BRUSSELS - The European auto industry will oppose tough new proposals for reducing emissions and fuel consumption over the next 13 years.
The European Parliament voted last month for the harshest environmental regime anywhere in the world, said the European automakers association ACEA.
Both the industry and the Brussels administrative establishment hope the proposals will be weakened at the June meeting of the Inter-Governmental Conference.
They want the UN-sponsored conference to back a more moderate package of rules.
'We can't say that we accept these limits as proposed for 2000,' said ACEA spokesman Didrik de Thibault. 'The Commission agrees that they're not technically feasible,' he added.
Parliament passed a series of stricter amendments to the European Commission's draft directive on vehicle emissions for 2000. ACEA thought the previous directive, issued in June 1996, was tough.
Parliament added a new requirement to cut fleets' average fuel consumption by gasoline cars to five liters per 100km by 2005.
Diesel cars would be limited to 4.5 liters per 100km. By 2010 fleets would have to achieve three liters per 100km.
ACEA said the European industry would be faced with the 'totally unfeasible' task of halving consumption at the same time as tightening emissions by around 25 percent more than the Commission's original proposals.
Furthermore, safety would have to be improved, too. This generally means added weight, which works against fuel efficiency.
ACEA is angry that the targets for 2005 may now be made legally enforceable in advance. Previously, only the limits for 2000 were fixed.
The association accepted the targets for 2000 in the original June 1996 draft directive. But the proposed 2005 limits in that draft were subject to scientific research on improvements to air quality resulting from the 2000 standards.
'We're not talking about technical reality anymore - we're talking about politics,' said ACEA spokesman James Rosenstein.
De Thibault said: 'The suggestions for 2005 are not in line with cost-efficiency.
The 2005 step should be confirmed with the monitoring of air quality from 2000 on,' he added.
ACEA says that going for too tight a standard is unnecessarily expensive. Air quality would surpass World Health Organization guidelines in many European cities , it argues.
Rover group spokesman Brian Johns said the proposed regulations were in some respects contradictory.
'The targets are very challenging, and we will have to find a way of squaring the circle,' he said.
Some industry figures were less pessimistic.
'For 2010 the three-liter average is a real possibility,' said Nigel Burt, of Ricardo Consulting Engineers in the UK. 'The key is to look at the whole vehicle, not just the engine.'
The 2010 car would have to weigh under 700kg, said Burt, and would have to have a reduced frontal area and a Cd factor better than 0.25.
Gasoline engines would be direct-injection units of about one liter. High-speed, direct-injection diesels - which remain the most efficient units - would be up to 1.5 liters in capacity, said Burt.
The amended draft directive passed by Parliament also demands improvements to fuel quality. ACEA welcomed this, but the petroleum body Europia has protested.
Parliament toughened the cold-start emissions and consumption test by reducing the temperature the test would be conducted at -from 201/4C to -71/4C.
It also said catalysts would have to last longer: 160,000km instead of 80,000km.
Brussels insiders predict a big fight within the higher levels of the European bureaucracy.
The industry-conscious Commission already conflicts with an increasingly confrontational and environmentalist Parliament.
The executive committee of the Commission rejected all of the amendments before they were passed by Parliament.
The likeliest outcome, said insiders, was a more-moderate compromise package.