CO2 performance of new passenger cars in Europe

After a slight increase in the period 2017-2019, average CO2 emissions measured during type approval from all new passenger cars registered in Europe fell by 12% in 2020. This is by far the greatest annual decrease in emissions since monitoring began in 2010. It was triggered by a surge in zero and low-emitting vehicle registrations, which reached 11.6% of the fleet in 2020. Most individual car manufacturers and pools met their binding targets. Achieving the proposed zero emissions target for all new cars by 2035 will demand sustained emission reductions in the years to come.

Published: ‒ 25min read

Emissions from transport account for one quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve climate neutrality, the European Green Deal calls for a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2050 .

Regulation (EU) 2019/631 sets a fleet-wide target of 95 g CO2/km for the years 2020-2024, and stricter fleet-wide targets for 2025 and 2030.

After average emissions from new passenger cars registered in Europe slightly increased in 2017-2019, up to 122.3 gCO2/km, 2020 saw average COemissions fall to 107.5 gCO2/km — a 12% decrease in a single year.

The main reason for this is an increased share of electric vehicle (EV) registrations, which more than tripled from 3.5% in 2019 to 11.6% in 2020. Of these, 6.2% were full electric vehicles and 5.4% were plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The largest increases took place in Norway, Iceland and Sweden, which are also the countries with the highest percentage of electric vehicles in the new car fleets (75%, 46% and 33%, respectively).

As in previous years, petrol cars were the most sold type of new passenger cars in 2020, constituting nearly half of all registrations. Diesel vehicles accounted for 27 % of new registrations, marking a decrease of 4 percentage points from 2019.

Growth in the sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment observed in recent years continued in 2020. SUVs represented about 42% of new cars registered in 2020. In this segment, EVs represented around 10% of registrations.

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

In 2020, almost all car manufacturers — either individually, or as members of a pool — met their annual binding targets. This was facilitated, among other things, by modalities such as the 95% phase-in, the use of super-credits and eco-innovation savings . Six individual manufacturers (Automobili Lamborghini SPA, Bentley, McLaren, DR Motor, Jaguar Land Rover Limited and SUBARU), as well as two pools (Suzuki and VW-SAIC), exceeded their emissions targets and were therefore required to pay an excess emission premium of EUR95 per car per g/km of target exceedance.

The pool with the lowest average CO2 emissions in 2020 was PSA-OPEL (88.5g CO2/km), closely followed by the pools FCA-TESLA-HONDA, KIA, RENAULT-NISSAN-MITSUBISHI, HYUNDAI and TOYOTA-MAZDA, with average CO2 emissions between 89 and 94gCO2/km.

Among individual manufacturers with more than 300,000 registrations in 2020, PSA AUTOMOBILES SA achieved the lowest average CO2 emissions at 81gCO2/km, closely followed by Renault SAS, TOYOTA MOTOR EUROPE NV SA and AUTOMOBILES PEUGEOT, with average CO2 emissions ranging from 88 to 95gCO2/km.

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