Growing demand for electric vehicles forces Europe’s C02 emissions down

An increased demand for electric vehicles in 2020 contributed to a 12% fall in Europe’s average CO2 emissions, according to research from JATO Dynamics.

Data collected from 21 countries across Europe found that the volume weighted average CO2 emissions (NEDC) of vehicles registered in 2020 was 106.7 g/km – 12% lower than the average recorded in 2019.

The report attributes the drop in emissions to tougher Government regulations and a shift in consumer attitudes in favour of electric vehicles.

Felipe Munoz, JATO’s global analyst, commented: “Although the industry still needs to do more to meet the European Commission’s’ CO2 targets, manufacturers have demonstrated significant progress with their range and sales in 2020.”

Registrations of pure electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles totalled 1.21 million units last year – 10.6% of the total market. This is an increase from 2019, when volume reached 466,000 units, accounting for just 3.1% of total registrations.

Covid-19 impact

Munoz commented: “In a year when millions of potential buyers were not allowed to leave their homes, it is notable that total average emissions decreased by 15g/km. It signifies a fundamental change to our notion of mobility and a greater appetite for sustainable options.”

According to the research, the effect of the pandemic resulted in many consumers moving away from traditional internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles during lockdowns, instead purchasing low-emissions alternatives. Volume for ICE vehicles fell from 14.7 million units in 2019, to 8.6 million last year – accounting for three in four cars registered in Europe, which had an immediate effect on emissions levels.

European results

Six countries posted average emissions below 100g/km: the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden, France and Finland. This also reflects the ranking for countries with the highest registration of EVs, with Sweden (32%) and the Netherlands (25%) topping the list. Finland, Denmark and Portugal occupied the following positions.

On the other side of the spectrum, the opposite trend can be seen in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland – all of which registered the highest CO2 averages and recorded low levels of EV penetration.

SUV sales

The report also found that SUVs were a key driver of growth last year, easing the fall in sales across traditional hatchbacks, sedans, MPVs and wagons.

In 2020, the volume of SUV registrations accounted for 40% of all passenger cars, and also posted the best results for average reduction to emissions levels.

According to the data, SUV emissions fell by 16.2g/km between 2019 and 2020 – the biggest decrease among the five mega segments analysed (regular cars, MPVs, sport cars, SUVs and vans). The report says this is due to the improved range of PHEV and BEV midsize, and large SUVs now available to consumers.

Munoz continued: “More often than not, SUVs tend to be heavier than hatchbacks and sedans, meaning fuel consumption is higher. That said, they are now the next target on the list for electrification and we will undoubtedly see more progress in the coming months.”

So far, the race for electrification has largely been seen across more traditional models. For instance, the Tesla Model 3, Renault Zoe and Volkswagen ID.3 are Europe’s top selling BEVs. There is still great potential within the SUV market and demand is expected to accelerate at an even greater pace when more electrified models are introduced. Munoz concluded: “After a year of disruption, there are reasons to be positive and manufactures could rapidly offset the decline in sales by focusing on what consumers are looking for at the moment – zero and low emissions SUVs.”

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