2020 Automotive Sustainability Report

CO2 and Air Quality

New car CO2

Average new car CO2 emissions in the UK rose for the first time in 2017, by 0.8%, from 120.1g/km in 2016 to 121.0g/km. However, some manufacturers managed to improve their vehicles’ performance. The 2017 overall performance is still 33.1% below the 2000 level. This report uses CO2 figures from the official NEDC (New European Drive Cycle) laboratory test. Since September 2017, a new laboratory test has been in place, known as the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), designed to be more akin to typical driving patterns and with more clearly defi ned test procedures. By September 2018, virtually all new passenger car registrations will need to comply with the new test cycle.

The rise in emissions in 2017 reflected the decline in diesel sales – given diesels are, on average, 5%-20% lower CO2 emitting than a like-for-like petrol car – and consumer demand shift ing from lower emitting segments to higher, with superminis, in particular, showing a 14.3% drop in registrations (at almost 125,000 units down). This represented just over 80% of the overall market’s volume loss in 2017.

SMMT estimates that the rise in average new car CO2 emissions in 2017 was broadly 55% the result of the segment shift and 45% the result of the loss in diesel volumes. Manufacturers are delivering lower CO2 emitting models and data shows that new models introduced in 2017 were on average 12.6% lower CO2 emitting than the models they replaced. The rate of progress in reducing average new car CO2 emissions had already been moderating ahead of the rise in 2017.

You can read more about new car CO2 in the SMMT CO2 report.

Air Quality

Air pollution is caused when harmful chemicals are released into the atmosphere. In the UK, this is caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels for energy generation, transport and industrial emissions.  Some sources are natural such as sea salt, pollen and soil particles, and these can also be blown in from other countries; Saharan dust, for example. Concentrations of air pollutants are highest in urban areas where emissions cannot easily disperse; nitrogen dioxide is usually highest at the roadside. Rural background concentrations account for around 60-80% of the overall mass of PM2.5 in urban areas.  Congestion and the design of cities can restrict the dispersion of pollutants causing greater concentrations at ground level where there is significant exposure.

The automotive industry understands it has an important role in improving air quality and protecting the health and wellbeing of the population. Manufacturers have invested billions of pounds in the engineering of cleaner technologies and now produce the cleanest vehicles in history. Data provided by Defra1 shows that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM) emissions from road transport in 2015 decreased by 75% and 87% respectively since 1990. With the introduction of the latest Euro 6 emissions standard in new vehicles, these are expected to decrease even further. Road transport was responsible for 49% of NO2 and 12% of PM emissions in the UK during 2016. The greatest contribution to particulate pollution is derived from industrial sources and combustion in residential, public, commercial and agricultural sectors 3.

The UK government published its plan for tackling NO2 at the roadside in July 2017. This sets a requirement for a number of cities across the UK to implement a charging clean air zone (CAZ). All new vehicles sold today comply with the minimum CAZ requirements. In addition, manufacturers are continuing to develop zero emission and zero emission capable vehicles, which will allow for even greater improvement in air quality. While the sale of these vehicles is growing, they still only made up 0.3% of the number of vehicles in use (parc) in 2017.

It is essential that a coordinated approach to improving air quality be taken by both local and national policymakers in partnership with industry. This will allow us to find complementary solutions to improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions from all sectors.

The automotive industry is spending billions of pounds to develop new technologies to reduce CO2 and other environmental impacts of its products.