MEPs call for more research funding for car industry

By Redazione

MEPs have called on Member States to increase research and development (R&D) funding for the car industry to help it meet legally binding CO2 targets. The call came in a report on the CARS
21 (Competitive Automotive Regulation System for the 21st Century) initiative, which was adopted by the European Parliament’s Industry Committee on 21 November.

‘All important aspects of the report are clearly adopted,’ commented German Liberal MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, who drafted the report.

Among other things, the report calls for CO2 limits to be fixed at 125g/km by 2015. ‘Car manufacturers need years to develop a car; a binding legislation has to consider that,’ said Dr
Chatzimarkakis. ‘Our CO2 targets have to be of course ambitious but also realistic.’ The Commission has called for CO2 emissions to be reduced to 120g/km by 2012.

The report also calls on the Commission to permit higher CO2 emissions if they are the result of fitting safety measures to the car. ‘Additional security systems will further increase the
weight of passenger cars leading to more CO2 emissions,’ reads the report. By making allowance for extra weight caused by safety features, heavier cars with a poor safety record would be
penalised for carrying ‘useless weight’, the report explains.

The report underlines the importance of research and development activities in helping the automotive sector achieve its CO2 targets. ‘Frequent new adaptations of the legislation (such as on
CO2) require adaptation measures on the part of the industry,’ Dr Chatzimarkakis noted. ‘In order to strengthen and maintain the European manufacturing base, member states have to raise
considerably their investments in research on car technology, e.g. for alternative drives.’

The report welcomes the funding already foreseen for transport research under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) and the i2010
initiative. The MEPs then go on to request the Commission to adopt a strategy to increase R&D funding for the automotive sector by 300% by 2012.

‘Furthermore, there should be a clear link between the raise in public R&D funding in the automotive sector and the binding character of CO2 targets,’ the report adds.

As part of the drive to boost research funding in the sector, the report recommends that one of the first Knowledge and Innovation Communities of the forthcoming European Institute of
Technology be dedicated to CO2 reduction in vehicle technology.

Other topics addressed by the report include completing the internal market for cars, internationalising the regulatory environment, and the effective protection of intellectual property
rights. The report will be voted on in the plenary in January 2008.

The European car industry produces 19 million vehicles a year and provides 2.3 million direct jobs and 10 million jobs indirectly. The Industry Committee hopes that its report will ensure that
the industry will meet its environmental and other obligations while safeguarding jobs.

At the beginning of November the European Council for Automotive R&D (EUCAR) also called for increased funding for research in the sector. ‘New challenges for the future have been
identified. We see a need to increase research activity and contributions,’ said Lars-Göran Rosengren, Volvo vice president for innovation and
strategy, and EUCAR chairman during 2007.

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