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’Tailpipe zero’ emissions policy disqualifies cleanest and greenest vehicles - Svebio

"The rules for green cars as applied by the EU and Sweden are unscientific and discriminate against cars with high climate performance. In addition, both the European Commission and the Swedish government are now proposing changes that mean that the instruments will be even worse and ever more misdirected. The regulations for green cars must be changed," says Gustav Melin, CEO of the Swedish Bioenergy Association (Svebio) commenting on Swedish government and European Commission proposals.

In its comments on the Swedish phasing-out consultation and on the EU’s proposal for expanded infrastructure for alternative fuels, the Swedish Bioenergy Association (Svebio) is demanding that this policy be changed so that the environmental green car definitions are based on the real climate impact of vehicles and fuels. That is, during the car’s entire life cycle (well-to-wheel) and not solely based on tailpipe emissions (photo courtesy Gustav Melin).

The European Commission’s proposal is that all cars should become “zero-emission cars”. This line is also supported by the Swedish phase-out consultation. Zero-emission cars refer to cars that do not emit any carbon dioxide from the exhaust pipe (’tailpipe zero’), which means that you only approve all-electric and hydrogen-powered cars. But science tells us that there are no zero-emission cars. All cars have an environmental and climate impact because the entire life cycle of the car and fuel must be taken into account. When measuring just what comes out of the exhaust pipe, the environmental impact of battery production and electricity production is disregarded, explained Gustav Melin.

The current Swedish bonus-malus system means that a motorist buying a diesel-engined car and driving using renewable diesel fuel (HVO100) will have to pay a penalty fee, even though the emissions from the HVO powered car may have a lower climate impact than a pure electric car.

Melin highlights recently published research from Lund University by professors Öivind Andersson and Pål Börjesson that suggest hybrid-electric vehicles (HEV) and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEV) that operate on high blend biofuels, such as E85 or HVO100, have a lower overall climate impact on a well-to-wheel (WtW) basis than a battery electric vehicle (BEV), which currently receives the highest bonus.

In its comments on the Swedish phasing-out consultation and on the EU’s proposal for expanded infrastructure for alternative fuels, the Swedish Bioenergy Association (Svebio) is demanding that this policy be changed so that the environmental green car definitions are based on the real climate impact of vehicles and fuels. That is, during the car’s entire life cycle (well-to-wheel) and not solely based on a ’tailpipe zero’ approach.

A consequence of this approach is that biogas-powered vehicles are proposed to no longer be eligible as green cars in Swedish public procurement. This is despite the fact that a biogas car can even produce “negative emissions”, that is reduce climate emissions to below zero. This happens when the biogas is produced from manure and thus avoids methane emissions, Gustav Melin said.

Long-term and coherent policies, technology agnostic and market neutral legislation, and a holistic life cycle approach to steering instruments is one topic to be discussed at Svebio’s upcoming Advanced Biofuels Conference that will take place as a hybrid event (in-real-life and online) in Stockholm, September 21-23, 2021.

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