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Europe gets greener as CO2 emissions from new cars plummets, share of zero- and low-emission cars triples in 2020

Average CO2 emissions of new cars registered in Europe (ie. EU, Iceland, Norway and the UK) in 2020 decreased by 12 per cent compared with 2019, according to the latest data from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The drop was largely due to the steep increase in the number of zero- and low-emission vehicles registered, increasing from 3.5 per cent in 2019 to 11.6 per cent in 2020, as new fleet-wide CO2 targets came into force. CO2 emissions from new vans also decreased, albeit less spectacularly, by 2 per cent as compared to 2019.

While most manufacturers complied with their emission targets, six individual passenger car manufacturers, two pools of passenger car manufacturers, and one manufacturer of light commercial vehicles were found to have exceeded their emissions target in 2020. As a result, they will be required to pay excess emission premiums totalling nearly 510 million euros, revenue which will be added to the EU general budget.

The final data from laboratory testing shows that the average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of the 11.7 million new passenger cars registered in 2020 in Europe fell to 107.5 g CO2/km, which is 14.5 g CO2/km (-12 per cent) below the average emissions in the previous year. This is by far the greatest annual decrease in emissions since CO2 standards started to apply in 2010.

This latest progress demonstrates early results from the phase-in of a stricter EU fleet-wide CO2 target in 2020. Additionally, it shows the effect of the targeted recovery measures adopted by Member States, stimulating the uptake of zero- and low-emission vehicles and investments in recharging infrastructure.

In terms of emissions from new vans, the average CO2 emissions of the 1.4 million new vans sold in the EU, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom in 2020 were 155 g CO2/km, which is a slight improvement (by 3 g CO2/km) compared to 2019. However, limited progress was made in the electrification of vans, with their market share increasing from 1.4 per cent in 2019 to around 2.3 per cent in 2020, most of which were fully electric vehicles.

Overall, transport sector greenhouse gas emissions have increased in the past three decades and they were 27.8 per cent higher in 2019 compared to 1990. Emissions dropped in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Among the road transport modes, cars have a dominant role, accounting for 60.6 per cent of emissions. In 2020, the EEA reported an increase in the average CO2 emissions of both new passenger cars and new vans in 2018, in comparison to 2017.

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