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Europe’s CO2 vehicle emissions rise for third consecutive year

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Vehicle CO2 emissions rose for a third consecutive year across Europe as the pace of electric vehicle (EV) adoption failed to counteract the impact of falling diesel sales and the rise of SUVs.

Jato Dynamics revealed in a report published today (March 3) that the volume weighted average CO2 emissions for 23 analysed European markets reached 121.8 g/km under the NEDC vehicle test regime during 2019.

Felipe Munoz, global analyst at Jato said that the rise was expected, adding: “The combination of fewer diesel registrations and more SUVs continued to have an impact on emissions.

“We don’t anticipate any change to this trend in the mid-term, indeed these results further highlight the industry’s need to adopt EVs at a rapid pace to reach emissions targets.”

The 2019 CO2 emissions level was 1.3 g/km higher than in 2018 but represented a lower increase than that seen between 2017 and 2018, when the rise was 2.4 g/km.

Jato reported that the move away from diesel has had a negative impact, adding that it was “not one that the market could not offset” through the roll-out of new EV products.

Munoz said: “The average emissions of electrified vehicles, was 63.2 g/km, almost half that produced by diesel and petrol vehicles.

“The problem arose because EVs only accounted for 6% of total registrations, which is not yet a high enough figure to create a positive change.”

Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain all registered rising average CO2 emissions in 2019, which Jato said was in part caused by marked changes in attitude and regulations around the use of diesel fuels which has had the unintended consequence of pushing people to drive higher CO2 emitting petrol vehicles.

France was the only market to see better results, as its average fell from 112g/km in 2018, to 111.1g/km last year.

Despite this positive change, their emission levels were still higher than the averages they recorded in 2016 and 2017.

Pure electric cars have a 2% market share in France, this being the highest share among all five major markets, in part due to the adoption of more affordable cars like the Renault Zoe, which is soon to be followed by the arrival of the Peugeot e-208.

Munoz noted: “Neither the Germans nor the Italians offer pure electric subcompacts within their product line up. These cars can make a huge difference to consumer attitude.”

Jato said that Sweden and the Netherlands had also registered CO2 emissions improvements last year.

The latter reduced its average by 5.9 g/km, in turn becoming the country with the lowest result in the European Union, excluding Denmark, Portugal and Finland who cannot be compared due to their publication of WLTP data rather than NEDC values.

Jato reported that Toyota holds its position as the top 20 best-selling brand with the lowest average CO2 emissions in Europe, despite not selling a full electric vehicle in its range.

Alongside this, the Japanese manufacturer also saw the largest decrease since 2018, with its average falling by 2.3 g/km.

Toyota’s hybrid range made up 60% of its total sales volume in 2019 and the brand does harbour a target of selling 5.5 million electrified cars per year by the year 2030 as part of a long-term plan which reaffirms the brands commitment to EVs.

Munoz said: “Toyota is a pertinent case, particularly considering they don’t offer pure electric cars but are still ahead of their European peers who still have more electrification plans than actual products.”

Citroen’s had the second-lowest average CO2 emissions of any brand in 2019.

In contrast to Toyota, the improvement made was due to the efficiency of its petrol engines, however, rather than the adoption of electrified ones, Jato noted.

SUVs were the biggest driver of growth in terms of volume and profits for European markets last year.

The trend is something that OEMs will attempt to redress in 2020/21 as stringent new EU emissions regulations impose a €95 fine for each gram of CO2 over its 95g/km fleet average, per vehicle sold.

In January Jato reported how a manufacturer-led rush to clear their stocks of vehicles with high CO2 emissions levels contributed to a 21% increase in new car registrations across Europe in December last year.

Jato reported that the average CO2 emissions of SUVs in 2019 was 131.5 g/km, which was higher than emissions posted from city-cars (107.7 g/km), subcompacts (109.2 g/km), compacts (115.3 g/km), midsize (117.9 g/km), and executive cars (131 g/km).

In addition to this, SUVs made up 38% of total registrations in EU-18.

Munoz highlighted: “The SUV segment of the market urgently needs more electrified models.

“To date, the focus for EVs has been on traditional hatchbacks and sedans, leaving very few choices in the SUV market.

“If these vehicles want to keep gaining traction and avoid future sanctions, they need to be electrified.”

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