• Car industry progress on climate grinds to a halt

    European carmakers are failing to deliver the lower carbon emissions they pledged to the European Commission in 1998 (1), with emission rates from new cars down by just 0.2% last year, the worst performance on record.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]New figures published today by Transport and Environment (T&E), show new cars sold in Europe in 2006 by members of the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA) (2) emitted 160g of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre on average, down less than half a gram on the previous year. ACEA, which accounted for 81% of sales in Europe in 2006, committed to reach 140g/km by 2008 but will now almost certainly miss that target.

    The 2006 figures for Japanese manufacturers (JAMA) stood at 161g/km followed by Korean (KAMA) producers at 164g/km on average. The overall figure for all carmakers for the average new car sold in Europe in 2006 stands at 160g/km down from 161g/km in 2005, a reduction of 0.7%. (3)

    Aat Peterse, programme manager at T&E said: “In the first eight years of their voluntary commitment carmakers concentrated on bigger, heavier and more gas guzzling cars, and the results speak for themselves. Clearly, the voluntary commitment wasn’t worth the paper it was written on and regulation is needed now more than ever. The EU must stick to a legally-binding target of 120g/km by 2012 and ensure that a series of long-term targets are in place leading to 80g/km by 2020.”

    Evidence is emerging that carmakers have been holding fuel efficient technology back for years and are only now starting to bring it to market as the threat of regulation becomes real.

    Thomas Weber, head of R&D at DaimlerChrysler, told Automotive News Europe in July that Mercedes could have launched a fuel-saving stop-start version of its second-generation A class when it launched the car three years ago. “We had it ready behind the curtains, but no one asked for it — so we held it back,” he reportedly said. “Now everything has changed.” (4)

    Since plans for the first legally-binding standards for CO2 emissions were announced by the European Commission last year (5), carmakers have announced a number of green marketing initiatives including Efficient Dynamics (BMW), ECOnetic (Ford), ecoFLEX (Opel/Vauxhall), eco2 (Renault) and BlueMotion (VW).

    Peterse commented: “In the last few months, Europe’s carmakers have come up with enough green brands to fill a dictionary. It’s up to the EU to make sure the current buzz translates into real emissions reductions.”

    ACEA are actively lobbying the EU to give heavier cars, such as SUVs, weaker CO2 standards. Today’s figures also show that the average weight of new cars increased by 18 kg in 2006 continuing a long-term upward trend. And yet, reducing weight is one of the most important methods of improving fuel efficiency and cutting CO2 emissions.

    In research published last month, T&E cited compelling evidence from a range of studies that show boosting the existing trend towards heavier cars by introducing weight-based CO2 targets would lead to more road fatalities than if a single CO2 standard for all cars was used. (6)

    Peterse said: “The carmakers are pushing for Europe’s new CO2 targets from 2012 to be weight-based, but that will result in heavier, and therefore more dangerous cars than if there was a single standard.”

    T&E is calling on the EU to stick to a single fleet average standard of 120g/km by 2012. Alternatively, T&E says car ‘footprint’, the area between the four wheels, could be used as a temporary measure to define what CO2 standard individual car models would have to apply. ‘Footprint’ is the attribute used in new North American CAFE fuel efficiency standards for light trucks and was chosen, amongst other reasons, because it avoids the dangerous safety implications of using a weight-based standard.

    The European Parliament’s environment committee will vote on a so-called ‘opinion’ on new car CO2 regulations next week in advance of a formal legal proposal from the European Commission in December.

    T&E’s 2006 progress report on the car industry’s voluntary commitment can be downloaded here.

    Notes to editors:

    (1) In 1998 the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) committed to the European Union to reduce the average CO2 emissions of new cars sold in the (then) 15 EU Member States to 140 g/km, down from 186 g/km in 1995.

    (2) ACEA’s members include the following carmakers: BMW Group, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors Europe, Porsche AG, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Renault, Fiat, Ford of Europe, Volkswagen, Volvo

    (3) The figures are based on sales data from the EU25 excluding Malta.

    T&E analysed sales and CO2 information in a European Commission database that forms the basis of the official EU monitoring mechanism on cars and CO2 ( https://ec.europa.eu/environment/co2/co2_monitoring.htm).

    The European Commission has so far not made public the CO2 figures for the years 2005 or 2006. T&E was granted access to the database following a request under EU access to documents law. ( https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/access_documents/index_en.htm)

    (4) ‘Mercedes vows to out-green rivals’, article published in Automotive News Europe, 23/07/2007

    (5) The European Commission first announced that the car industry could face legislative measures if it failed to improve its CO2 emissions performance in a monitoring report published in August 2006 (https://www.transportenvironment.org/Article212.html). This was confirmed in a communication on cars and CO2 published in February 2007. A legal proposal is not expected until late 2007 or early 2008.

    (6) For further information on weight-based CO2 standards please see the T&E press release of 29/08/07: https://www.transportenvironment.org/Article457.html