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You are here: Home / News / Consumers buying more efficient cars in Europe

Consumers buying more efficient cars in Europe

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The average car sold in the EU in 2012 was 9 % more fuel-efficient than the average three years before, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA). Improved technology and an increase in the share of diesel cars are the main reasons behind the fall in average CO2 emissions.

 Image © David Megginson

New vehicle technology is becoming more efficient, which is an encouraging sign. But significantly cutting the greenhouse gases from transport will also require a more fundamental change in the transport modes we use and how we use them.

Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director

The latest edition of Monitoring CO2 emissions from new passenger cars in the EU includes provisional data on vehicles sold in 2012. It shows that average CO2 emissions from the new car fleet in the EU fell by 2.6 % between 2011 and 2012.

In addition to technological changes, the economic crisis may have increased sales of more efficient models in some countries, the report says.

Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director, said: “New vehicle technology is becoming more efficient, which is an encouraging sign. But significantly cutting the greenhouse gases from transport will also require a more fundamental change in the transport modes we use and how we use them.”

Carbon dioxide emissions from road transport increased by 21 % between 1990 and 2011. The sector is responsible for 23% of all CO2 emissions in the EU*. As part of the response to this problem, the EU has a short-term target for average new car emissions to be below 130 grams carbon dioxide per kilometre (g CO2/km) by 2015, and a long term target of 95 gCO2/km by 2020. In 2012, average emissions were 132.2 gCO2/km.

Under EU legislation, car manufacturers have individual emissions targets based on the average mass of the cars they sell. 2012 is the first year that manufacturers may face fines if they exceed their target. The EEA will report on compliance with 2012 targets once the data is confirmed later this year.

Key findings

  • In 2012, approximately 12 million new cars were sold. This number has decreased since it peaked in 2007, when 15.5 million new vehicles were registered. Registrations of new cars fell furthest in 2012 in Greece (-41 %), Portugal (-38 %) and Cyprus (-25 %), while at the other end of the scale new cars increased by more than 12 % in in Estonia and Hungary.

  • Diesel vehicles represent 55 % of the newly registered vehicle fleet. Diesel cars have traditionally had lower CO2 emissions than their petrol counterparts although this gap has narrowed in recent years. However, it is important to note that diesel cars emit higher levels of some air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, compared to petrol-driven equivalents.

  • The lowest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per kilometre were in Denmark (117g CO2/km) and Portugal (118 g CO2/km). The largest improvement in efficiency between 2011 and 2012 was in Greece (9 %) and Denmark (6 %).

  • Hungary and Belgium were the only two EU Member States where cars sold in 2012 were on average less efficient than those sold the year before. Cars with the highest average emissions were sold in Latvia (152g CO2/km) and Estonia (150g CO2/km).

  • Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) include electric cars, hybrids and cars running on alternative fuels such as liquid petroleum gas and ethanol. Thirteen per cent of new cars sold in Italy were alternative fuel vehicles, the highest proportion in any Member State.

  • Annual pure electric vehicle sales increased 20-fold over the last three years, going from around 700 in 2010 to around 14 000 in 2012. Most of these cars were registered in France (more than 5 500 vehicles in 2012) and Germany (almost 3 000 vehicles).

* The numbers are based on the draft EU submission to UNFCCC on 15 April 2013, so small revisions may occur before this data is finally submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by 27 May 2013. Note also that CO2 from international transport is excluded from these calculations.

Evolution of CO2 emissions from new passenger cars by fuel (EU‑27 *)

The average car sold in the EU in 2012 was 9 % more fuel-efficient than the average three years before, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA). Improved technology and an increase in the share of diesel cars are the main reasons behind the fall in average CO2 emissions.

Note: * The geographical scope of the data changes over time from the EU-15 to the EU-25 and the EU-27, see Annex 1 for details.

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