Increased demand for EVs contributed to a 12 per cent fall in CO2 emissions across Europe in 2020.

Six markets recorded emissions averages below 100g/km, SUVs posted the highest average reduction in emissions and electrification continues to drive the fall in CO2 emissions.

That’s the message from JATO Dynamics which collected and analysed data from a total of 21 European countries last year.

Despite COVID demand for electric vehicles increased and CO2 emissions fell further than before.

This drop in CO2 emissions can be attributed to tougher government regulations such as the enforcement of WLTP fuel economy rules and a shift in consumer attitudes in favor of electric vehicles.

JATO’s Felipe Munoz said 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 totaled 1.21 million units last year – 10.6 per cent of the total market.

This is an increase from 2019, when volume totaled 466,000 units, accounting for just 3.1 per cent of registrations.

Focusing on how to bring the automotive market back to full strength, European countries opted to promote a green, sustainable recovery, with some governments creating new purchase incentives within their economic-stimulus packages.

Munoz said this resulted in many consumers moving away from traditional internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles during the pandemic, purchasing low-emissions alternatives instead.

Volume for ICE vehicles fell from 14.7 million units in 2019 to 8.6 million last year.

“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,” Munoz said.

“It signifies a fundamental change to our notion of mobility and a greater appetite for sustainable options.”

With lockdown restrictions imposed across Europe and many governments delivering incentives packages for zero and low emissions cars, manufacturers have made changes to their offering and marketing in order to entice consumers towards electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in electric (PHEV) vehicles.

Six countries posted average emissions below 100g/km: the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden, France and Finland.

Not surprisingly, they’re also the countries with the highest registration of EVs, with Sweden (32 per cent) and The Netherlands (25 per cent) topping the list.

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.

Despite the turbulent economic backdrop, 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 per cent of all passenger cars, but also posted the best results for average reduction to emissions levels.

According to 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.

This is, in part, due to the improved range of PHEV and BEV midsize, and large SUVs now available to consumers.

Despite these achievements, however, SUVs continued to produce greater emissions levels than city cars, subcompacts, compacts, midsize, executive and luxury cars.

On average, an SUV produces 18 per cent more CO2 than traditional cars.

Even the smallest SUVs produce larger average emissions than executive cars.

“More often than not, SUVs tend to be heavier than hatchbacks and sedans, meaning fuel consumption is higher,” Munoz said.

“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 added: “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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Europe catches the electric bug

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.
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