Reported CO2 emissions from new cars continue to fall

News Published 14 Apr 2016 Last modified 23 Nov 2020
3 min read
Photo: © Ben
Emissions from official testing reported by national authorities show that new cars sold in the European Union (EU) are increasingly more fuel-efficient. Last year, new passenger cars emitted on average 119.6 grammes (g) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre, 8% below the official EU target set for 2015, according to provisional data published today by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

In 2015, the average CO2 emissions of a new car sold was 3% lower than in the previous year, according to provisional data . Since 2010, when monitoring started under current legislation, official emissions have decreased by more than 20 g CO2/km. The EU already met its 2015 target of 130 g CO2/km in 2013, two years ahead of schedule. A second official target of 95 g CO2/km has to be met by 2021.

Key findings 

  • New cars sold in 2015 emitted on average 119.6 g CO2/km, more than 10 g CO2/km below the 2015 target, according to reported emissions.
  • Sales of new passenger cars in the EU increased in 2015 compared to the previous year. A total of 13.7 million new cars were registered, representing an increase of 9% compared to 2014. Registrations increased in all EU Member States except Luxembourg and Slovenia.
  • The average mass of new cars sold in the EU (1 381 kg) remained broadly the same as in 2014. The mass of a vehicle is a key factor affecting emissions. On average, the heaviest cars were sold in Sweden and Luxembourg (1 530 kg and 1 496 kg respectively) whereas Maltese, Danish and Greek buyers preferred lighter cars (1 199, 1 233 and 1 260 kg respectively). The average diesel vehicle sold was 311 kg heavier than the average petrol vehicle.
  • The least fuel-efficient cars were bought in Estonia and Latvia (137 g CO2/km) followed by Bulgaria (130 g CO2/km). For all remaining Member States, the average emission levels were below 130 g CO2/km. As seen in 2014, the Netherlands (101.2 g CO2/km) was the country that registered the most efficient new cars. Portugal and Denmark followed with new cars emitting on average 106 g CO2/km.
  • Diesel cars remain the most sold vehicles in the EU, constituting 52% of sales. As in past years, the countries with the highest proportions of diesel sales include Ireland and Luxembourg (71%), Portugal (69%), and Croatia, Greece and Spain (63%).
  • The average fuel efficiency of petrol cars (122.6 g CO2/km) has been catching up with the fuel-efficiency of diesel cars (119.2 g CO2/km) in recent years.
  • Sales of plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles continued to increase. The relative share of plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicle sales was highest in the Netherlands and Denmark, reaching 12% and 8 % respectively of national car sales in 2015. However, sales of such vehicles still remain a small fraction of total sales, accounting for just 1.3 % of all new EU cars sold.
  • Around 57 000 pure battery-electric vehicles were registered in 2015, a 50% increase compared to 2014. The largest number of registrations were recorded in France (more than 17 650 vehicles), Germany (more than 12 350 vehicles) and the UK (more than 9 900 vehicles).


EEA activities

The EEA collects and regularly makes available data on new passenger vehicles registered in Europe, in accordance with EU Regulation (EC) No 443/2009. The data reported by all Member States in order to evaluate the efficiency of the new vehicle fleet includes information on CO2 emissions and vehicle weight.

It has not yet been confirmed whether different manufacturers have met their own specific annual targets, based on the average weight of the cars they sell. The EEA will publish the final data on manufacturers’ individual performances in the autumn.

Testing vehicle emissions

Member States report new vehicles’ CO2 emission levels, measured under standardised laboratory conditions, following the requirements of the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) test procedure. This procedure is designed to allow a comparison of emissions for different manufacturers. However, there is now wide recognition that the NEDC test procedure, dating from the 1970s, is out-dated and does not necessarily represent real-world driving conditions and emissions due inter alia to a number of flexibilities that allow vehicle manufacturers to optimise the conditions under which their vehicles are tested. The EEA has recently published a non-technical guide explaining the key reasons for the differences observed between official and real world driving emissions.

Recognising these shortcomings, in January 2016 the European Commission proposed a number of changes to the current vehicle type-approval framework. A new procedure known as the ‘Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure’ (WLTP) will also be introduced in the future so that laboratory results better represent actual vehicle performance on the road. However, the date of its introduction remains to be decided.



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