Cars & CO2

Cars spew out almost three-quarters of road transport emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions from cars and vans are rising again and contribute nearly three-quarters of Europe’s road transport emissions. In the last 15 years , efficiency improvements have delivered just 11% cuts in on-road emissions from new cars, and they have barely improved in the last five years. This stark failure arises in large part from carmakers’ manipulation of obsolete EU testing that was revealed in a T&E analysis of the chasm between test and real-world emissions. That manipulation has rewarded carmakers with 31g/km of bonus emissions and costs a typical driver nearly €550 extra a year – spent on consuming more fuel than carmakers claim.

Exposing the truth about car CO2

What is T&E doing about it? First, we’re working to ensure the public knows the true impact of the cars they’re being sold. Our Get Real campaign – conducted with our German member Deutsche Umwelthilfe – encourages consumers and politicians to demand realistic fuel consumption and emissions figures from carmakers.

There was cause for hope in September with the introduction of a more realistic emissions test. The WLTP – a result of T&E’s best lobbying efforts and despite industry pressure – is a huge improvement over the obsolete NEDC test it replaces. But it is still a laboratory test and real-world emissions are expected to be more than 20% higher. This is why T&E has started campaigning for a real-world CO2 test, similar to what was agreed for air pollution in the aftermath of the VW emissions cheating. We are developing the new test with carmaker Peugeot-Citroën (PSA Group) and our member France Nature Environnement and that scheme has been awarded the prestigious ECOBEST award by the auto industry. Now regulators and other carmakers need to implement it industry wide.

And while the car industry’s air-pollution fraud, Dieselgate, has been exposed in great detail, T&E revealed that diesel engines are not a panacea to climate emissions either. In fact our diesel report showed that these cars emit more CO2 than petrol ones. A lifecycle analysis found that a diesel car over its lifetime emits 3.65 tonnes of CO2 more than a petrol equivalent. The fuel is more energy-intensive to refine, while diesel engines are heavier and more complex, thus requiring more materials to produce. Europe’s blending of biodiesel with diesel also increases emissions, due to indirect land effects.

What are we going to do about it?

So now that we have a clear picture of the problem, it’s time to act. Yet the European Commission’s car CO2 proposal last November was a gift to a stagnant auto sector: carbon reduction targets of just 30% between 2021 and 2030; with an intermediate target of 15% for 2025. This covers less than a third of the road transport emission cuts that are needed by 2030. Now it’s over to national governments and the European Parliament to inject some ambition into the plan. T&E won’t rest until they do.

Time for zero-emissions vehicles

There is now little disagreement in Europe that electromobility is the future, but the roll-out of electric cars is far too slow. T&E analysis showed why carmakers are falling behind their own targets – a lack of choice, availability and marketing. The Commission didn’t help matters much by proposing a bonus if carmakers achieve 30% zero emission vehicles sales as late as 2030 – and with no real penalties for missing the target. This deprives European carmakers of the regulatory push they badly need. Through the Electromobility Platform we have established an effective consortium of businesses and NGOs actively pushing for change and informing policy makers on the opportunities.

“The regulatory package announced on Wednesday ‘amounts to handing the global leadership on electric cars to China, which will be delighted to export their models to Europe, jeopardizing jobs in Europe’s auto industry” Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at Transport & Environment, an advocacy organization
New York Times
8 November 2017

T&E hopes to beef up Europe’s commitment to zero emission mobility, thus reducing our carbon footprints. That means dispelling the last remaining myths that EVs are somehow worse than fossil fuel cars. As a lifecycle analysis carried out for us by Brussels’ VUB university showed, electric vehicles emit less greenhouse gas emissions than diesel cars in Europe. And EVs will emit even less as more renewable electricity enters the grid. This is the low-carbon future for cars – we just need to get there, and before Europe’s competitors do.

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