Modern Cars Worse Polluters Than Older Ones

New cars are producing more global warming emissions than older ones because they are growing too big and are loaded with technology.

That’s the suggest made following a study by the UK’s Which? consumer watchdog magazine claiming the automotive industry is actively fighting against tackling the perceived climate crisis. Its study said despite reaching every tightening emission standards, new models has grown so big and heavy compared to older models pushing up the industry’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

The Guardian newspaper reports the watchdog found that the latest generation of cars produced 7% more emissions than those manufactured to earlier standards, testing of 292 models released in the UK since 2017 found. Currently, according to government figures, vehicles are responsible for account for just over 18% of the country’s emissions at a time when the government aims for the UK’s carbon emissions to reach net zero by 2050.

Lisa Barber, editor of Which? magazine, said: “It is shocking to see our tests uncover increasing levels of carbon dioxide emissions for the latest cars that are being built and sold to UK consumers. Manufacturers must ensure that they are doing everything in their power to create cleaner vehicles that are fitter for our planet and its future.”

Overall, cars that met the latest emissions Euro 6d and Euro 6d-temp regulations produced 162.1g/km, 10.5g/km more than those in the previous Euro 6 generation limits. That was considerably more than the 95g/km target carmakers must meet across all European Union sales in order to avoid steep fines.

Carmakers are pushing electrified powertrains, including hybrid, mild hybrid and PHEV, in a bid to cut emissions yet these are being offset by the sheer size of the cars being manufactured. Indeed, emissions rose fastest in the hybrid segment, up by 31% between generations, in part because of the weight of two different power sources. The analysis also found that carbon emissions were rising across every segment of the car market as manufacturers packed more technology into their cars.

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


  1. Avatar OTPW 2nd March 2020 @ 4:04 pm

    You forgot to mention this part of the article, “Our tests have also discovered that the latest emission standards have done a fantastic job of reducing human-harming air pollution. Compared to cars that meet slightly older emission standards, we’ve seen an 84% fall in NOx (oxides of nitrogen) and CO (carbon monoxide). NOx, along with particulate matter (PM), is thought to be responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths here in the UK every year.

    Read more: – Which?”

  2. Avatar Chuck Parker 2nd March 2020 @ 5:14 pm

    The Editorial Team at Automotive Information Network in the U.S. is alarmed, alert, and even anxious about the emissions and environmental impact of new vehicles. Let us know how, where, and what resources we can mobilize and publish to support TU and Which?

  3. TU-Editor TU-Editor 2nd March 2020 @ 5:27 pm

    It’s worth bearing in mind that the term ‘polluting’ is specifically aimed at global warming issues and not clean air issues as pointed out by Which?’s comments.

    • Avatar Autonomous Tim 2nd March 2020 @ 7:49 pm

      Then I believe you may be stretching journalistic licence here, Paul. In terms of air quality, polluted is the opposite of clean, not the opposite of “doesn’t cause global warming”.

      • TU-Editor TU-Editor 3rd March 2020 @ 9:42 am

        Well, Tim, I think the terminology is appropriate because whether the tailpipes are emitting CO2 accelerating, we are told, global warming or NOx and particulates killing urban residents, they are both polluting the environment.
        The conundrum, however, is that while diesel powertrains are best for alleviating the former and worst for exacerbating the latter, the exact reverse is true for battery electric vehicles. That’s taking into account that the vast bulk of the planet’s electric energy production comes from burning fossil fuels to meet the demand of our digital lives when, very often, burning them in the modern internal combustion engine is cleaner and more efficient.
        I believe we have to be wary of rushing headlong into technologies that could have the opposite outcome of what we are trying to achieve.

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