term target

In view of the EU's long-term climate goals, the legislation requests the Commission to review the legislation by 2015 and if appropriate make proposals for CO2 emission targets for new vans for the period beyond 2020, including possibly setting a 2025 target. The Regulation asks the Commission to consider the relevance of CO2 emissions from energy supply and vehicle manufacturing in this work.