Currently reading: New car CO2 emissions hit highest point since 2013
Department for Transport data reveals average CO2 emissions of new cars sold reached 128g/km in September, with diesel decline blamed
3 mins read
8 November 2018

The average CO2 emissions of new cars has reached the highest point since July 2013, data from the Department of Transport reveals.

The data, taken from the quoted CO2 emissions of each new car registered in the UK, shows that the average figure for September reached 128.3g/km. This reflects starkly with the lowest figure on record of 119.2g/km, recorded in August 2016.

The rise has been attributed to the sharp decline in diesel sales in the UK, which fell by 31% across last year. Buyers have been switching to petrol models, which generally emit higher levels of CO2 than their diesel counterparts.

Further blame can be attributed to the new WLTP emissions regulations, which are gradually forcing many car makers to increase the published CO2 figures for their vehicles.

It’s especially significant given that the market's new cars are, on average, 12.6% more efficient than their predecessors, according to the SMMT. It also comes despite an increase in the number of ultra-low-emission vehicles registered, with plug-in hybrids and EVs making up over 3% of the UK’s car market.

Previous figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed that average CO2 emissions for new cars registered in 2017 rose to 121.0g/km, up from 120.1g/km in 2016. 

The rise, which marked the end of 20 years of consistent decline and came after a record low CO2 output was recorded in 2016, is directly linked to the collapse in diesel sales in the UK market in 2017. EU law makers recently voted for car manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions from current levels by 40% by 2030, which is looking increasingly difficult to achieve.

Diesel deaths - complete list of 2018's axed models

Government legislation is blamed by SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes, who said: “The industry shares government’s vision of a low-carbon future and is investing to get us there – but we can’t do it overnight; nor can we do it alone.


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“The anti-diesel agenda has set back progress on climate change, while electric vehicle demand remains disappointingly low amid consumer concerns around charging infrastructure availability and affordability.”

Last year, the government dealt a double blow to diesel, announcing that all-new non-electrified petrol and diesel car sales will be halted from 2040 onwards before confirming a tax hike for diesel cars in the autumn budget.

This anti-diesel legislation and the messages that accompanied them prompted a fall in consumer confidence. The knock-on effect has seen manufacturers begin to withdraw diesels from their line-ups. Recently, Porsche stopped production of its current diesel models, and Fiat Chrysler revealed intentions to abandon diesel altogether by 2022.

Despite rapid growth in EV and hybrid car demand, total volume for the segment was still far too small to offset the drop in diesel demand. Demand for plug-in vehicles rose by 34.8% last year, yet zero-emission pure-electric car sales still accounted for just 13,500 vehicles – a tiny proportion of the 2.5 million total car sales across the year.

Hawes said this illustrated the need for further investment in cleaner combustion engine technology. He cited business fleets, which were previously seen as the biggest demand for diesel cars, as relevant places for diesel to still exist in large numbers.

“To accelerate fleet renewal, motorists must have the confidence to invest in the cleanest cars for their needs – however they are powered,” he said. “A consistent approach to incentives and tax and greater investment in charging infrastructure will be critical.

“Now, more than ever, we need a strategy that allows manufacturers time to invest, innovate and sell competitively, and which gives consumers every incentive to adapt.”

Read more

UK car CO2 emissions hit all-time low

New car sales fall 5.7% in 2017

New UK real-world emissions tests introduced

EV CO2 emissions fall to record low through green energy sources

CO2 reduction targets 'overly aggressive', says European car industry

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27 February 2018

The Jaguar I-Pace and Audi E-tron? I mean, i get what you mean, theoretically anyone will be able to buy one, but do you really think those cars will make any change whatsoever in emissions? 


And besides, there are actual mass market EV cars on sale right now ( Zoe, Leaf, Golf ). Those didn't really help, did they?

8 November 2018
But it might also have something to do with everybody now buying tall heavy wagons instead of hatches and saloons.


27 February 2018

...autocar and the smmt aren't blaming brexit.

27 February 2018

i know what you mean, but how about some proof reading? and now to the story; how can this be a surprise? don't get diesels, diesels are bad, get petrols. petrols produce more co2, so co2 goes up. seriously, what else was going to happen? it would be nice to see some figures on how electric is playing in all of this.

27 February 2018

This is a bit of a lie from the SMMT because  people  buying large SUV's has been the main cause. 

Buying  less cars will also lower  overall CO2 because  the manufacturing of cars creates CO2.    

27 February 2018
Mjrich wrote:

This is a bit of a lie from the SMMT because  people  buying large SUV's has been the main cause. 

Buying  less cars will also lower  overall CO2 because  the manufacturing of cars creates CO2.    


Both those statments are factually incorrect. 

27 February 2018

Because they are talking about the industry average, not actual amounts Happily in the real world CO2 emissions will have declined slightly because the adverse effect of switching from diesel to petrol will have been more than offset by the overall reduction in car sales. Then again, more new cars will have been registered than old ones scrapped, so who knows? Maybe it would be better to just look at the data for fuel sold, then we’d really know what was going on...

27 February 2018

Nobody ever said the transition from Fossil to EV was going to be smooth or easy, maybe starting with the logistics company’s, getting more EV powered delivery vehicles under say 5 tons, all Buses, Taxis in Cities to be EV..?, it’s not an overnight thing, it could take a few years, but, we’ve got to start somewhere....

27 February 2018

Except that manufacturing just one car battery , emits around 17.5 tonnes of CO2 (Swedish Research) before the rest of the car is created! Then of course Germany creates much of its electricity in power stations burning Lignite ( very dirty soft coal) ... and is building more! The pollution from those then comes north for us in UK to breath! Electricity of course emits radiation in the form of EMF! As a now retired automotive engineer I would suggest a 'safe ' limit in the case of brief exposure of around 10 milligauss! Now the back seat of a Pius was measured at 91 Mg ... and you are in that 'vehicle' for potentially long periods( my mad brother has run such cars since inception and does around 60K a year .. has advanced prostate cancer! Then of course the fire risk as demonstrated by Hammond ... I for one have seen enough cancer and will never drive or travel in an electric vehicle!

27 February 2018
According to the Swedish Environment Institute, battery manufacture releases 150-200 kg of CO2 per KWhr. The Prius liftback battery is about 1.3 KWhr, so its manufacture released under 260 kg of CO2. ADAC measured Prius operating CO2 to be 114 g/km. Therefore, after only 2280 km, tailpipe emissions exceed those of battery manufacture. Prius CO2 savings over a conventional petrol or diesel car are real and very significant over the 400000+ km vehicle lifetime. Since it has no plug, power grid emissions are not increased. If the demise of dirty diesel has caused an increase in CO2, it is because manufacturers and buyers have been slow to embrace hybrids.


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