The European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) supports a life-cycle approach (LCA) in evaluating CO2 emissions from passenger cars.

Members approved draft legislation yesterday that calls for taking into account ‘greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy supply and the life cycle of the vehicle’ for regulations after 2020.

Eurofer, the European Steel Association, welcomes this recommendation. As opposed to current legislation, which concentrates on CO2 emissions from driving a vehicle only, LCA would also assess embedded emissions from the production phase and the end-of-life phase of new passenger cars.

Concentrating on the use-phase of a vehicle is also known as the ‘tailpipe approach’. As a growing number of studies demonstrate, tailpipe emissions regulations incentivise deployment of technologies that improve cars’ CO2 emissions performance during the driving phase only. This one-sided approach can have the unintended consequence of increasing greenhouse-gas emissions during the vehicle’s total life cycle.

This happens, for example, by favouring so-called lightweight materials, the production of which can cause more CO2 emissions than the materials may save in the terms of tailpipe emissions. Recycling and re-use of materials is another aspect of sustainability and climate protection that cannot be evaluated by measuring use-phase emissions only.

Eurofer Director General Gordon Moffat: “The European steel industry has contributed significantly to reducing CO2 emissions from passenger cars in the last decades. Modern high-strength steels have been the most successful materials for weight reduction, especially in the volume segments of the car market. A life-cycle perspective including material production and recycling will show that steel’s role as one of the most sustainable materials for vehicle manufacture is even more important than it is perceived today.”