March 13, 2018

Average New Car CO2 Emissions Increase

CO2 Rises For The First Time As Diesel Sales Continue To Decline

An anti-diesel agenda and a slower than anticipated take-up of electric vehicles have combined to produce an increase in CO2 output from new cars for the first time in two decades.

That’s the conclusion of a new report published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which also warns that the automotive industry could miss its next round of CO2 targets in 2021.

The SMMT’s “New Car CO2 Report 2018: Driving the transition to a low carbon future” reveals that average carbon emissions from new cars last year rose for the first time in 20 years to 121.0g/km.

More efficient cars

This is despite cars being more efficient, with new and updated models in 2017 emitting, on average, 12.6% less CO2 than those they replaced.

What's driving the uptake of AFVs

However, this was not enough to offset a 17.1% decline in new diesel registrations last year as confusion over Government tax policy caused buyers to hold back, according to the SMMT.

Because diesel cars typically consume less fuel than petrol equivalents, they emit around 15-20% less CO2. And about half of last year’s overall rise in CO2 was attributable to this decline in diesel demand.

The increase in the average new car CO2 figure followed almost 20 years of falling emissions due to huge investment in new, advanced engine, fuel and battery technology, as well as the use of lightweight materials such as aluminium and composites.

These ongoing improvements meant that average CO2 per car is now a third lower than in 2000.

Internal combustion engine still important

The SMMT report highlights the importance of internal combustion engines in the journey to a low carbon future, with 99.5% of the UK’s 2.5 million strong new car market still powered, wholly or in part, by petrol or diesel.

Alongside advances in petrol and diesel vehicle technology, which deliver lower CO2, vastly reduced NOx and almost zero particulates, industry has been also investing heavily in alternative technologies.

More than a fifth of new car models now available are zero emission capable, yet they make up just 5% of sales. For pure battery-powered vehicles, take up is even lower (0.5%).

Hybrid vehicles outsell battery electric vehicles by a factor of 2.5:1 and look like they will be an important part of the transition to the zero emission roads of the future.

Changing attitudes to diesels

Latest diesel sales figures show registrations of diesel cars declining 23.5% in February to 28,317, compared to 37,020 last February. Diesel sales so far this year at 87,020 are down 25% on last year’s 115,925.

And according to the latest research from CLM this trend looks set to continue. The study, into drivers’ attitudes towards alternative fuelled vehicles (AFVs), identified clear changes in drivers’ attitudes towards diesel in the light of the current wave of publicity around the toxicity of emissions.

And it was clear that diesel no longer figured prominently in the future plans of many drivers with more than 50% of respondents saying they were unlikely to choose a diesel as their next car. Only 11% of drivers surveyed believed that petrol and diesel vehicles would still dominate UK new car sales in 20 years’ time.

The diesel antipathy was strongest amongst women drivers with 53% of female drivers interviewed saying that they either definitely would not choose or were very unlikely to choose a diesel for their next car. Some 33% of women were adamant that they wouldn’t be choosing a diesel next.

This compared with 50% of men who said they definitely wouldn’t choose or were unlikely to choose a diesel, with 31% saying they definitely wouldn’t be ordering a diesel next.

Age and regional variations

The CLM study also found that diesel antipathy was strongest in the oldest age group of those over 35 years of age.

Some 58% of drivers in the over-35 category said they definitely wouldn’t choose or were very unlikely to choose a diesel as their next car. This compared to 41% in the under-35 category.

There was also a regional variation in attitudes towards diesel. In London and the South East, some 69% of those surveyed said they definitely won’t choose or were unlikely to choose diesel as their next car – with 35% adamant that a diesel was not on their shopping list.

This compared to other parts of the UK where just 45% of respondents said they definitely won’t choose or were unlikely to choose diesel as their next car and only 31% adamant that diesel was not for them.

Amongst socio-economic groups, those that fell into groups A and B were more likely not to choose a diesel (60%) than those in groups C1,C2, D,E (41%).

Worrying lack of education

The research also found that having decided against diesel, drivers’ knowledge of AFVs was disappointingly lacking. Some 84% of respondents said they knew what the term AFV meant, but 82% of them did not currently run one.

When prompted, some 82% of respondents had heard of hybrid electric vehicles; 72% had heard of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles but only 61% had heard of battery electric vehicles and just 28% knew of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

Given the lack of knowledge of the various vehicle types available, it was perhaps unsurprising that the percentage of drivers who were likely to opt for these types of vehicles as their next car was generally low.

Some 33% said that they were likely to consider a hybrid electric vehicle as their next car; 27% said they would consider a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle; while just 22% said they were likely to consider a battery electric vehicle.

Interested in Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs)?

If you are considering how alternative fuel vehicles could work for your business, check out our series of guides that will give you a great starting point in understanding what the pros and cons could be. We’ve also been researching the attitudes of drivers towards these vehicles and the new technology over a 12 month period – discover the findings in our report.

Click here to view our Alternative Fuel Vehicle guides

Guide to the AFV market

To help address the lack of knowledge around AFVs in general, CLM has produced a handy guide to the AFV market entitled: “What’s happening in the Alternative Vehicle Fuel space?” which provides a great starting point in understanding what the pros and cons of AFVs could be.

What's happening in the alternative fuel vehicle space