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Market Insight: Europe’s CO2 highs and lows
Calls for urgent action on EVs as CO2 from cars, vans rise on eve of tough new regs
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28 Jul 2020
By TERRY MARTIN
AVERAGE carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new passenger cars and SUVs registered in the European Union, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom increased in 2019 for the third consecutive year, to 122.4 grams per kilometre, according to provisional data published late last month by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
The figure for light-commercial vehicles (primarily vans) also increased across the region last year (to 158.4g/km), prompting the EEA to urge that zero- and low-emission vehicles be deployed much faster across Europe to achieve the stricter mandatory targets being phased in from this year.
These tough new rules require car manufacturers to cut average emissions across their passenger model range to 95 grams per kilometre in 2020.
Last year’s result for new passenger vehicles remained below the annual target of 130g/km set for between 2015 and 2019 (after a phase-in period starting in 2012), but has sparked concern that the automotive industry will fail to reverse the trend and achieve an unlikely 27.4g/km reduction this year.
Similarly, the industry achieved the 2017-19 van emissions target of 175g/km in 2013 – four years ahead of schedule – but is now battling to bring it down to 2020’s tougher requirement of 147g/km.
According to the EEA, the reasons behind the rise in passenger vehicle emissions last year include the growing share of the SUV segment, while an increase in the average mass of vans has similarly impacted negatively on the figures.
Both classes of vehicle are also finding a slow market penetration of electric powertrains, both full-electric and plug-in hybrid.
Yet car manufacturers, still executing their crisis management plans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, face heavy penalties for exceeding the 2020 fleet target.
There are a few concessions in place for this first year (basically, a five per cent reprieve), but from 2021 average emissions of all newly registered vehicles must be below the new level.
Future targets approved by the EU last year take a different turn, with a 15 per cent reduction (from the 2021 starting point) to be achieved with both passenger vehicles and vans by 2025. And from 2030 onwards, a 37.5 and 31 per cent reduction is mandated for cars and vans respectively.
Some countries have taken this further, with more than a dozen – many of them in Europe – planning to ban the sale of passenger vehicles powered by fossil fuels or internal combustion engines.
These include Norway (by 2025), Sweden, Iceland, Ireland and the Netherlands (by 2030), and France and the UK (by 2040), while individual cities have also proposed similar clampdowns.
As GoAuto has reported, Australia has been without mandatory CO2 targets and is only now moving to a voluntary industry-developed system that sets out a long-term goal less than 100g/km for passenger cars and light SUVs by 2030. The local goal for heavy SUVs and LCVs is 145g/km, also by 2030.
Figures released recently from the National Transport Commission (NTC) show the CO2 emissions average in Australia for passenger cars was 169g/km last year (-0.5g), while LCVs vehicles stood at 223g/km (+1.5g).
Australia’s figures are much higher than in Europe due to the lack of government incentives or levied taxes implemented to reduce CO2 emissions from road transport, along with consumer preferences here for larger vehicles and automatic transmissions.
The latest European data is based on about 15.5 million new cars registered in the EU, Iceland, Norway and the UK last year, and represent an increase of 1.6g/km on 2018 and 4.4g/km across the past three years combined.
It also stands in stark contrast to the steady decline of 22g/km achieved from 2010 to 2016.
The EEA says 38 per cent of passenger car registrations last year were for SUVs, which are typically heavier and have more powerful engines and larger frontal areas – all aspects that serve to increase fuel consumption and emissions.
The majority of SUVs registered had petrol engines, with average emissions of 134g/km, which is around 13g higher than other new petrol-powered vehicles.
We also note that SUVs were not the only category contributing to the average mass of passenger cars increasing by 30kg in the space of a year. An increase was observed for all segments, including small, medium and large regular cars, and for both petrol and diesel models.
In total, petrol cars accounted for 59 per cent of all new registrations, with diesel at 31 per cent (a massive decline of about 23 per cent since 2011), traditional hybrids at about four per cent, and plug-ins (BEVs, PHEVs) at about 3.5 per cent – up from two per cent the previous year.
About half of all BEV sales were registered in Norway, Germany and the Netherlands, while the combined shares of PHEV and BEV registrations were highest in Norway (56%), Iceland (19%), the Netherlands (16%) and Sweden (12%).
These were also some of the few countries where the average emissions of new cars decreased from 2018 to 2019.
With vans, 1.68 million were registered in Europe last year, the vast majority of them (94%) powered by a diesel engine and, across the board, vehicle mass increased across the segment by 14kg on average to 1860kg.
The market share of petrol-engined vans was 3.4 per cent, while the share of electric (BEV/PHEV) models was only 1.3 per cent (+0.8%).
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