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March 3, 2020

Europe auto CO2 emissions rise in 2019 as model mix changes

New car CO2 emissions are on the rise and any offset by increased EV sales is "negligible", according to a new study.

By Olly Wehring

New car CO2 emissions are on the rise, thanks to the trends away from diesel and towards SUVs, and any offset by increased EV sales is "negligible", according to a new study.

Despite new regulation designed to curtail this, 2019 volume weighted average CO2 emissions for European markets were at their highest recorded levels since 2014, according to data from JATO Dynamics.

The average for the 23 European markets totalled 121.8 g/km under the NEDC regime – the third such annual increase in a row.

The firm's global analyst, Felipe Munoz, said: "As expected, the combination of fewer diesel registrations and more SUVs continued to have an impact on emissions. We don't anticipate any change to this trend in the mid-term, indeed these results further highlight the industry's need to adopt EVs at a rapid pace to reach emissions targets."

Last year's average was 1.3g/km higher than in 2018 but the increase was lower than the difference between the 2017 and 2018 results where growth was 2.4 g/km.

Despite an increase of EV models contributing positively to emission levels, the move away from diesel had a negative impact the market could not offset.

The average emissions of electrified vehicles, was 63.2g/km, almost half that produced by diesel and petrol vehicles. The problem arose because EVs only accounted for 6% of total registrations, which was not yet high enough to create positive change.

Four of the five major markets in Europe posted higher averages in 2019 than in 2018.

Average emissions for Germany, Britain, Italy, and Spain increased, ranging from 0.8 g/km more for Germany to 3g/km higher for Italy. This was in part caused by marked changes in attitude and regulations around the use of diesel fuels which has had the unintended consequence of pushing people to drive higher CO2 emitting petrol vehicles.

France was the only market to see better results as its average fell from 112g/km in 2018, to 111.1 g/km last year. Despite this positive change,  emission levels were still higher than the average recorded in 2016 and 2017.

Pure electric cars have a 2% market share in France, the highest slice among all five major markets, which demonstrates how electric cars can have a measurable impact on emissions levels despite adoption lagging behind ICE models.

France has seen this higher level of market penetration in part due to the success of more affordable EVs like the Renault Zoe, which is soon to be followed by the Peugeot 208-e.

Sweden and the Netherlands also achieved large improvements in emissions levels. The Dutch reduced their average by 5.9g/km, in turn becoming the lowest emitters in the European Union (excluding Denmark, Portugal and Finland which published WLTP data rather than comparable NEDC).

The improvement was due to the mix of diesel and pure electric cars. In 2018, for every Bev registered there were 2.3 new diesel cars in the Netherlands; a year later this was 1.9 BEVs for every diesel car.

Toyota remained the top 20 best selling brand with the lowest average CO2 emissions in Europe. It also achieved the largest decrease since 2018 with its average falling 2.3g/km due largely to its popular, mostly 'self charging' hybrid range with registrations accounting for 60% of brand total volume in 2019.

Toyota is a pertinent case, particularly considering it doesn't offer pure electric cars, and is still ahead of European peers still have more electrification plans than actual products.

In the group ranking, Toyota was a major leader, behind only Tesla . Along with its Lexus premium brand, Toyota  posted an average of 99g/km of CO2 in 2019, 14.3g/km less than PSA.

At group level, Nissan, Renault , Mitsubishi and Suzuki posted average emissions lower than the total market average of 121.8g/km.

Volkswagen Group recorded an average of 123.6g/km.

Citroen has the second lowest average emissions and was the second best performer. However, in contrast to Toyota , the improvement made was due to the efficiency of its petrol engines, rather than the adoption of electrified powertrains.

The arrival of the compact SUV C5 Aircross and its higher averages was outshone by improvements in the petrol engines of the C3 (-5.1 g/km), C3 Aircross (-4.7) and C1 (-4.5).

The popularity of SUVs is raising average emission levels, and this was evident when analysed by segment.

Average CO2 emissions for SUVs was 131.5g/km, higher than emissions posted by city cars (107.7g/km), subcompacts (109.2g/km), compacts (115.3g/km), midsize (117.9g/km), and executive cars (131g/km).

SUVs took 38% of total registrations in EU-18.

The SUV segment of the market urgently needs more electrified models as the EV focus so far has been on traditional hatchbacks and sedans, leaving very few SUV choices. If these vehicles want to keep gaining traction and avoid future sanctions, they need to be electrified.

There are some plans in place. Toyota is adding a plug-in alongside the 'self charging' RAV4 hybrid and Ford has announced a wider redesigned Kuga range including several variants of electrification.

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