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New report finds global CO2 vehicle emission reduction measures falter; dropping diesels, increasing SUVs

Vehicle fuel economy improvements have slowed globally, according to the latest report from the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI): Fuel Economy In Major Car Markets: Technology And Policy Drivers 2005-2017.


Average new LDV fuel economy (liters gasoline equivalent per 100 km (Lge/100 km) by country or region (2005-17) and new registrations (2017). Source: GFEI.

The slowdown was especially pronounced in advanced economies; 27 countries saw an increase or stagnation in average vehicle CO2 emissions in the two years up to 2017.

The report, which this year for the first time includes an online, interactive country data browser, reviews developments in fuel economy and highlights the changes which have shaped the modern global fleet of light-duty vehicles (LDVs) over a 12-year period. It was authored by the International Energy Agency (IEA), in collaboration with International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), and was funded by the FIA Foundation, through GFEI.

Overall, global fuel economy has improved by an average of 1.7% per year over the past 12 years, although the rate of improvement has slowed to 1.4% in the past two years.

Improvements in fuel consumption slowed in advanced economies to an average of just 0.2% per year between 2015 and 2017. A total of 27 countries—including Sweden, Canada and the United Kingdom—saw the fuel economy of their fleets stagnate or worsen from 2015 to 2017.

In advanced economies with fleets which have the worst fuel economy, such as the US and Canada, the average fuel consumption runs between 7.9 and 9 Lge/100 km, while the best (France and Italy) fell to between 5.2 and 6.5 Lge/100 km. There are several reasons for these differences, including fuel prices, and average vehicle size.

In contrast, the improvement of fuel use per kilometer in emerging economies accelerated to 2.3%. China saw new registrations of LDVs increase 17% per year in the period 2005 to 2017 while India saw an increase of 9% and Indonesia 7%. LDV sales in these economies have tripled since 2005 with the biggest rise in China, where sales were seven times higher in 2017 than in 2005.

These slumps in efficiency improvements are particularly concerning within the wider global context, GFEI noted. GFEI set a target to double fuel economy of LDVs by 2030, which is mirrored by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7.3. To achieve these targets now, annual improvements to the global fleet would have to be around an average of 3.7%—more than triple the improvement rate between 2016 and 2017.

A key driver of the recent developments of the average fuel consumption include the rapid decline of diesel sales in several major vehicle markets, most notably in Europe. Since 2015, diesel shares have fallen by 5-15 percentage points in the largest EU markets, a change that was not sufficiently counterbalanced by the 1-3 percentage point growth of electrified LDVs to maintain efficiency improvements over gasoline vehicles.


Dieselization rate and average fuel consumption trends in selected countries, 2014-17. Source: GFEI.

The electrification of LDVs is going to be crucial to ensure that fuel economy can be effectively improved, especially if diesel shares keep falling. Electrified vehicles are already contributing positively to improve the country-weighted average fuel consumption by up to 3.5%. Japan experienced the largest gains due having to the largest market share globally for hybrids, followed by the United States with a mix of electrified vehicle types (HEV, BEV and PHEV). Electrification in China was also very relevant to improve the average fuel economy, thanks to a fast-growing market share for BEVs and PHEVs. Countries that currently have high average fuel consumption values (which typically go hand-in-hand with high shares of large and heavy vehicles) can benefit the most from electrification since electrified vehicle efficiency is less dependent on size and weight.

—“Fuel Economy In Major Car Markets: Technology And Policy Drivers 2005-2017”

Another significant barrier to fuel economy improvements has been the growing market share of sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-ups, the market share of which increased by 11 percentage points over the last three years. SUVs now represent nearly 40% of the global LDV market. North America and Australia have a particularly high market share of SUVs, reaching almost 60% in 2017.

While all vehicles types saw improvements in their fuel efficiency, the shift in market shares to these larger, less efficient vehicles pulled down average vehicle fuel economy.


Global average market share per vehicle segment and average fuel consumption per segment, 2014-17. Source: GFEI.

Countries with policies to encourage fuel economy through a mix of regulation and efficiency-based purchase incentives saw 60% faster improvements than those without. Higher improvement rates were also seen in markets with higher shares of electrified vehicles (hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric).

The growing gap between tested value and the real driving fuel economy is another issue of concern. Every key vehicle market, with the exception of the US, has shown an increased gap between tested results and real-driving CO2 emissions of more than 10%, diverging to as high as 50%.

This excellent report highlights not only the slowing pace of improvements in vehicle fuel economy globally, but also the growing divergence between official fuel-economy values from certification tests and real fuel consumption seen by drivers on the road. We need to close that gap, and quickly, through better test procedures and better compliance and enforcement measures, to make the progress we desperately need on our climate goals.

—Drew Kodjak, Executive Director of the ICCT



It is a pity people are switching from cars to SUVs as they use more fuel, but if this is what people want ....
Also, it is a shame that people are giving up on diesel now that the problem is fixed. Once the companies found that their cheating game was up, they engineered their way out of it (as some had always done).
I suppose they will hybridize petrol cars more and more until they end up with mostly BEVs.
I personally think that a medium sized battery BEV with a range extender / generator is the way to go as you can size the battery for median, rather than maximum range.
Also, you have to watch the metric used to calculate mpg, it is very variable. Only the US seems to be doing it right.


Yes mahonj, the best of both worlds (for now) may be PHEVs with small fuel cells as range extenders instead of fossil fuel polluting ICE generators.

Mass produced FCs and H2 tanks are becoming cheaper every month and so will be clean H2.

Secondly, PHEVs with FC and H2 tank can make an excellent safe low noise back-up power source, using a low cost reversible home charger. People with very large homes could install an extra fixed H2 tanks, if required.

Jarko Johnson

People gave up on diesel because VW cheated and made it look like the problem was solved. It wasn't. Otherwise VW wouldn't be going all in on EVs now.
So it seems we're trading a bit of CO2 emissions, which affects us in the future, for better air quality now (PM, NOx). Tradeoffs...

Also, many companies cheated , esp. on european and japanese fuel economy testing and got busted in the past few years.
Did they correct for the cheating that was presumably prevalent around 2010-2015? Since the 2017 number are presumably more realistic, would that change the conclusions of this report a little?


SUVs weigh more, lower fuel mileage in town.
SUVs have more air drag, lower fuel mileage on the highway.


SUVs weigh more, lower fuel mileage in town.
SUVs have more air drag, lower fuel mileage on the highway.


People discovered station wagons in the fifties...those have morphed into SUVs in today's age. It's all about inside space and utility. Today's pickups are four/five place passenger cars with a bed...makes sense for one car they need to be electrified.


Mean while we still import half our oil and much of that from OPEC more than 40 years after the oil embargoes.
We never seem to learn our lessons.

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