CO2 emissions from new passenger cars in Europe: Car manufacturers’ performance in 2020

This briefing paper provides an overview of CO2 emission levels of new passenger cars in the European Union in 2020 based on a preliminary dataset recently released by the European Environment Agency. The dataset shows that new cars sold in the EU in 2020 had average CO2 emissions of 108 g CO2/km, 14 g/km lower than in 2019, as measured over the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). Including flexible compliance mechanisms, such as super-credits and phase-in provisions, lowers average NEDC CO2 emissions to 96 g/km.

Nine out of ten major manufacturer pools met their 2020 CO2 targets, with the Volkswagen manufacturer pool appearing to have narrowly missed their target by approximately 1 g/km of CO2. At the same time, all manufacturer pools relied on one or more of the flexible compliance mechanisms afforded by EU regulations to meet their targets. Reliance on compliance mechanisms means that roughly half of the CO2 reductions in 2020 were only achieved on paper. Compliance mechanisms and increasing electric vehicle market shares also allowed average CO2 emission levels from combustion engine vehicles to remain at approximately 2016 levels.

Because the phase-in provision ended in 2020, and eight out of ten manufacturer pools have exhausted the 7.5 g/km super-credit budget for 2020–2022, manufacturers will have to achieve an approximate reduction of 10 g/km in 2021 without these aids. Recent data indicate that manufacturers intend to meet the 2021 targets by further electrifying their fleets: shares of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles increased from 11% in 2020 to approximately 16% in the first half of 2021.

Uptake of all forms of electrified powertrain vehicles dramatically increased from 2019 to 2020. Battery electric vehicle (BEV) shares nearly tripled (from 2.2% to 6.2%), plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) shares more than quadrupled (from 1.2% to 5.2%), hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) shares grew by roughly one third (from 3.8% to 5.0%), and mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) shares using 48-volt systems quadrupled (from 2.1% to 8.2%). Among pools, Mercedes-Benz had the highest electric vehicle share (PHEVs and BEVs) with more than 20%, followed by Kia, BMW, and Hyundai, each with more than 15%.