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European Car Industry Slowing on Greenhouse Gas Improvements

According to an analysis for the European organization Transport and Environment (T&E), new cars sold in Europe in 2005 produced on average 160 grams of CO2 per kilometer, a reduction of only 1% from 2004. Improvements in fuel economy lead to decreases in carbon dioxide emissions.

That rate of improvement is only one-third of the rate required to achieve the voluntary target the industry committed to the EU in 1998 of 140 g/km by 2008. Average emissions of new cars sold in the (then) 15 EU Member States was 186 g/km in 1995.

The EU’s goal is to reach an average CO2 emission figure of 120 g/km for all new passenger cars marketed in the Union by 2010 at the latest.

To achieve the voluntary, interim 140 g/km goal, carmakers would need to deliver improvements of 4.3% per year for the next three years. To date, the best annual performance was 2.9% in 2000, according to T&E. The European Commission monitors the progress by carmakers toward meeting the committment. Last year, the Commission already noted that the rate of improvement was below that required to meet the target. The Commission will release its report on progress in 2004 (not 2005) later this year.

R.L. Polk Marketing Systems GmbH in Germany was the source of the sales and CO2 data for 2005 new car sales used by the Institute for European Environmental Policy in the analysis for T&E.

Frost & Sullivan earlier this year forecast that all European automakers are likely to hybridize their vehicles to some degree—micro, mild and full—by the end of the decade due to meeting the stringent emission requirements combined with increasing fuel prices. (Earlier post.)


  • Annual reports for monitoring the average specific emissions of carbon dioxide from new passenger cars



1% reduction. How to achieve very little with a lot of regulation. I think we need some new ideas.


1% reduction. How to achieve very little with a lot of regulation. Better than nothing perhaps. I think we need some new ideas.


hat rate of improvement is only one-third of the rate required to achieve the voluntary target the industry committed to the EU in 1998 of 140 g/km by 2008. Average emissions of new cars sold in the (then) 15 EU Member States was 186 g/km in 1995.

Note that this goal was voluntary and not mandated by regulation. Therefore, the conclusion is exactly opposite of what you suggest. More regulation is needed, not less.


At least they're trying, as opposed to one supposed global superpower I could name.


Quarter of million of Europeans die prematurely each year for this "trying"


It's about time for a carbon tax. Make it a transfer tax if necessary, ie reduce income/payroll taxes accordingly.

francis t

The regulations are deffinetly not stringent other wise they would be met.

In my opinion these regulations are far from what is needed to meet a standard of environmental sustainability.

In the first place fuel efficiency is pathetic considering the available technology is roughly six times higher than is used in most recent cars.

Secondly the type of fuel we are using is and has been obscelete for a while now and it would be possible if the source of fuel was replaced by viable alternative fuels whcih are more than adaptable to exsisting vehichles with out the worry of polution, unnecessaryly elavated health risk and climate change.


Look at the reductions based over time...

That one percent is only the last year. Name me another territory worldwide where consumption is even static never mind falling. Most territories are rising.

THe ACEA 140g/km was VOLUNTARY. No regulation was involved. Car manufacturers have seen that a) saving their customers money is a good thing and b) being seen to reduce consumption is a customer visible issue and therefore is good marketing. They have therefore decided to spend money on reducing fuel consumption rather than spending lots on lobbyists to get laws weakened....

Quarter of a million people? I'm assuming you're referring to the Fuel consumption versus NOx/particulate argument. I'd like to see your sources on that one.

The type of fuel isn't just the answer: I see so much on this website about new fuel this and new fuel that and spending vast amounts of money (and not necessarily improving the total energy cost ie wells to wheels equivalent) on alternative fuels. Just reducing the average weight of the fleet parc would be start. Not driving around in heavy vehicles is a good start. Weight is fuel economy: look at a graph.

Not having a whole country where everyone stops at every junction is a good start too. How much kinetic energy is lost daily at 4 way stops and traffic lights? Use some roundabouts (traffic circles) where people can coast through with judegement might improve your fuel consumption by saving that wasted KE day in day out at every junction....

Fuel savings are lots of small improvements not just saying right we have to move the whole economy to hydrogen (which is not a primary fuel btw....).

I can't believe that someone said that a 1% reduction was not enough so why bother? At least it's going down rather than up...

Rafael Seidl

Please bear in mind several caveats:

a) The 1% number refers to a single year only. On aggregate, fleet average CO2 emissions of new cars have fallen from 186 g/km to 160 g/km since 1998, a total of 14%.

b) The European carmakers' association (ACEA) agreed to the VOLUNTARY target of 140 g/km for 2008 precisely to avoid heavy-handed regulation of CO2 emissions by the EU commission, which is already talking about a limit of 120 g/km for 2012. If it decides that ACEA has not met its commitment, it may yet issue a legally binding directive.

c) Foreign manufacturers are NOT bound by the voluntary agreement.

d) The voluntary target applies only to revisions of models that were already on the market at the time the commitment was made. Also, more stringent safety regulations have forced carmakers to add weight to their models. Taking these factors into account, the actual fleet average of approx. 160 g/km arguably comes close to meeting the agreed target. The PR problem is that to Joe Average all this finessing looks like a major copout.

e) Much of the reduction achieved since 1998 has come from a shift toward diesel engines even in compact and sub-compact cars. However, new spark ignition engine technologies including affordable fully variable valvetrains, spray-guided gasoline direct injection, advanced super-/turbocharging + downsizing, mild hybridization and dual clutch transmissions are expected to deliver significant further reductions in fleet CO2 emissions. Everything produced in volume ultimately becomes fairly cheap.


Andrey - your number of 250.000 premature deaths due to a lower-than-hoped-for reduction in CO2 emissions is puzzling to say the least. Even if you are referring to the health effects of PM emissions from those vehicles that do not have a particulate filter (yet), the number is still highly questionable.

Now that Europe has very low sulphur diesel fuel, the risk to respiratory population health has substantially decreased and will fall further as particulate filters become more widespread in the European passenger car fleet. Due the more northerly latitudes, NOx is a problem primarily in Southern European cities such as Athens, which has banned diesel engines from entering the city center in summer. Unsurprisingly, there are few diesel cars in Greece.

As for the cancer risk due to diesel PM, recent research has demonstrated that it becomes significant only at concentrations much higher than those found in the real world and then only in rats - not in other lab animals. By now, aggregate tobacco smoke probably represents a substantially higher cancer risk for the general population that diesel exhaust fumes do.


Kyoto was merely a plan to punish modern nations and excuse the pollution of the newly industrialized nations. It isn't going to be succesful.

What good does it do to limit emissions in modern nations only to give incentive for pollution in China and India? (and others).

Any international plan/regulation to reduce pollution needs to be tied to 2 other factors: GDP, and energy consumption. A nation using 25% of the world's energy that produces 30% of the GDP, but only 10% of the polution would be doing far better than say... a nation using 22% of the world's energy, producing 20% of the world's GDP, but creating 25% of the world's pollution.

Further, just Co2 emissions aren't a useful way to track anything... what is the NET co2 gain/loss? For example, if a nation mandated that Co2 replace R134 and some other refrigerants, they may see a net Co2 loss even with high co2 emissions... alternately nations using a lot of ethanol may have high co2 emissions... but the plants scrub more co2 than thier fuel makes being burned...

Such regulation needn't be as short sighted as other regulations, for example automobile saftey. Instead of setting saftey requirments, they set equipment requirments... a passenger car built like an F1 car would be far safer than the average passenger car today, however it wouldn't meet the US federal saftey requirments...

People seem to often prefer to "feel better" about ineffective wellmeaning legislation while shunning more effective less feel-goody legislation.

When solving problems, we have to remember no to knee-jerk, to evaluate what is actually going on, remember the law of unintended consequences, and legislate towards goals, not towards myopic dogma.


I am referring not to fuel efficiency versus PM/NOx emission, but more closely to diesel car loophole in Europe. See, if I reflash on-board computer on my car to ran as lean as detonation and flammability allows, fuel efficiency will improve at least 10% (such software is available for some engines on black market). If I’ll do same trick with gasoline direct injection engine, fuel efficiency will improve another 20% and will approach fuel efficiency of comparable diesel engine. NOx part of cat converter will be disabled and NOx emission will be high (about twice of diesel engine), but HC will be still low and PM almost non-existed. It is illegal and rightfully considered to be a crime. However, diesel powered car which exhaust is much more toxic is not just allowed, but even applauded as environmentally friendly.

P.S. Do not touch 4-way intersections! It is part of American heritage and identity!


You will not find direct scientific data on health effects of diesel cars exhaust in Europe. European scientific elite is too busy saving the planet to bother. However, comprehensive data is available from EPA and CARB papers assessing health effects (premature death from lung cancer and hart attacks, asthma, respiratory diseases, allergies, hospital visits, lost working hours, etc.) of predominantly PM emission from diesel heavy trucks, buses, agricultural and off-road machinery. Detailed estimations are carried out what effect (reduced premature death, etc.) new emission standards will have when enacted. Direct extrapolation to European population and vehicle park lead to astounding 6-zeros yearly casualties, well higher then EU Environment Agency last estimated premature death from all air pollution of 370 000 people a year. I strongly suspect that health effect for Eoropean population is cumulatively higher then for American due to higher percent of smokers. And any way death toll directly attributed to diesel cars is in hundreds of thousands a year. With modern emission control technology in ten years it will be ten times less. Enough for you? For me –not.

Particulate filters: you will have to wait ten years before park of old polluting vehicles will be replaced. People will still die meantime. And anyway the cleanest diesel engine is still ten times dirtier then modern SI engine with three-way catalyst. This is exactly the reason why diesel cars and light trucks are practically (not 100%) becoming prohibited to sale in US, Japan, and eventually Canada.

There is no safe limit for PM10 and especially PM2.5 Any inhaled amount slightly increases probabability of health implications. Multiplied by half billion Europeans, and you get the picture.

I suggest to everyone interested to go to busy intersection of any big European city and take a deep breath. Most impressive would be Roma at summer. And just think for a minute: may be we doing something wrong here?

Almost forgot: spill of diesel fuel on the ground is way more toxic to soil and ground water then gasoline.



So you in fact are talking directly about the trade off between NOx emissions and fuel economy. ie if you run lean you get more fuel econ but worse NOx. Diesels do NOT have a loophole, they have different regulations. I think you need to take a look at the upcoming Stage5 regs. They're a lot tighter. Esp as low sulphur diesel means that lean NOX catalysation can be used. The US has such poor diesel fuel (and is currently doing so little about it) that modern European diesels will not even run on US diesel as they are destroyed by it!)

Oh and the vehicle Parc is refreshed pretty quickly in Europe as all states have in use compliance testing ie no Junker states.

So wasting fuel by stopping at 4ways is part of your heritage is it? That must be worth preserving!


Even if you look at energy use/USD of GDP the US is still midway between Europe and China! Yes really.

So it's not to do with how much GDP you make but how much energy you take to do it. According to OECD figures, the US is pretty poor at that too. Kyoto or not, the US should be, by it's own economic drivers striving to improve efficiency eg cut costs, get lean, all that stuff you always hear from big business but somehow that never makes it from Big Board room Inc to USA Inc. You need to look at how much energy you use /GDP, your argument is correct in that much. What you fail to realise is that you're not very good at that either. Sorry!


It’s an amazingly low amount of CO2; specially considering it is being achieved voluntarily. Europe is bound to loose out on the race for low CO2 emissions on the long run though. European manufacturers are concentrating on making small diesels and there is a limit to what can be achieved this way. This has two problems, diesel technology despite having improved a lot is still arguably dirtier than gasoline technology, also this approach ignores the need for larger vehicles like 4x4s.

Countries like the USA, long term, have an advantage; they are investing much more heavily in hydrogen technology, as well as bio-fuel technology. They are already distributing E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) widely and cars that are able to run on both pure gasoline and E85 are readily available at the same prices as gasoline cars. Plus they have the land to be able to plant crops to distil ethanol.

allen thiher

can you tell me if low quantity sulphur diesel fuel is available in Greece (such as "Alpine diesel" or something of the sort). Is this the same as bio-diesel? Allen Thiher

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