The revised Clean Vehicles Directive promotes clean mobility solutions in public procurement tenders, providing a solid boost to the demand and further deployment of low- and zero-emission vehicles. The new Directive defines "clean vehicles" and sets national targets for their public procurement. It applies to different means of public procurement, including purchase, lease, rent and relevant services contracts. Adopted by the European Parliament & Council in June 2019, the Directive needs to be transposed into national law by 2 August 2021.
Which vehicles are concerned?
The Directive applies to cars, vans, trucks and buses (excluding coaches), when they are procured through:
- Purchase, lease, rent or hire-purchase contracts under obligations by EU public procurement rules (Dir. 2014/24/EU and 2014/25/EU)
- Public service contracts for the provision of passenger road transport services (Reg. 1370/2007)
- Services contracts forpublic road transport services, special-purpose road passenger-transport services, non-scheduled passenger transport, refuse collection services, mail and parcel transport and delivery. (Annex I of the Directive)
The Directive will only apply to contracts whose awarding procedure starts after 2 August 2021 (the end date for transposition).
What is a "clean vehicle"?
The revised Directive defines a "clean vehicle" as follows:
- Clean light-duty vehicle: any car or van meeting the following emission thresholds:
- until 31 December 2025: no more than 50g/km CO2 and up to 80% of applicable real driving emission (RDE) limits for NOx and PN;
- from 1 January 2026: only zero-emission vehicles.
- Clean heavy-duty vehicle: any truck or bus using one of the following alternative fuels: hydrogen, battery electric (including plug-in hybrids), natural gas (both CNG and LNG, including biomethane), liquid biofuels, synthetic and paraffinic fuels, LPG.
The Directive also sets a separate definition for "zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles", as a sub-category of clean heavy-duty vehicles.
For light-duty vehicles (cars and vans), the definition is in line with the corresponding provisions under the latest CO2 emission performance standards for cars and vans (Regulation 2019/631). In the first period, until 2025, the focus will be on low-emission vehicles, while in the second period, starting in 2026, the focus will be only on zero-emission vehicles.
For heavy-duty vehicles (trucks and buses), the definition includes all vehicles running on any of the alternative fuels listed in the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (Directive 2014/95); in order to reflect their performance in terms of air quality and decarbonisation, zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles are given a separate definition.
National targets for procuring clean vehicles
The national targets are defined as a minimum percentage of clean vehicles in the aggregate public procurement across a Member State. This means, Member States have full flexibility in how they distribute the effort across different contracting authorities and contracting entities. A Member State has to meet at least half of the procurement target for clean buses in each period through the procurement of zero-emission buses.
[collapsed title=Targets for clean light-duty vehicles]
|Member State||From 2 August 2021 to 31 December 2025||From 1 January 2026 to 31 December 2030|
[collapsed title=Targets for clean heavy-duty vehicles]
|Member State||Trucks (vehicle category N2 and N3)||Buses (vehicle category M3) – half of the target to be fulfilled by procuring zero-emission buses*|
|From 2 August 2021 to 31 December 2025||From 1 January 2026 to 31 December 2030||From 2 August 2021 to 31 December 2025||From 1 January 2026 to 31 December 2030|
* This requirement is lowered to one quarter of the minimum target for the first reference period if more than 80 % of the buses covered by the aggregate of all contracts awarded during that period in a Member State are double-decker buses.
Because the targets are calculated on the basis of the aggregate public procurement across a Member State (i.e. on the basis of the total number of vehicles within the scope of the Directive, which are procured during the respective period), Member States have full flexibility in how they distribute the effort across different contracting authorities and contracting entities.
In other words, the Directive does not directly set requirements for individual tenders, nor targets for individual cities or public authorities: a Member State may decide to set higher and lower targets for different authorities, as long as the total number of vehicles procured during each period includes a minimum share of clean vehicles in line with objectives.
Monitoring and reporting
When contracting authorities or contracting entities procure vehicles through purchase, lease, or hire-purchase contracts within the scope of the Directive, all these vehicles count for the purpose of the national minimum target. In the case of public services contracts, or contracts for services under Annex I, the number of vehicles to be used for the provision of those services are counted.
Monitoring and reporting will happen primarily through the Tender Electronic Database (TED) to reduce administrative burdens.
Contracts falling within the scope of the Directive are already recorded in the TED database, so this approach will not create additional reporting requirements.
At the time of awarding a contract, individual Contracting Authorities and Contracting Entities should indicate how many vehicles are being procured, how many of these are clean vehicles, and how many are zero-emission vehicles. This is all information that is normally already known – and often also already provided in the contract award notice.
The following vehicles are excluded from the Directive:
- Coaches (vehicles of category M3 other than Class I & Class A)
- Agricultural and forestry vehicles
- Two- and three-wheeled vehicles and quadricycles (cat. L)
- Track-laying vehicles
- Mobile machinery
The following vehicles are included in the Directive, but Member States may decide to exempt them, when they transpose the Directive:
- Special vehicles for use by armed services, civil protection, fire services and police forces
- Special vehicles for use on construction sites, quarries, ports, airports
- Armoured vehicles, ambulances, hearses, wheelchair accessible cars, mobile cranes
The vehicle categories falling outside the scope of the Directive generally present specific technical characteristics and market profiles which do not justify inclusion in the scope of the Directive.On the other hand, vehicles subject to national exemptions are generally vehicles that fall within the categories covered by the Directive, but which are dedicated to specific uses (e.g. police, emergency services, fire brigade...) and are specifically designed, constructed or adapted for this purpose.
The Directive foresees a review in 2027; this should be used to set new targets for the time period post 2030, and to consider possible further expansion of the scope (e.g. to two- and three-wheeled vehicles). If no new targets are set, the targets set for 2026-2030 will continue to apply in the following years, over consecutive 5-year periods (2031-2035, 2036-2040, etc.).
The review clause also provides an opportunity to ensure that the Clean Vehicles Directive remains consistent with the approach followed in the context of the CO2 emission performance standards post-2030, in case of changes in the latter.