Emissions alarm in Europe: CO2 Readings Going The Wrong Way

Europe is haunted by the specter of automotive emissions… again.

byBertel Schmitt|
Car Tech photo

European carmakers are facing an emissions crisis. A year before OEMs must meet stringent CO2 targets in Europe, average CO2 emissions are going up, not down. Across Europe, CO2 emissions have risen to the highest average since 2014, says an analysis of UK automotive data house JATO. Next year, new EU regulations begin to demand a fleet average of 95 grams per kilometer if OEMs want to avoid painful payments. At the same time, cars are moving away from that target. 

At the end of 2018, new automobiles sold in Europe produced 120.5 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, up from 117.8 grams two years earlier. “If this trend continues and the adoption of alternative fueled vehicles doesn’t accelerate, the industry will need to take more drastic measures in order to meet the short-term targets,” said JATO analyst Felipe Munoz.


The negative emissions trend is driven by a triad of bad. Dieselgate brought a sharp downturn of lower CO2 diesel cars, customers increasingly choose bigger bore SUVs, and a still tepid uptake of pure electric cars is unable to move the needle in direction of the new emission targets. 

That alternatively powered cars can make a difference is shown in Norway, the Netherlands, and Finland, the only three EU countries where the CO2 average went down, instead of up elsewhere. In Norway, electric and hybrid cars have a 57% market share. In the Netherlands, demand for alternative fuel vehicles was up 74%, while in Finland, registrations of plug-in vehicles rose 86%.

The worst performance was seen in the UK, which has carried out one of the most aggressive campaigns against diesel without a correspondent push for alternative fuel vehicles.


The best-performing car brand in Europe is Toyota with an average of 99.9 g/km. Last year, 60% of its EU registrations were hybrid cars. Nissan saw the most improvement thanks to the strong performance of the Leaf, which became Europe’s top-selling electric car in 2018. However, its top sellers (mostly SUVs) keep dragging Nissan down to 110.6 g/km. At the bottom of the list is Mercedes with 139.6 g/km.

Says JATO’s Munoz: “The increase in CO2 is certainly worrying and bad news for governments and most carmakers. Instead of moving forwards, the industry is regressing.”