Daimler confident as VECTO deadline looms

European consumption and emissions transparency rule goes live in 2019

Daimler confident as VECTO deadline looms
Daimler sees the new Actros as burnishing its emissions reduction credentials


Daimler Trucks is bullish about its preparations for the European Union’s (EU’s) Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool (VECTO) becoming a mandated reality from January 1.

From that date, truckmakers in the region will hand over to customers a certificate containing information on fuel consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions with every new heavy-duty truck sold and preparations for that have been front of mind for them.

"The EU Commission has developed the software, including uniform test and measurement procedures, in cooperation with manufacturers, scientists and other experts," Daimler points out.

"For the first time, truck customers in the EU are now able to objectively compare the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of vehicles from different suppliers." 

The German-headquartered firm says it has been ahead of the game and well prepared, having completed the first certification runs before the regulation comes into force and has been introducing the certificates since November until the cut-off date.

This includes presenting more than 1,000 Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks with certificates to customers. 

 "We expressly welcome the new regulations for measuring the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of heavy commercial vehicles," Mercedes-Benz Trucks head Stefan Buchner says.

"We see VECTO as an important prerequisite for an even more sustainable transport system and better market transparency.

"We share the EU’s goal of using VECTO to create transparency on ever lower fuel consumption and further reductions in CO2 emissions. Customers and the environment will benefit equally from it in the long term.

Read how VECTO is affecting thinking at rival Scania, here

While highlighting its reduction efforts over the past two decades, Daimler also raises the issue of the physical limits of the rage of improvement.

"According to [European vehicle inspection company] Dekra, we already reduced the actual fuel consumption of heavy-duty Mercedes-Benz trucks and thus also their CO2 emissions by 22 per cent between 1996 and 2016 alone – despite drastically stricter emission standards," Buchner says.

"And the fuel consumption of our new Mercedes-Benz Actros, which we presented in September 2018, is once again lower than that of its predecessor, achieving savings of up to 3 per cent on highways and actually up to five percent on country roads.

"But even the optimisation of diesel technology, which is being pursued with the greatest efforts, is increasingly reaching its physical and technical limits despite further efficiency gains.

"The current proposals on reducing trucks’ CO2 emissions that are being discussed in the EU go far beyond what is technically and economically feasible and set the wrong priorities."

While working towards what it believes are more practical incremental improvement, Daimler highlights what it sees as wrinkles in the European Commission’s approach that need to be ironed out.

"As of base year 2019, VECTO data will also be used as the reference figures for the EU’s future CO2-reduction targets," the company notes.

"This basis and the targets have not yet been established. In May 2018, the EU Commission proposed to reduce CO2 emissions by 15 per cent by 2025 and by 30 per cent by 2030 (each related to base year 2019).

"This represents a tripling to quadrupling of the continuous reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions achieved so far on average each year. In November, the European Parliament voted on a draft of these proposals as modified by its Environment Committee and voted for a CO2 reduction of 20 per cent by 2025 and at least 35 per cent by 2030.

"From Daimler Trucks’ point of view, an improvement in CO2 reductions of approximately 1.5 per cent per year over the next 10 years would be ambitious but still realistic."

"Daimler is now counting on the decision of the member states and thus on the meeting of the Council of the European Union (EU Council of Ministers) on December 20, 2018 as the next step in the legislative process."  

Missing links

It points out that the current version of the VECTO software is yet to take into account certain systems that further aid fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions reduction in real-world operations.

These include predictive cruise control, improvements to trailers and/or bodywork, stop-start functions and efficient route planning.

Another factor is that bodies and trailers are currently only included using a standard configuration.

"Daimler therefore aims to ensure that VECTO takes into account all fuel-saving and thus CO2-reducing methods that are already available today," it says.

"Due to these weaknesses of VECTO, professional customer advice on vehicle efficiency will continue to play a key role for Daimler in the future." 

Peak body blast

Daimler’s position chimes in with the position of vehicle manufacturing industry body the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), which comments on the final deal on the CO2 regulation for cars and vans, setting targets for the years 2025 and 2030, which was struck by the EU member states and the European Parliament today.

ACEA has "serious concerns" about the "highly challenging" CO2 targets that auto manufacturers will have to meet by 2030.

It says that delivering a 37.5 per cent CO2 reduction from cars and 31 per cent from vans "might sound plausible, but is totally unrealistic based on where we stand today".

It casts the 2030 targets as being driven purely by political motives, without taking technological and socio-economic realities into account.

"ACEA’s members are of course committed to further reducing CO2 emissions from their vehicles, but these targets will be extremely demanding on Europe’s auto industry," ACEA secretary general Erik Jonnaert says.

"Indeed, they will require a much stronger market uptake of electric and other alternatively-powered vehicles than is currently proving possible.

"All our member companies will continue to invest in their portfolios of alternatively-powered cars and vans, but there are still several obstacles putting the brakes on widespread consumer acceptance, such as affordability and the lack of a sufficiently dense network of recharging and refuelling infrastructure."

ACEA wants the 28 member states and the EC to ensure that all the enabling conditions are in place, notably the much-needed investments in infrastructure, particularly for electric vehicles.

"Undeniably, these extremely ambitious CO2 targets will have a seismic impact on jobs across the entire automotive value chain, which employs some 13.3 million Europeans," it says.

"In order to mitigate the negative impact of these structural changes, policy makers need to act swiftly by presenting concrete plans to manage this employment and skills transition in a proper, socially-acceptable way.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Council and voted in the plenary of the European Parliament.


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