Many carmakers in Europe have started to see a significant reduction in their average CO2 emissions levels and are largely on track to hit targets set by the EU, new research says.

According to data collected and updated on a monthly basis by JATO Dynamics, for 21 countries in Europe, the average CO2 emissions totalled 102.2 g/km – under the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) between January – August 2020. By these calculations, the European automotive market is currently 6.5 g/km over its combined target for 2021. JATO says this is a dramatic shift when compared to figures recorded in 2019.

Despite overall registrations falling by 29% between January and September this year – when contrasted with the same period in 2019 – registrations for electrified cars increased by 67% through September to 1.54 million units. This increase goes some way to explain the double-digit drops seen in demand for gasoline and diesel cars, and the increase in market share for EVs from 7.8% in January – September 2019, to 18.1% in January – September 2020.

Volvo crowned greenest OEM

JATO said Geely Group has secured pole position in race for CO2 rankings and 'smashed' its target. Outperforming Toyota – which has traditionally led by brand in the CO2 race –  the owner of Volvo (which accounts for 99% of Geely Group's volume in Europe), Polestar, LEVC and Lotus, met the target by August, 4 months ahead of the deadline.

Geely's CO2 target for 2020 was an average of 110.3 g/k, but by August 31st its average was 103.1 g/km – making Geely the only manufacturer to outperform the target. A consistent focus on EVs is behind this achievement, with electrified vehicles accounting for almost half of its registrations in August, and 38% in January – August 2020.

BMW just 0.5 grams over their target

BMW is next in line to meet the target. With an average of 103.5 g/km in August, they are only 0.54 g/km above their target of 102.9 g/km. If this average remained the same, the German car maker would only have to pay a minimal penalty at the end of the year. Meeting their target is more than achievable due to their mix of two strategies: increasing the share of electrified vehicles on sale, and the relatively low emissions generated by their diesel cars.

Toyota is facing a difficult reality

From an outsider's perspective, Toyota seems to be in a good position, only 2.2 grams away from their target. However, it seems that their hybridisation objectives are now stalling. For the past 3 years, hybrids have accounted for around two third of Toyota's registrations in Europe, yet they are still not meeting the targets. Damagingly, its pure electrics vehicles (real zero-emissions cars) have also taken a long time to arrive in Europe – with the new Lexus UX 300e, the first fully electric vehicle of the group, finally hitting the market this year.

Toyota's rival, Hyundai-Kia has started to question Toyota's methods. The strategy of Korea's largest maker has been to boost its small SUVs and green compact cars. It seems to be paying off, JATO said. While hybrids accounted for 65% of Toyota Group volume in August, they only made up 13% for Hyundai. However, pure electric cars represented 8% of registrations for the Korean manufacturer, while Toyota has been unable to put any on sale this year. This perfectly demonstrates how BEVs are much more strongly placed to meet emissions targets, perhaps more so, than hybrid vehicles.