Greenhouse gas emissions - Falling diesel sales make for higher carbon emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions from cars are actually rising right now, across Europe, and that could in the very near future spell restrictions on car sales, and indeed the choice of cars available, as tighter regulations put the squeeze on car makers.

As Europe’s car buyers steadily turn away from diesel, so too are the carbon emissions of those cars rising. JATO Dynamics, a London-based car industry analyst, has warned that average European car Co2 emissions hit 120.5g/km in 2018 — the highest figure since 2014.

Diesel demand

Almost all of that rise is being blamed on the reduction in demand for diesel power. Diesel sales have, across the Continent, fell by 18 per cent in 2018, and JATO is correlating that figure directly with the 2.4g/km increase in average Co2 emissions. Ireland’s Co2 emissions are rising too; average Co2 emissions from Irish cars rose to 113g/km last year. That’s the first time emissions have risen since 2004, and much of the blame is being laid on the decline in popularity of diesel.

WLTP effects

Felipe Munoz, JATO’s global analyst commented, “The introduction of WLTP in September 2018 has been a challenge for the market, as a large number of available vehicles had not been homologated yet. The increase in Co2 is certainly worrying and bad news for governments and most car makers. Instead of moving forwards, the industry is regressing at a time when emissions targets are getting tougher.” Tougher? Oh yes, the current JATO figures are based on the NEDC Correlated fuel economy and emissions test, not the more stringent WLTP test.

Bucking the trend

From a 2007 peak of 159.7g/km, Europe’s vehicle Co2 emissions had been falling steadily, down to a 2016 low of 117.8g/km, when taken by a sales-weighted calculation of total average emissions. 2017 saw that number tick up, by 0.3g/km, which JATO notes coincided with a decrease in diesel sales of some eight per cent that year. Munoz explained: “The positive effect of diesel cars on emissions has faded away as their demand has dropped dramatically during the last year. If this trend continues and the adoption of alternative fuelled vehicles doesn’t accelerate, the industry will need to take more drastic measures in order to meet the short-term targets.”

Changing trends

It’s not just the decline in diesel, though, So-called AFVs (Alternative Fuel Vehicles; basically electric cars and hybrids) are increasing in popularity but not yet by sufficient numbers to mollify the effect of falling diesel sales. On top of which, the demand for SUVs is also affecting the overall Co2 levels. According to JATO, SUVs now account for 35 per cent of all European car sales, and they have Co2 emissions on average 1.4g/km worse off than their saloon, estate, or hatchback counterparts. Causing even more damage to the average emissions level was a general decline in the two segments that usually score best in terms of Co2 — city cars and small hatchbacks.

Country CO2 differences

According to JATO: “The correlation between the decline in demand for diesel cars and the increase in CO2 emissions was most evident when analysing the data by country. Only three countries saw improvements in CO2 emissions: Norway, Netherlands and Finland. In Norway, the growing popularity of electric and hybrid cars (57 per cent market share) was large enough to absorb the drop posted by diesel cars (-28 per cent). In the Netherlands, the improvement was due to an increase in demand for AFVs (+74 per cent) which counted for 11 per cent of the total market. However, this market is still strongly dependent on gasoline cars, which make up 76 per cent of the market. The worst performance was seen in the UK, which has carried out one of the most aggressive campaigns against diesel.”

Car makers and CO2

In terms of individual brands, JATO gave Toyota the best emissions rating, with a weighted average of 99g/km of Co2 emissions across its range. That makes it the only car maker to dip below the 100g/km fleet average. Peugeot was in second place, with a 107.7g/km average, while Citroen was in third, with average emissions of 107.9g/km.

What does that mean for car buyers?

It means that we’re likely to face higher taxes in the near future as the Government pushes us more towards electric and hybrid vehicles. It also means that the number of cars on sale could be squeezed. More than one car maker, facing enormous, multi-billion Euro fines for exceeding the incoming 2021 EU emissions limits, has said that they will start to reduce the number of petrol and diesel models they offer for sale, in order to minimise their exposure to fines. With electric and hybrid cars still thin on the ground, and still generally very expensive, that could mean that consumer choice in the car market could become very much reduced in the next few years.