European car markers struggle to adhere to EU emission rules 


SUV’s is being blamed for the rise in European new-vehicle emissions. Photo credit: Ulrich Dregler via Pixabay

By Anders Lorenzen

Despite carmakers introducing more electric vehicles (EV’s) into the market to meet an increased appetite from consumers and adhere to government policies, according to data from the European Union’s (EU) environment agency (EEA) CO2 emissions from new cars in Europe rose for the third year running in 2020.

What the data says

Data published by the EEA has revealed that the average level of emissions from new cars registered in the EU’s 27 member states, as well as in the UK, Iceland and Norway, was122.4 grams of CO2 per kilometre in 2019; an increase of 1.6g compared to 2019. While this increase is within the EU’s 130g of CO2 per kilometre target for last year, it is higher than the tougher EU target which will come into effect later this year. The new target will cap average CO2 emissions from new cars at 95g of CO2 per kilometre; to achieve this,  carmakers will need to slash emissions by 22% from 2019 levels. 

Why are emissions climbing?

With this bleak picture in mind, one could be forgiven for thinking that cars are in fact becoming less efficient, however, the increase is actually due to continued interest from consumers in buying highly polluting and inefficient gas-guzzling SUVs;  last year they represented a stunning 38% of the new-vehicle market. In addition to this, the average CO2 emissions from new vans also increased for the second year in a row. 

Market decline in the context of COVID-19

Last year, data shows that electric and hybrid vehicles made up 3.5% of new car sales in 2019, with Norway continuing to be the European leader accounting for 56% of registrations. This year, however, car sales in the EU have plummeted as COVID-19 lockdown measures have kept buyers at home. 

EU: More must be done to incentivise cleaner cars

The European Commission (EC) has responded to these newly published statistics by urging member states to introduce incentive schemes for cleaner cars, as well as investing in electric vehicle charging infrastructure in order to help push carmakers to meet emissions goals, stating “Manufacturers will have to improve the fuel efficiency of their fleet and accelerate the deployment of zero- and low-emission vehicles’. They also said that if carmakers do not significantly reduce their emissions they would miss the tougher targets coming into force later this year.

France and Germany have already unveiled EV purchase incentives as a part of their COVID-19 recovery packages. There’s no doubt that the EU is keen to see other member states to follow their lead and include low-carbon transport as a priority in their recovery packages.


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