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New car CO2 hits four-year high due to diesel downturn

Average CO2 emissions from new cars in Europe went up 2.4g/km to 120.5g/km in 2018 – the highest average of the last four years – as drivers switched from diesels to petrols.

Vehicle exhaust

Average new car CO2 in Europe actually went up in 2018

The analysis by Jato Dynamics covered 23 markets in Europe and found average CO2 emissions increased in 20 of the markets analysed.

The firm said the increase in CO2 was directly related to an 18% decline in demand for diesel in 2018; the result of an increased negative public perception towards diesels, combined with new government regulations such as WLTP and scrutiny of the fuel type.

Further analysis of the data shows that average CO2 had been on a steady decline from 2007, but the rate of reduction started to slowdown in 2016 when the fall reduced from -4.1 g/km in 2015 to -1.4 g/km. At the same time, the sales growth of diesel cars fell from +7% to +1%. This trend was confirmed in 2017 with the first average CO2 emission increase in years of 0.3g/km, and an 8% drop in demand for diesel cars. Last year saw an even greater variation between demand for diesel (-18%) and an increase in CO2 emissions (+2.4g/km), using NEDC Correlated data, not WLTP.

The correlation between declining diesel take-up and increasing emissions is more evident when you look at individual markets. Only three countries saw improvements in CO2 emissions: Norway, Netherlands and Finland. In Norway, the growing popularity of electric and hybrid cars (57% market share) was large enough to absorb the drop posted by diesel cars (-28%). In the Netherlands, the improvement was due to an increase in demand for AFVs (+74%) which counted for 11% of the total market. However, this market is still strongly dependent on petrol cars, which make up 76% of the market. The worst performance was seen in the UK, which has carried out one of the most aggressive campaigns against diesel.

Felipe Munoz, Jato’s global analyst, commented: “The increase in CO2 is certainly worrying and bad news for governments and most carmakers. Instead of moving forwards, the industry is regressing at a time when emissions targets are getting tougher.”

Munoz added that if the migration away from diesel continues and the adoption of alternative fuelled vehicles doesn’t accelerate, the industry will need to take more drastic measures in order to meet short-term CO2 targets.

He added that the arrival of new SUVs last year, including the launch of 16 new models, paired with an increase in demand for the car type also contributed to the overall increase of average CO2 emissions in Europe.

At a brand level, Toyota was once again the leader among the top-sellers and posted an average below 100g/km for the first time since tracking of the average CO2 emissions began. Last year, 60% of its registrations were hybrids. Toyota was also one of only five brands that posted an improvement in comparison to 2017, with emissions falling by 1.4g/km. Nissan saw the highest improvement thanks to the strong performance of the Leaf, which became Europe’s top-selling electric car in 2018. At the same time, its top sellers (mostly SUVs) recorded registration drops.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.