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  • European new car CO2 emissions are rising because of heavier, bigger diesels

    Provisional data for European new car carbon emissions in 2017 published today shows the small but expected rise in new car CO2 emissions of 0.4g/km is due to the strong growth in sales of crossover and SUV models - mainly diesel powered. According to the European Environment Agency, the average CO2 emissions from diesel cars rose from 116.8g/km in 2016 to 117.9g/km in 2017, while CO2 emissions from petrol cars remained flat (-0.1g/km).

    As T&E pointed out recently, the increase also arises from carmakers delaying upgrades of new models and the launch of new electric cars – both of which will increase rapidly in 2019 and will help ensure almost all carmakers achieve their CO2 targets for 2020/1. The continuing decline in diesel sales, which fell to 45% of new registrations, had almost no effect, being more than offset by an increase in sales of low carbon plug-in cars (that rose by 42%) and a decline in the CO2 gap between the average new diesel car (121.6g/km) and petrol (117.9g/km).

    Greg Archer, Clean Vehicles Director of Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “The increase in new car CO2 emissions arises from manufacturers actively pushing for heavier, bigger diesels. With a rush of both more fuel efficient and plug-in models planned for launch in 2019, there will be sharp falls in new car CO2 emissions in the period 2019-22. Combined with the huge windfall earned by carmakers through manipulating tests ensures almost all companies remain on track to achieve their 2020/1 targets. This new data from the EU environment agency disproves carmakers’ tale that falling diesel sales are to blame.”

    T&E’s analysis published today shows that carmakers have gained around 21g/km through abusing loopholes in car testing since the regulation was finalised in 2008 causing the gap between test and real-world performance to leap from 17% to 42%. The new analysis also shows that carmakers are also planning to halve the stringency of proposed CO2 targets for 2025 by manipulating the new WLTP test. Various tactics are being deployed including declaring high CO2 emissions values using the new WLTP test to inflate the emissions in 2021 and produce a high baseline from which the Commission’s proposed 15% target will be calculated. Carmakers are also fitting technology to cars like cylinder deactivation that is expected to achieve much bigger savings on the road than during the laboratory test.

    Greg Archer said: “Carmakers are reusing their old tricks to manipulate the post-2020 targets that could weaken the regulation by half. Member States and the European Parliament must amend the Commission’s inadequate proposal to ensure it is not possible to weaken the regulation by artificially raising CO2 emissions in 2021 using the new WLTP test whilst using the old NEDC version to measure compliance against the existing regulation.”

    T&E has proposed using fuel consumption meters fitted to new cars, or real-world tests, to measure the average gap between test and real-world performance for each company in 2021 and to ensure this gap is not allowed to grow after this.