Cars CO2

Following the 2020/21 95g target set in 2014, in late 2018 the EU governments and Parliament agreed the next set of CO2 standards for new cars in Europe. Carmakers will have to reduce the average emissions of their new car sales by 15% in 2025 (from 2021 levels) and by 37.5% from 2030 onwards. In addition, voluntary sales targets for low and zero emission cars are set at 15% in 2025 and 35% in 2030 to incentivise timely investments.

The biggest problem with EU car CO2 standards remains the test cycles on which the emissions are measured. While the obsolete old cycle was replaced with new World-Light Duty test procedure in 2018, the gap between what carmakers certify in tests and what cars emit on the road risks continuing in the absence of additional measures. The 2025/2030 CO2 standards do require real-world CO2 emissions to be measured using in-car fuel consumption meters, but this remains voluntary at least until the review of the standards foreseen for 2023. 

T&E is leading a campaign together with German NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe on the gap between official (certified) and real fuel consumption figures of cars (currently 42%). Started in 2016, the ‘Get Real - Demand Fuel Figures you can trust’ campaign (Supported by the LIFE program of the EU Commission (LIFE15 GIC/DE/00029, Close the gap) has been raising citizens’ and policy-makers’ awareness on this issue.

Clean Vehicles Directive

The transition to zero-emission road transport includes public fleets too. In Europe, these fleets are estimated to account for 3.4% of light duty vehicles registration, 75% of buses, and 6.4% of trucks.   

The revision of the Clean Vehicle Directive, officially published in June 2019, sets country-specific minimum targets for publicly operated fleets, such as cars and vans used for e.g. mail or parcel transport and delivery, city buses, and refuse collection trucks.

Until 2025, between 17,6% and 38,5% of the newly publicly procured cars and vans will have to emit less than 50gCO2/ km. After 2025, these percentages of the total procured volume will apply to zero emission vehicles only. 

The directive introduces minimum targets for buses too. Despite inclusion of fossil fuels such as natural gas in the Directive’s definition of clean buses, the CVD secures minimum demand for zero emission buses:

Depending on each country’s population and GDP, between 24% and 45% (2025) and 33% and 65% (2030) of the whole bus procurement volume will have to be composed of clean buses. The introduction of a 50% subtarget for zero emission buses will ensure at least minimum demand levels in Europe for electric buses, driving their price down, making them more affordable to cities and communities. This is significant given that already today, taking into account negative externalities such as noise and air pollution, electric bus total costs of ownership are already lower than equivalent diesel bus TCOs. Accelerating e-bus deployment in European cities will result in improved quality of life, with positive impacts on local air pollution, noise levels, and CO2 emissions. 

Key statistics

EU total road transport emissions (2016)

20% (one-fifth) of EU’s overall greenhouse gas emissions

Cars & Vans


Share of emissions from cars & vans (2016)

Approx. 14% of EU’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, or 70% of EU road transport emissions

EU policies to decarbonise cars

CO2 limits for new cars:

95g CO2/km by 2021

15% CO2 reductions for 2025 and 37.5% reduction for 2030 

Note: the average CO2 emissions from the new car fleet in 2018 were 121 gCO2/km

CO2 limits translated into fuel consumption

130g = 5.6 litres/100km (petrol)

95g = 4.1 litres/100km (petrol)

Cost saving of a 95 g CO2/km car for the average driver 

Around €250 a year, based on today’s pump prices and compared to 2015 CO2 target.

European oil imports

In 2015 the EU imported oil equivalent to €215 billion – two-thirds of it for transport.

Car production in Europe (2017)

19.2m cars

Car registration in Europe (2018)

15.5m cars

ECV registrations

384,000 (201,000 BEVs and 183,000 PHEVs) 

Car exports (2018)

6.1m cars