More popcorn = More super-credits

Google tells us that during the last twelve months the 2013 Pocketbook European Vehicle Market Statistics page on our website was viewed more than 5,000 times. It is now time to launch our 2014 version of the EU Pocketbook, the fourth edition of this series. As usual, the Pocketbook is filled with detailed statistics on the EU vehicle market, this time covering the years 2001-2013. For the first time we also include some data on heavy-duty vehicles, and of course some international comparisons as well. In this context, I should point out that we have a special website for the EU Pocketbook, where you can find some additional statistics that are not in the pdf and print versions. Also, be aware that my colleagues Hui and Jun have put together a similar publication for the 2010 car market in China and the Chinese light-commercial vehicles’ fleet. And US EPA just recently published the 2014 edition of their Fuel Economy Trends report.

One of the most interesting charts in the new Pocketbook, at least in my opinion, is the one below. I find it fascinating to keep track of the new vehicle models introduced to the market and how they compare to other models in terms of their fuel consumption and CO2 emission levels. If you compare last year’s version of this chart to this year’s, you will see there are more and more fuel-efficient vehicles coming to the European market. For example, the Citroën C4 Cactus with its 82 g CO2 per kilometer, which is 3.1 liters of diesel per 100 km for a 1.1-ton vehicle. Or the Volvo V40, a 1.6-ton car that consumes 3.3 liters of diesel in the test, emitting 85 g/km of CO2. Note that the V40 is already today way ahead of its CO2 emission target for 2020 – and even potentially meets the standards envisioned by the European Parliament for 2025. Without hybridization.

Graphic, selected vehicles

Selected vehicles on the market in the EU in 2014

Probably most impressive is how quickly the yellow dots keep popping up (last year I referred to those dots as being popcorn). Those are plug-in hybrid vehicles. The BMW i8, Mitsubishi’s Outlander and Volvo’s V60 are among the most prominent ones recently introduced to the market. All three of them have dreamlike CO2 emission values of 50 g/km or lower. Interestingly, these plug-in hybrid vehicles are especially prominent in the Netherlands, where company cars emitting less than 50 g/km of CO2 were eligible for a major tax break in 2013. There is a graph in the Pocketbook that nicely illustrates how the Dutch market share of plug-in hybrids exploded between 2012 and 2013 (see below).

Market shares, Netherlands

Sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles in the Netherlands

For some manufacturers, sales of plug-in hybrid and full battery electric vehicles play an important role in meeting their respective CO2 target values set by the EU. Not only do these vehicles have very low (plug-in hybrid) or even zero (battery electric) CO2 tank-to-wheel emission levels, they also earn manufacturers a so-called ‘super-credit’: In 2013, every vehicle with less than 50 g/km counted as 3.5 vehicles. As a result, the 2013 CO2 level of Volvo, for example, is about 7 g//km lower than it would have been without the super-credits provision. This can be nicely seen in a brand new report by the European Environment Agency (see table below).

Effect of ‘super-credits’ on 2013 CO2 values of car manufacturers in the EU

Manufacturer 2013 CO2 target value 2013 fleet average w/o super-credits 2013 fleet average with super-credits Difference
Opel 133 g/km 123 g/km 122 g/km 1 g/km
Toyota 127 g/km 104 g/km 102 g/km 2 g/km
Daimler 139 g/km 122 g/km 120 g/km 2 g/km
Renault 125 g/km 100 g/km 96 g/km 4 g/km
Nissan 131 g/km 122 g/km 116 g/km 6 g/km
Volvo 145 g/km 114 g/km 107 g/km 7 g/km
Mitsubishi 135 g/km 114 g/km 89 g/km 25 g/km

Of course, battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are still a niche market today. Together they account for only about half a percent of new car sales in the EU. Sales are likely to rapidly increase, though, while the super-credit multiplier is going to decrease over time. The real question from a customer’s point of view is how efficient these electric vehicles will be under real-world driving conditions. This is still a difficult one to answer – and related to the ongoing debate around real-world fuel consumption figures and the upcoming revision of the EU’s vehicle emissions test procedure.