In a press release on the Europa.eu website, the European Union have announced the approval of a €20.5 million grant to Renault for the development of diesel hybrid commercial vehicles.
Renault applied for the funding through the French Government National Loan programme in 2012, to support their HYDIVU project: to develop a diesel hybrid drivetrain for a low carbon vehicle based on the Trafic and Master range of commercial vans. The project was accepted by the French Government in 2012 and has since been approved by the EU.
Renault will carry out the HYDIVU project in collaboration with three other companies (Continental, Valeo and LMS International) and a research body (IFPEN).
The approval has been granted despite concerns that it presents an unfair market advantage to Renault – The EU considered that drive trains for vehicles of this type were not being developed by other manufacturers or by Renault, and would not be without funding of this type.
In the words of the EU, there was a “genuine market failure” and it is “both necessary and sufficient to spur Renault to carry out an R&D project that it would not otherwise have launched of its own volition”
To explain: commercial vehicles of this size and type use technology derived and adapted largely from cars – the EU believe that manufacturers are not developing the diesel hybrid drive-trains that would be more suitable to this kind of light commercial vehicle.
EU regulations introduced to ensure manufacturers to produce cleaner engines favour small, petrol-hybrids and lightweight vehicles with a low drag co-efficiency, which may explain the market failure – few manufacturers are developing low emission power-plants and drive trains for cars that will also transfer to light commercial vehicle use: with low aerodynamic, heavy load carrying applications.
Euro 6 for cars and light commercial vehicles will set even lower emission limits. It will be binding for the type approval of vehicles as of 1 September 2014 and for the registration and sale of new types of cars and vans as of 1 September 2015. Light commercial vehicles produce a large part of the total EU vehicle emissions, so are a target for future reductions.
The EU announcement:
State aid: Commission approves €20.5 million of aid to Renault for the development of diesel hybrid commercial vehicles
The European Commission has decided that the aid granted by France to the motor vehicle manufacturer Renault to help it conduct the ‘HYDIVU’ research and development programme complies with the EU rules on state aid. The aim of this project is to develop a diesel hybrid technology for vans. At the end of the project, Renault will equip the Trafic and Master ranges with a new hybrid engine. The diesel consumption and CO2 emissions for these two models will be reduced considerably. The state aid addresses a genuine market failure without giving rise to an undue distortion of competition.
Renault will receive €20.5 million in state aid: €3.8 million in grants, €3.4 million in repayable advances for industrial research and €13.1 million in repayable advances for experimental development.
Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, Joaquín Almunia, said: ‘Almost 2 million commercial vehicles are sold each year in Europe. This project should result in a substantial reduction in their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, thereby contributing to the EU’s targets for innovation, the environment and energy security, without affecting competition’.
The Commission examined the compatibility of the aid in relation to its Guidelines for state aid for research and development and innovation (R&D&I guidelines, see IP/06/1600 and MEMO/06/441). It concluded that the aid remedied a genuine market failure and that it was both necessary and sufficient to spur Renault to carry out an R&D project that it would not otherwise have launched of its own volition.
This is the third state aid case approved by the Commission that seeks to support R&D activities for the development of a new system of hybrid engines. However, the specific feature of the aid to Renault is that it is aimed at commercial vehicles, whereas the previous aid concerned passenger cars: in July 2013, the Commission approved aid to Valeo to conduct the ‘ESSENCYELE’ project (see IP/13/703) (petrol hybrid engine) and aid to PSA for the ‘50CO2Cars’ project (diesel hybrid engine) (see IP/17/757).
Historically, in Europe commercial vehicles have been derived from passenger vehicles. They share the same overall configuration (front-wheel drive, transversely mounted front engine, monocoque structure), the same engines and the same transmission systems. In terms of R&D, vehicle manufacturers are therefore generally happy to ’adapt‘ for commercial vehicles the innovations previously developed for cars, which limits the risks of technological failure but leads to a sub-optimal result because the adapted technologies are not a perfect fit for the operating constraints of commercial vehicles: not enough power to drive the heavier and less aerodynamic vehicles, which have to carry heavy loads over long distances (motorway). By contrast, with HYDIVU, Renault will develop a hybrid engine specifically designed and optimised overall for commercial vehicles.
Renault will carry out the HYDIVU project in collaboration with three other companies (Continental, Valeo and LMS International) and a research body (IFPEN). For those partners which benefit from state aid, the grants for the ESSENCYELE project are compatible with a French R&D aid scheme (case SA.32466) which complies with the criteria of a regulation exempting certain categories of aid from prior authorisation by the Commission (see IP/08/1110 and MEMO/08/482).
See for the full release here: Europa.eu
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