EU car manufacturers likely to meet 2015 CO2 target early

Most people have some dates they eagerly anticipate, over and above the usual birthdays and anniversaries. Some are easier to explain than others. For the ICCT’s passenger vehicles team, the date of the annual announcement from the European Commission of the average CO2 emission level of new passenger cars has become one of those we circle on the calendar.

We will have to wait another few weeks to learn the official number. But it is possible to get a preview of what the statistic will likely reveal. According to preliminary ICCT internal data, the average CO2 emission level of new passenger cars in the EU in 2011 was around 135 g/km. This equals approximately 5.3 l/100 km of fuel consumption (petrol), and is about 3.7% lower than the 2010 average.

CO2 performance standards in the EUSince 1995, the total decrease in CO2 emissions has been about 27%. Interestingly, the rate of decrease has strongly accelerated since 2007 (see chart [click to enlarge]). Between 1995 and 2007 the annual reduction rate was usually only somewhere between 0.6% and 2.2%. Since then, rates have increased to 1.6%–5.1%. While higher oil prices doubtless contributed, the primary reasons for the acceleration in emission reduction were likely the EC proposal on mandatory CO2 limits for passenger cars in 2007 and its adoption in 2009, combined with establishment of feebate-like incentive systems that reduce taxes for more efficient vehicles. The reduction in new car CO2 levels since 2007 suggests that car manufacturers have increased their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.

Unfortunately, recent analysis suggests that not all of the emission reductions achieved on paper translate into real-world reductions, and that the real-world CO2 reduction was less than captured by the official type-approval values.

The decline in emissions from 2008 to 2009 was particularly strong, most likely intensified by the economic downturn and national scrappage programs in some EU member states that incentivized the purchase of relatively low-CO2 emission cars. However, the 2010 and 2011 reduction rates seem to be constant at about 3.7%, and remain much higher than the period before the mandatory EU CO2 emission performance targets and feebate-like incentive programs.

Given the success of the CO2 regulation, it can now be argued that the 2015 target of 130 g/km (≈5.1 l/100km) will be met on time or even a couple of years ahead of time. This is consistent with announcements by several manufacturers (e.g., here and here) that they will meet or exceed the 2015 target.

The EU 2020 target of 95 g/km is still further away, but technical analysis by the ICCT and other research groups suggests that it will be achievable at relatively low cost with the help of technologies already available today.

But this is another topic for another blog. . . . In the meantime, see our European Vehicle Market Statistics pocketbook for more data on cars and vans in the EU.