Indicator Assessment

CO2 performance of new passenger cars in Europe

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-457-en
  Also known as: TERM 017
Published 01 Jun 2021 Last modified 01 Jun 2021
2 min read

Following a steady decline until 2016, average CO2 emissions from new passenger cars registered in Europe increased between 2017 and 2019. Key reasons include the growth in the sport utility vehicle segment and an increased average mass. In 2019, average CO2 emissions from all new cars reached 122.3 g CO2/km. Although this is below the EU fleet-wide target of 130 g CO2/km set for the period 2015-2019, it is well above the 2021 target of 95 g CO2/km, phased-in in 2020. Most car manufacturers met their individual binding CO2 emission targets for fleets of newly registered passenger cars in 2019.

Average carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars


Emissions from transport account for one quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. The European Green Deal calls for a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transport, compared with 1990 levels, in order for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050, while also working towards a zero-pollution ambition (EEA, 2019).

To reduce CO2 emissions in the road transport sector, emission performance standards for new cars were introduced in 2009 (EU, 2009) setting a fleet-wide target of 130 g CO2/km for the period 2015-2019 and 95 g CO2/km for the period 2020-2024, as well as specific CO2 emission targets for each manufacturer (or pool of manufacturers). In 2019, a new Regulation (EU, 2019) set new fleet-wide targets for 2025 and 2030, namely a 15% reduction from 2021 emission levels by 2025 and a 37.5% reduction by 2030.

After a steady decline between 2010 and 2016, by almost 22 g CO2/km, average emissions from new passenger cars increased in 2017, 2018 and 2019, reaching 122.3 g CO2/km in 2019. Although this remains below the 2015-2019 target of 130 g CO2/km, it is well above the 2020-2024 target of 95 g CO2/km.

There are various reasons for the increase in emissions, for instance the growth in the sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment of the road transport sector. Almost 15.5 million new cars were registered in 2019 in the EU, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom, and about 38% of these were SUVs. SUVs are typically heavier than other cars and have more powerful engines and larger frontal areas – all features that increase fuel consumption. Most new SUVs registered were petrol vehicles, with average emissions of 134 g CO2/km, which is around 13 g CO2/km higher than other new petrol cars. Moreover, the average mass of new conventional cars, excluding SUV, increased by around 22 kg from 2018 to 2019.

The market penetration of electric cars remained low in 2019 and, as in 2018, petrol cars were the most sold passenger vehicles, constituting 59% of all new registrations. Diesel vehicles constituted 31% of new registrations. Sales of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery-electric vehicles did continue to increase, however, reaching about 3.5% in 2019, compared with 2% in 2018. Non-plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which are exclusively fuelled by conventional fuels, represented around 4% of new registrations. Registrations of electric vehicles, as a percentage of all newly registered cars, were highest in Norway (56%), Iceland (19%), the Netherlands (16%) and Sweden (12%). These countries were also among the few where the average emissions of new cars fell between 2018 and 2019. For more information on the uptake of electric vehicles in the EU, see the EEA indicator TERM34.

Average specific CO2 emissions from new passenger cars


According to EU legislation, manufacturers can group together as pools and act jointly to meet CO2 emission standards. Pools or individual manufacturers responsible for fewer than 300,000 newly registered cars may benefit from a derogation.

In 2019, almost all car manufacturers, either individually, or as members of pools or because of derogations, met their annual binding targets for newly registered passenger car fleets in the EU, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom. Only four manufacturers, registering less than 13,000 vehicles a year, Automobili Lamborghini SPA, Bentley, Maserati and SsangYong, exceeded their emission targets.

Among the larger manufacturers, Toyota achieved the best CO2 performance, with average specific emissions of 108 g CO2/km, being closest to its 2020 objective. This performance was closely followed by those of Automobile Citroen and Peugeot, with average CO2 emissions of around 110 g CO2/km.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

Average specific emissions of CO2 are calculated as a weighted average of new registrations of cars in a particular year. 


Emissions are expressed in grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre (g CO2/km).


Policy context and targets

Context description

Transport consumes one third of all final energy in the EU. The bulk of this energy comes from oil. This means that transport is responsible for a large share of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and a major contributor to climate change. While most other economic sectors, such as power production and industry, have reduced their emissions since 1990, those from transport have risen. They now account for more than one quarter of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions. A reversal of this trend is currently not in sight. That makes the transport sector a major obstacle to realising the EU’s climate protection goals. EU strategy documents focus on decarbonising transport. The European Commission’s 2018 strategy ‘A Clean Planet for all: A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy’ seeks to chart the course for a transition towards ‘net-zero’ greenhouse gas emissions across the EU by 2050. For transport, it underlines the need for a system-based approach, stresses the importance of switching to low-carbon modes and zero-emission vehicles, underlines the central role of electrification and renewable energy sources, and pushes for operational efficiency improvements. Similarly, from 2016, the ‘European Strategy for low-emission mobility’ has identified a more efficient transport system, the rapid deployment of low-emission fuels and the transition towards low- and zero-emission vehicles as priority areas for action (EEA, 2020).


The average fleet target for 2019 is 130 gCO2/km.

Specific target for manufacturers/pools are calculated according the formulae in the section 'methodology'.

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified



Methodology for indicator calculation

Average specific CO2 emissions are calculated as a weighted average of the fleet registered in a particular year. For calculating manufacturers’ average emissions, eco-innovations are also taken into account.

For each manufacturer annual specific emissions target is defined, calculated on the basis of the fleet-wide target and the average ‘mass in running order’ of the registered vehicles.

According to the Regulations 2019/631, the following formulae applied for calculating the specific emission targets for cars until 2019 (included):

Passenger cars: 130 + a × (M – M0) 


- M is the average mass of the manufacturer’s fleet in kilograms;

- M0 is the reference mass;

- a is 0.0457.



EEA, 2019, Trends and projections in Europe 2019 — tracking progress towards Europe’s climate and energy targets, EEA Report No 15/2019, European Environment Agency ( accessed 11 March 2019.

EU, 2009, Regulation (EC) No 443/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the Community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles (OJ L 140, 5.6.2009, p. 1-15).

EU, 2019, Regulation (EU) 2019/631 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 setting CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars and for new light commercial vehicles, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 443/2009 and (EU) No 510/2011 (OJ L 111, 25.4.2019, p. 13-53).

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling is foreseen. 

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty


Data sets uncertainty


Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified.

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: State
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • TERM 017
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled once per year
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



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