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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Vehicle fleet

Indicator 25: Size and average age of the vehicle fleet

 

Since 1970, the EU car fleet has grown by a factor 2.5, which has resulted in a significant increase in passenger car transport. The average age of the passenger car fleet is increasing (from 6.1 years in 1980 to 7.0 years in 1997) indicating a slow penetration of more modern technologies.

Figure 6.13: Development of car ownership (EU)

Source: Eurostat, DG Transport

Objective

  • Reduce growth in fleet size.
  • Improve fleet composition (e.g. age).

Definition

  • Vehicle fleet size and average age (road, rail, air vehicles)

 

Policy and targets

Size of vehicle fleet is an important determinant of transport demand and thus has major implications for the environmental impacts of transport. Car ownership is closely correlated with GDP and has grown dramatically over recent decades. However, there are no EU or Member State targets relating to vehicle fleet size.

Increasingly tight regulations have resulted in the gradual introduction of more fuel-efficient, less polluting, less noisy and generally safer road vehicles. The average age of the vehicle fleet is therefore an indirect indication of the environmental performance of road transport.

An older fleet generates more atmospheric emissions than a younger one, but more rapid vehicle replacement has a downside: it increases the amounts of energy and materials used for vehicle construction, dismantling and recycling. Because the differences between older vehicles and most new ones are substantial, a young vehicle fleet is likely to have better overall environmental performance than an older one. No EU or Member State targets appear to exist for the average age of the vehicle fleet.

In the 1990s, several Member States introduced scrappage schemes to improve the environmental performance of their car fleet: Greece (1991-1993), Denmark (1994-1995), Spain (1994 till now), France (1994-1996), Ireland (1995-1997), and Italy (1997-1998) (ECMT, 1999). Such programmes only result in environmental improvements if the new vehicles have emission rates substantially better than older models and if the environmental impact of vehicle construction and dismantling processes is reduced. The proposed Directive on end-of-life-vehicles provides that vehicles on the market after 1 January 2005 should be re-usable and/or recyclable to a minimum of 85 % in terms of weight per vehicle and are reusable and/or recoverable to a minimum of 95 % in terms of weight per vehicle (CEC, 1997, amended by COM (99) 176).

Other options for reducing the average age of the vehicle fleet include:

  • having higher annual taxes on older vehicles;
  • enhancing inspection and maintenance requirements, which will make the operation of older cars more costly and encourage their replacement.

 

Findings

Since 1970, the number of passenger cars in the EU has increased by a factor of 2.5, an average of 3.4 % per year. Several factors have contributed to this growth, the most important probably being increasing incomes, the relative prices of transport, and socio-economic developments that encourage the use of private cars.

Between 1970 and 1997, the growth in the number of passenger cars was highest in Greece (8.4 % per year), Portugal (6.9 % per year) and Spain (6.6 % per year). These countries had by far the lowest numbers in 1970. The Member States with the lowest growth were Sweden (1.5 % per year), Denmark (1.7 % per year) and the United Kingdom (2.3 % per year).

With few exceptions (e.g. Denmark and Italy), the stock of passenger cars correlates well with GDP per capita. In 1997, the number of vehicles per inhabitant ranged from more than 1 per 2 inhabitants in Italy, Luxembourg and Germany, to fewer than 1 per 3 inhabitants in Greece and Portugal.

About 200 million bicycles contribute to mobility in an environment-friendly manner (Source: DG Transport).

Figure 6.14: Estimated average age of the EU15 passenger car fleet (including former East Germany) and of some national car fleets

Source: Eurostat

The average age of the European passenger car fleet increased from 6.1 years in 1980 to 7.0 years in 1997 (Figure 6.14). The effect of scrapping schemes that have been used in Greece, Denmark, Ireland and Italy can be seen in Figure 6.14 – schemes were operational in1994-1995 in Denmark, 1991-1993 in Greece, 1995-1997 in Ireland and 1997-1998 in Italy.

There are significant variations in the average age of car fleets across Europe, with the lowest in Luxembourg (4 years) and the highest in Portugal (11 years). Ireland and Belgium also have low average ages and Greece, Finland and Sweden have high average ages. The high average age in Portugal and Greece relates to general economic conditions, while the high ages in Sweden and Finland are probably a consequence of periods of economic recession in these countries in the early 1990s. New registrations are however growing again and vehicle fleets are getting younger.

 

Future work

  • A joint Eurostat-UNECE-ECMT survey is collecting data on the average ages of different types of road vehicles. The newness of the questionnaire precludes an early assessment of trends at the EU level.
  • The feasibility of providing data on average age for freight transport (for example, light and heavy-duty vehicles) and other transport modes (aeroplanes, trains and ships) needs to be investigated.

Data
Average age of the passenger car fleet in EU (estimates)
Unit: years

 

1980

1985

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

Austria

5.7

6.2

6.5

6.4

6.4

6.5

6.6

6.8

6.8

7.0

Belgium

4.4

5.1

5.1

5.0

4.9

5.1

5.2

5.4

5.6

5.7

Denmark

6.5

6.9

7.8

8.0

8.3

8.6

8.3

8.3

8.3

8.2

Finland

6.7

7.2

6.9

7.4

8.1

8.3

8.7

9.1

9.5

9.6

France

5.6

6.1

6.2

6.2

6.3

6.5

6.6

6.7

6.7

7.0

Germany

5.3

5.9

6.1

8.0

7.4

6.9

6.9

6.8

6.7

6.7

Greece

7.4

8.7

10.1

9.6

9.0

8.9

9.3

9.4

9.5

n.a

Ireland

4.6

5.1

6.2

6.2

6.4

6.6

6.6

6.6

6.1

5.5

Italy

7.2

7.9

7.4

7.3

7.4

7.7

7.9

8.1

8.3

8.2

Luxembourg

3.6

3.4

3.2

3.1

3.2

3.5

3.7

3.9

4.1

4.3

Netherlands

4.7

5.5

5.9

6.0

6.1

6.4

6.6

6.8

6.9

7.0

Portugal

7.7

8.3

9.0

9.2

9.3

9.5

9.8

10.1

10.4

10.6

Spain

6.7

8.4

8.0

8.1

8.0

8.2

8.3

8.5

8.6

8.5

Sweden

6.4

7.1

7.4

8.2

8.2

8.9

9.0

9.6

9.5

9.8

United Kingdom

5.5

5.3

5.3

5.3

5.6

5.7

5.8

5.9

6.1

6.1

EU15

6.1

6.4

6.5

6.5

6.5

6.7

6.8

6.9

7.0

n.a

Source: Eurostat


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