Consumer Flight from Diesel sees European CO2 Spike

Climate warming CO2 emissions from passenger cars in Europe are the highest in five years as consumers take flight from buying new vehicles with diesel powertrains.

Clean-air lobbyists and the loss of consumer confidence following the Volkswagen ‘Dieselgate’ cheat device scandal has seen a rise in demand for gasoline powertrains that emit greater quantities of the greenhouse gas blamed for accelerating global warming. Research by Jato Dynamics suggests the continent’s CO2 levels recorded last year are back to levels not seen since 2014 despite new regulation designed to curtail this. While diesel engines are being blamed for compromising urban air quality, they are also known to produce considerably less CO2 than equivalent gasoline powertrains.

Jato’s study claimed the average for the 23 European markets totaled 121.8 g/km under the NEDC regime – the third such annual increase in a row. Felipe Munoz, global analyst at JATO Dynamics explained: “As expected, the combination of fewer diesel registrations and more SUVs continued to have an impact on emissions. We don’t anticipate any change to this trend in the mid-term, indeed these results further highlight the industry’s need to adopt EVs at a rapid pace to reach emissions targets.”

Its study says the popularity of SUVs is having a negative impact on the average emission levels, and this is evident in the average CO2 emissions when analyzed by segment. The average CO2 emissions for SUVs was 131.5 g/km, which was higher than emissions posted from city-cars (107.7 g/km), subcompacts (109.2 g/km), compacts (115.3 g/km), midsize (117.9 g/km), and executive cars (131 g/km).

The report said that an increase of EV models contributing positively to CO2 emission levels was more than offset by the move away from diesel vehicles.

However, it should be pointed out the study does not consider the amount of CO2 emissions from fossil fueled powerplants used to produce electricity for EVs, a production mix that varies widely from country to country.

Munoz added: “The average emissions of electrified vehicles, was 63.2 g/km, almost half that produced by diesel and petrol vehicles. The problem arose because EVs only accounted for 6% of total registrations, which is not yet a high enough figure to create a positive change.”

Four of the five major markets in Europe posted higher averages in 2019 than in 2018. Average emissions for Germany, Britain, Italy, and Spain increased, ranging from a rise of 0.8 g/km for Germany to an increase of 3.0 g/km for Italy. France was the only market to see better results, with its average falling from 112.0 g/km in 2018, to 111.1 g/km last year. Despite this positive change, their emission levels were still higher than the averages they recorded in 2016 and 2017. Pure electric cars have a 2% market share in France, this being the highest share among all five major markets.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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