Since 2002, SMMT has produced its annual CO2 report, to give the industry an open and transparent approach to communicating the UK performance on new car CO2 emissions. The reporting uses CO2 figures from the official New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) laboratory test, which is required by law and witnessed by a government appointed agency.
2016 was another positive year for the UK automotive industry, with record low average new car and van CO2 emissions, record high registration volumes, the best car production figures in 17 years and the largest market in Europe for zero-emission capable and hybrid vehicles. However, it also underscored the environmental challenges the industry faces, with a slowing rate of progress in average new car CO2 emissions and continuing concerns about urban air quality.
The average new car emitted 120.1g/km CO2 in 2016, down 1.1% on 2015’s performance and 33.6% below that of 2000.
- Average New Car CO2 emissions fell in 2016 to 120.1g/km, down 1.1% on 2015’s 121.0g/km. This reduction represented a further slowdown on the post 2008 rate of progress.
- Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles (AFV) registrations rose by 22.2% in 2016 to 88,919 units. AFVs typically emit 40% lower CO2 than the market average. The UK had the largest market in Europe of zero-emission capable cars (pure EV and plug-in hybrid) and also hybrids.
- Although diesels achieved a record volume, their market share fell 0.8 percentage points in 2016 to 47.7%. Diesels typically emit 20% lower CO2 emitting than petrol cars (with like-for-like performance), so this structural change was to the detriment of fleet CO2 performance.
- Similarly, market shift, notably from the Supermini to Dual Purpose segment (which are on average 27% higher CO2 emitting), also impacted on the average new car CO2 figure in 2016.
- The average new light commercial vehicle emitted 173.7g/km in 2016, 1.9% below the 2015 level and 12.4% down on 2011.
- Total CO2 emissions from all vehicles in use fell by 4.6% between 2000 and 2015, as new vehicle efficiencies offset a 7% increase in vehicle use (for cars figures were 9% and 5% respectively). However, emissions have risen in the past two years, reflecting higher mileages.
- A new car emits some 20% less CO2 than the average car in use. Measures to speed up fleet renewal would help improve CO2 emissions, as well as benefit other emissions and the safety performance of the vehicle fleet.
- The UK has some of the most challenging economy-wide CO2 reductions targets in the world, including plans to decarbonise the vehicle fleet by 2050. The pathway to delivering such market transformation, especially given the vote to leave the EU and potential disruption this gives to some policy measures, demands a comprehensive approach. This will ensure all stakeholders work together to achieve environmental targets in the most cost-effective way possible and enabling the UK manufacturing industry to be best placed to deliver these lower emitting vehicles for both the domestic and international markets.
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The overall market has moved into lower CO2 emitting products, with a particular step-change in performance since 2008. This follows not only increased availability of lower CO2 emitting products – reflective of investment in both traditional internal combustion engine technologies – but, also the arrival of new alternatively-fuelled vehicles, notably hybrid and pure electric vehicles.
The pan-European New Car CO2 Regulation, consumer demand and market competition has helped drive this. The recession, meanwhile, helped focus consumers on lower-cost/more efficient motoring, while CO2 based taxes and increased media focus has helped encourage consumers to switch to lower CO2 emitting products.
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The outlook for new car CO2 emissions will be, as ever, dependent upon a number of different stakeholders and factors. Automotive manufacturers will be looking to bring to market ever more competitive products and working towards achieving the 2020 pan-European CO2 targets. At the same time, consumers want safe, efficient vehicles to minimise running costs but are also looking for more space, functionality and comfort, all at an affordable price. Regulators and government, meanwhile, have to balance health and environmental targets with revenues from motorists and a desire to support and grow industry, providing jobs and creating wealth for the nation. There are also many other stakeholders and media influences which shape the type of vehicles bought and used in the UK.
Industry advocates a comprehensive approach, looking at the broader influences on fleet emissions beyond just new vehicles, to enable all stakeholders to work together to understand individual impacts and how they interact. Pulling in a common direction will achieve the best results and least cost to society.
The EU has set out tailpipe CO2 targets for cars and vans to 2020/21 and is expected to produce a draft proposal for post-2020 in 2017. At the same time, the way CO2 emissions are measured will change with the introduction of the WLTP emissions test procedure later this year. While this will not impact on the actual emissions of the vehicle, it will have knock on implications for industry, consumer information and taxation measures. The vote to leave the EU also gives the UK an opportunity to consider whether to continue to align with the EU approach or adopt something different. 2017 will be the starting point for some of these issues and it could take several years for the impacts and policies/regulations to evolve.
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