Average CO2 emissions of cars in the UK has grown by 0.7% year-on-year, yet manufacturers face a looming deadline for lower average outputs
Jimi Beckwith
21 December 2017

The average CO2 emissions of new cars on UK roads has grown by 0.8g/km to 121.3g/km in the third quarter of 2017, compared with the same period in 2016. 

The last quarter’s rise in emissions has been put down to the increasingly negative rhetoric regarding diesels since the emissions scandal of late 2015, which has culminated in higher taxes for new diesels, thus putting buyers off diesel cars, which typically have lower CO2 outputs than their petrol counterparts.

Average CO2 figures fell by just under 61g/km between 2000 and 2016, and car makers have an EU deadline for their fleet averages to be 95g/km or below by 2021

This then has to be reduced by a further 30%, to 66g/km, by 2030. This target has been criticised as being too aggressive by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

The stringent new targets, as well as the tax penalties, are designed to accelerate the uptake, both in production and purchase, of low-emissions vehicles such as hybrids and EVs. Despite these being the fastest-growing area of the new car industry, the segment still remains tiny. 

While select manufacturers are beginning their electrification strategies over the coming year, the majority of EV plans will come into full force in 2019, meaning that 2018’s average CO2 figure is likely to follow 2017’s suboptimal lead. 

In the first 11 months of 2017, hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles represented 4.7% of all new car registrations, having grown by 34.6% over the same period in 2016. 

The UK's fleet sector remains below the national average, at 111.6g/km, prompting British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association boss Gerry Keaney to say: “We currently have a poorly designed tax environment that encourages people to make their own arrangements rather than choosing a company car. This is putting older, higher-polluting grey fleet vehicles (employee-owned but used for work) on our roads.

“To this, we can add the demonisation of diesels and continued uncertainty around air quality measures, which are nudging people towards petrol cars. The inevitable result is that CO2 levels are increasing.”

Read more

New UK real-world emissions tests start

EV CO2 emissions fall to record low through green energy sources

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

New WLTP real-world emissions test adds 15% to Volkswagen Up GTI's official CO2 output

The truth about the diesel engine

Our Verdict

Peugeot 308

Peugeot needs its all-new family hatch to be a hit. Is it up to the job?

Join the debate


21 December 2017

Average CO2 will skyrocket once WLTP values start being applied to new cars and we see a truer representation of what our engines actually churn out.

Those that have already started to show WLTP-correlated figures have shown scarily large increases in the numbers.


22 December 2017

The likes of JLR and Volvo with overly-BS claims about electric vehicles are to blame for this. Viewpoint of EU and customers is that you've said you can do it, so why are you now bleating and moaning.  Time to put your money where your mouth is guys!

21 December 2017

SMMT, BLVA et al are putting in a concerted effort at shoring up diesel sales. Autocar, whose agenda are you serving here?

21 December 2017

Or theyre concerned about the greenhouse effect and the threat to life on the planet ?

21 December 2017

Maybe they're just, I don't know, reporting on the facts without an agenda?

21 December 2017

All new petrol cars must to be hiked one VED band from next April.  LOL.

21 December 2017

You cant have it both ways. We know air quality is too low, and something needs to be done. It is, people are buying less of the cars that effect it. Is it really the manufacturers fault that people then choose to buy petrol now? This really isnt news unless you are trying to sell more diesels. The only way manufacturers can change this is to increase the price of petrol cars to put people off. Its hard to see how you can find the makers of the cars at fault when the public are given free choice about what they buy. 

21 December 2017

I guess the air quality in cities wont matter if sea levels have risen so much (due to the increase in CO2) that no one can live in them ? As I ve always said, the answer is retro fitting emissions equipment to older vehicles as we transition to electric, not demonising diesels.

21 December 2017

in December 2020, will manufacturers have to adhere to the EU deadline? Just a thought...

21 December 2017
Hedonist wrote:

in December 2020, will manufacturers have to adhere to the EU deadline? Just a thought...

You think not doing so would be politically desirable?


Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Seat Arona 1.5 TSI EVO FR
    First Drive
    17 January 2018
    Seat is on a roll with the Ateca and Ibiza; can they score a hat trick with the new Arona?
  • Jaguar E-Pace D240
    First Drive
    17 January 2018
    With much riding on the success of the Jaguar E-Pace, we have been impressed with the mid-level diesel version, but now its time for the most powerful oilburner to go under the spotlight
  • Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R
    Car review
    12 January 2018
    Vauxhall bids farewell to its line of Aussie performance legends in some style with the limited edition VXR8 GTS-R
  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio
    Car review
    12 January 2018
    Alfa Romeo’s first SUV aims to hoist the handling panache of the Giulia saloon
  • Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI
    First Drive
    11 January 2018
    Sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo arrives in the UK with a emphasis on safety and refinement. Could that be enough to see it become supermini king?