Rise of the SUV is pushing up CO2 emissions despite tough new targets

New car CO2 emissions are rising, despite strict new targets set to come into force at the end of this year, with SUVs blamed for the reversal in progress.

According to vehicle statistics groups JATO Dynamics, new car CO2 emissions in 2019 hit their highest levels since 2014, reflecting a pattern of rising emissions. 2019’s average of 121.8g/km was the highest in five years but continued a steady increase which began in 2015, after eight years of decline.

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While the European average increased 1.3 per cent, in the UK, it rose 2.3 per cent to 125.1g/km.

SUVs accounted for almost 40 per cent of all new car registrations across Europe, nearly twice what it was in 2015, with their growing popularity blamed for the reversal in progress on CO2 emissions.

(Photo: Shutterstock)(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Felix Munoz, global analyst at JATO Dynamics, said: “SUVs are useful for helping increase sales and profitability for OEMs, but they are pushing them further away from meeting emissions targets, due to their size and weight.”

The average CO2 emissions of the SUV segment in 2019 was 131.5g/km but from the end of 2020, all car makers will have to ensure the average CO2 emissions of their range is no more than 95g/km. Failure to do so will see them fined 95 euro for every 1g/km they are over that limit, multiplied by the number of cars they sell. Despite the UK leaving the EU, it is following the same strategy to try to force down new car emissions.

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That means brands with big-selling SUVs face a struggle to bring down their fleet emissions or face  financial penalties running into billions of pounds.

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Mr Munoz added: ”Many OEMs are facing a tough decision – sacrifice sales from SUVs or risk not meeting the target.

“One thing is for certain – with regulatory deadlines around the corner, brands are likely to think twice before launching more SUVs, especially given that any profits they make could easily be depleted by rising penalties.”

The rise in CO2 emissions has also been partly attributed to the decline of diesel. Diesel engines typically produce less CO2 than an equivalent petrol but following the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal, diesel registrations have collapsed in the UK and Europe.

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Mr Munoz said the pattern was likely to continue unless manufacturers quickly switch to greater production of electric cars. He said “As expected, the combination of fewer diesel registrations and more SUVs continued to have an impact on emissions. We don’t anticipate any change to this trend in the mid-term, indeed these results further highlight the industry’s need to adopt EVs at a rapid pace to reach emissions targets.”

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