Policy Options for a Decarbonisation of Passenger Cars in the EU

Recommendations Based on a Literature Review

  • Publications 01.03.2018

In this policy paper the authors discuss policy instruments which can help to decarbonise passenger cars in the European Union. The authors elaborate to what extent these policy instruments are effective, technology-neutral, predictable, cost-effective and enforceable. Based on these criteria, they develop recommendations for the European Union and its Member States on (1) how to shape their policy frameworks in order to achieve existing climate change mitigation targets; (2) how to support car manufacturers in selling innovative and competitive products; and (3) how to encourage consumers in Europe to purchase appropriate vehicles.

The authors conclude that favourable policy instruments are used, but there is a strong need for adjustment and further development. The effectiveness of the current EU emission standard should be further increased by turning away from granting "super-credits" and introducing a size-based (instead of weight-based) credit system. Moreover, its overall ambition is questionable and the existing compliance mechanisms should be sharpened.

Fuel taxes are an effective means to push consumers to buy energy-efficient cars. However, a sharp increase may not have the desired effects. Instead, the Member States should harmonise their excise duties at the level of those Member States, which currently impose the highest taxes (Netherlands, Italy). This includes the abolition of any diesel tax bonus. An introduction and harmonisation of vehicle taxes (purchase and circulation) should be based on a vehicle's energy consumption. Additionally, reformation efforts should aim to change the taxation of company cars in a way that vehicle sizes are reduced over time.

Ambitious Member States may also want to introduce a sales quota for electric vehicles. Sales quotas are a very cost-effective policy instrument provided that the mandated technology will achieve a certain market share. This may be assumed for battery-electric vehicles. Further supportive instruments that should be considered are eco-labelling, public procurement and purchase incentives. However, the latter instrument's effectiveness is debatable and its implementation should therefore not be a Member State's priority.


Matthias Damert, Frederic Rudolph:

Policy Options for a Decarbonisation of Passenger Cars in the EU
Recommendations Based on a Literature Review

Wuppertal Paper no. 193 (February 2018)

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