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UK New Car CO2 Emissions Drop to 158.0 g/km in 2008

UK average new car CO2 emissions. Source: SMMT. Click to enlarge.

Average CO2 emissions from new cars sold in the UK in 2008 fell to 158.0 g/km in 2008—4.2% less than the 2007 figure and 16.8% down on the 189.8 g/km base level in 1997, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ (SMMT) annual New Car CO2 Report. The drop marks the sharpest annual decline yet. (Using US EPA conversion factors (earlier post), 158 g/km is roughly equivalent to 34.8 mpg US for gasoline and 39.9 mpg US for diesel.)

Although the UK new car fleet has made above-EU15 gains in six of past seven years to 2007, the UK average new car CO2 emissions remains 3.7% above the EU15 average, which reached 158 g/km in 2007, according to the report.

The report calculates that the average CO2 figure for all cars in use in the UK since 1997—i.e., the car parc—is 173.7 g/km. This is 0.9% down from the 175.3 g/km figure average estimated for the 1997-2007 parc. This improvement reflects the arrival into the fleet of lower CO2 emitting cars and the removal of older, less efficient ones.

The parc average CO2 figure is some 10% above the new car average. New cars emit around 15% less emissions than cars from a decade earlier. The SMMT report notes that the slowdown in the overall new car market in 2008/09 is likely to mean a reduction in the pace of fleet renewal, resulting in a slower pace for dropping emissions in the parc. Existing cars will be kept going for longer as consumers try to stretch their resources in a time of economic hardship.

While the number of cars on the road and the distance travelled has increased, their share of total UK emissions continues to fall. Cars now account for 11.5% of the country’s total CO2 emissions, largely as a result of new technology, improved fuel consumption rates and better consumer awareness.

Vehicle parc, VKT and CO2 emissions in the UK. Source: SMMT. Click to enlarge.

CO2 emissions have fallen across all automotive market segments with the larger end of the market making some of the biggest improvements. In addition, increased consumer awareness and changes to vehicle taxation have resulted in a move towards ‘best in class’ choices with most consumers opting to buy a model with CO2 emissions within the bottom quarter of their preferred segment’s range.

The adoption of the new car CO2 regulation in December 2008 set a phase-in target for vehicle manufacturers to ensure their average fleet emissions do not exceed 130 g/km by 2015. In the UK, there are already 236 models emitting less than 130 g/km on the UK market but for the target to be met, an annual improvement of 2.5% per year must be maintained.

Distribution of the new car market by 5 g/km CO2 bands. Source: SMMT. Click to enlarge.

The UK market in general continues to shift towards lower-emitting cars, the SMMT report finds. In 1997, no cars were sold with emissions below 120 g/km. By 2000 that sector still only accounted for 0.1% of the market. It rose to 5.4% by 2007 and doubled in 2008 to 11.0%. In the distribution chart (at right), the peaks have shifted from 171-175 g/km in 1997 down to 136-140 g/km in 2008.

In 2008, 48.7% of the market was 150 g/km or below. This compares with 38.0% in 2007 and 7.8% in 1997. There remains a long tail on the chart, but the proportion of cars over 200 g/km in 2008 was just 7.8% compared with 28.1% in 1997.




This is good news. There are similar efficiency gains to be made in the stationary energy sector


I guess the big drop in 2008 could be explained by high gasoline prices and probably also switch to cheaper cars due to economic problems. But it's nonetheless good to see the clear trend in lower consumption. Who said we couldn't have a mandated fleet average of 120?

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