The European Union auto sector, including – for now – the British car-making industry, is criticizing tough new targets proposed by the European Commission for lowering average carbon-dioxide emissions from new cars and vans in the 28-country bloc.

Under Brussels’ new low-emissions mobility strategy, cars and vans registered in the EU in 2025 will have to emit 15% and in 2030, 30%, less CO2, compared with 2021’s 95 g CO2/km for cars and 147 g CO2/km for vans.

This ambitious schedule involves a desire to see more sales of electric, hybrid, hydrogen and other low or zero-emissions vehicles, and the EC’s strategy does include investment in battery development and refueling infrastructure designed to make this happen.

But the EU’s auto sector contends this is too little, too late, if the European automotive fleet is to be as clean in CO2 terms as the EC would wish.

Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Assn., is particularly concerned about the 2025 target. With it being “just a few years after the 2021 targets, (it) does not leave enough time to make the necessary technical and design changes to vehicles, in particular to light-commercial vehicles given their longer development and production cycles,” he warns.

Moreover, the 30% reduction level proposed by the EC is “overly challenging” and goes beyond Paris climate-change agreement commitments, he argues.

“The European auto industry considers a 20% reduction by 2030 for cars to be achievable at a high, but acceptable, cost.”

While such targets can stimulate innovation in the auto industry, hitting the 30% target will require the market uptake of alternatively powered vehicles, Jonnaert says – a problem given “the low and fragmented market penetration of alternatively powered vehicles across Europe to date.”

In this regard, ACEA welcomes the alternative-vehicle investments proposed by the EC. A tabled action plan on alternative-fuels infrastructure proffers up to €800 million ($949 million) in EU-funded grants, loans and guarantees, leveraging additional public and private investment into developing green vehicle fleets and associated refueling infrastructure.

The EC also says it plans to spend €200 million ($237 million) in EU money supporting European battery development and innovation from 2018 to 2020.

But will this be enough? Jonnaert notes the cost of green vehicles: “Affordability clearly also is a major barrier for many Europeans, underlining the need for harmonized and coherent consumer incentives.”