CO2 performance of new passenger cars in Europe

With stricter CO2 emission targets in force since 2020, the average CO2 emissions measured during type-approval from all new passenger cars registered in Europe fell by 12% between 2019 and 2020, and further by 12.5% between 2020 and 2021. These are by far the greatest annual emission reductions since monitoring began in 2010. The main driver of the decrease in emissions is a surge in zero-emission passenger car registrations, which reached 10% of the EU fleet in 2021. Most individual car manufacturers and all pools of manufacturers met their binding targets in 2021.

Published: ‒ 25min read

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

To help achieve these targets, Regulation (EU) 2019/631 set an EU fleet-wide target of 95g CO2/km (expressed as NEDC) for the years 2020-2024 for passenger cars. Since 2021, the specific emission targets for vehicle manufacturers, either individually or organised in pools, are expressed on the basis of the Wordwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), which results in higher emission values than the NEDC. This is illustrated in Figure 1.

From 2025 onwards, the Regulation (EU) 2019/631 sets stricter EU-wide fleet targets: 93.6g/km from 2025 (15% reduction compared to the 2021 baseline), 49.5g/km from 2030 (55% reduction) and 0g/km from 2035 (100% reduction).

Compared to 2020, 2021 saw the average CO2 emissions of new registered passenger cars fall by 12.5% to 114.1g CO2/km (WLTP). The main reason for this steep decrease is a growing share of electric vehicle (EV) registrations, which almost doubled from 11.6% in 2020 to 19% in 2021, with 10% full electric vehicles and 9% plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Norway, Iceland and Sweden had the largest percentage of electric vehicles in the new car fleets in 2021 (86%, 55% and 46%, respectively).

However, at the EU level, petrol cars continued to be the most sold type of new passenger cars in 2021, constituting half of all new registrations, followed by diesel cars (23%).

Specific emission targets are set annually for each manufacturer or for each group of vehicle manufacturers that act together as a pool. These targets are based on the average mass of the manufacturer's or pool's new vehicle fleet in a given year. This means that manufacturers of heavier cars have higher emissions targets than manufacturers of lighter cars. Manufacturers or pools that are responsible for fewer than 300,000 newly registered cars per year may benefit from a derogation.

The pool with the lowest average CO2 emissions in 2021 was the Tesla-Honda-Jaguar Land Rover pool (66g CO2/km), followed by the Kia, Hyundai and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi pools, with average CO2 emissions between 106 and 108g CO2/km.

In 2021, 84 out of 88 manufacturers - individually or as members of a pool - met their binding target. This was facilitated by the modalities foreseen in the Regulation, such as the super-credits and the eco-innovation savings.

Four individual manufacturers (Automobili Lamborghini SPA, Bentley, McLaren and Suzuki Thailand), all of which have fewer than 2,000 registrations, exceeded their emission targets and are therefore required to pay an excess emission premium of EUR 95 per car registered per g/km of target exceedance.

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