Carmakers are reeling, electric cars burning as Europe ushers in new carbon law

Most carmakers are reeling under European Union and other pressure to squeeze down how much carbon dioxide their cars produce. But is it working? And is there not a far better solution to limiting how much carbon cars produce everyday?

In 2009, the EU committed to the 2050 Paris climate agreement. That carbon neutral proposal regulated future CO2 emissions of all road transport — in particular that of new cars. From this year, any motor manufacturer selling new cars in Europe has to meet a set upper CO2 limit as an average over its entire fleet. It is based on of 95g CO2 per kilometre, but also considers a few other factors.

It’s how much fuel carS burn that matters

A car’s CO2 emissions are directly proportional to the amount of fuel it burns, based on the carbon content of the kind of fuel used. In other words, for every litre of petrol burned, a car emits 2.33 grams of CO2. Each litre of diesel burned results in 2.64 grams of CO2 emissions. So the proposed 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre corresponds to an average consumption of 3.6 litres Diesel or 4.1 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres.

Each manufacturer however has its own upper CO2 limit. It is determined by the average weight of its entire range of cars. That is calculated versus the 1,372 kg average weight of all cars sold in the EU. And multiplied by a factor of 0.0457. The calculation is made at the beginning of each year, based on the carmaker’s previous year’s EU sales volume.

The EU fines any carmaker that exceeds its average CO2 fleet value an amount of 95 euros per gram exceeded. That is multiplied by the number of vehicles it sold in Europe in that year, at the end of the year.

Analytics company PA Consulting predicts carmakers will on average exceed their CO2 limits by 4.4 grams per kilometre in 2020. That will earn the EU an average penalty of 93 million euros per carmaker.


Manufacturers who sell a larger proportion of heavier cars, benefit a higher average CO2 threshold. It also helps that more exclusive makers sell fewer cars. So Jaguar Land Rover, which has the heaviest fleet in Europe and sells relatively few cars, must meet a range average of 130.6 grams of CO2 per km.

Each manufacturer’s carbon average determined by taking into account its totalnumber of units sold, conversely negatively affects the volume carmakers. Which is why the Volkswagen group faced a lofty 4.5 billion euros fine. Based on its weight-adjusted 12.7 g/km CO2 footprint excess across all its brands. That was based on VW’s midyear CO2 data and its expected EU market-leading four million-odd car sales this year.

The double-zero electric advantage

Carmakers can however reduce their fleet CO2 scores by selling electric cars, which are zero gram per kilometre rated. Each zero rated electric car sold also counts twice toward that carmaker’s CO2 total. That despite the fact that there is over a one in three chance that the EV is being charged by one of Europes 38% fossil fuelled power stations!

Plug-in hybrids that emit less than 50 grams per kilometre are also double CO2 discounted. But their NEDC consumption CO2 value is included in the calculation of that annual average. Which is why carmakers appear to be in such a frenzy to launch and introduce so many new electric cars and hybrids at present.

Volkswagen’s electric car sales are now expected to slash that worrying initial CO2 number by half this year. That and the negative affect of lockdown will likely ease fines all-round. VW is now expected to end up around 7% off its target, at a similar level to Hyundai-Kia.

PSA Peugeot-Citroen-Opel; Volvo, FCA-Tesla and the BMW Group had already met their limit values in July and were looking good to avoid fines.

Renault, Nissan, Toyota, Mazda and Ford were expected to be within two percent of their limits. But Ford has since been forced to stop production and recall several thousand new Kuga hybrids bursting into flame as a result of rushed development. Kuga is one of several cars in trouble despite carmakers having since 2008 to prepare. That has hurt the Motor Company’s plans to reduce its 2020 CO2 footprint.

Daimler and Jaguar-Land Rover remain furthest away from their goals. Latest EU Transport & Environment calculations suggest that Daimler and Ford will suffer draconian CO2 penalties.

Pooling resources to dodge CARBON fines

Several carmakers are now also expected to pool their CO2 balance. In other words, two or more car manufacturers can team up score their fleet CO2 as one. FCA and Tesla, and Mazda and Toyota have already confirmed they will pool their CO2 scores to avoid fines. Ford is actively seeking a pool partner in the wake of its Kuga dilemma.

Another adverse side effect is that price sensitive entry level cars are appear under threat in the EU. The cost of electrifying them is pricing the niche out of context.

But is it working? Is electrification and the CO2 crunch on carmakers having a positive effect? Well, the EU Federal Environment Agency notes that CO2 emissions from car traffic rose by 0.5 percent between 1995 and 2017. But specific emissions fell by around 15 percent as cars became more economical, despite traffic volumes increasing.

Overall new vehicle CO2 emissions in the EU have also fallen. From over 122 g/km CO2 in 2019, to 111 g/km in the first half of 2020. That on the back of electric cars and PHEV sales booming to achieve an 8% market share. Aided by the significant funding programs. That represents the largest decrease since CO2 controls ​​came into force in 2008.

Yes, electric cars are quieter. They may accelerate impressively, are more efficient than combustion engines and they do save CO2. But they still actually do contribute to emissions. Thanks to a lingering high percentage of source power station fossil fuel emissions.

That said, it is broadly taken that electric cars are only here for the transition. Fuel cell cars and hydrogen are expected to become the future norm, while carmakers strive for other green solutions.

Is there a better SOLUTION?

A growing number of pundits however believe that the best way to limit car CO2, is to just drive less.

They say that motorists should limit driving to the bare minimum and car pooling should become compulsory. Drivers should be penalised for driving alone in a car everyday. And investment should rather be made into expanding public transport.

Maybe then, the EU has the cat by the tail? Should Europe rather not be penalising the user than the supplier? Because to force people to drive 50% less would be a far more effective solution to the problem at hand. Whether they’re driving an electric car, a plug in hybrid, or a supercharged petrol V8.

Limiting how much and how far the people can travel in their cars, would likely to deliver far more tangible results than punishing carmakers for selling them the cars to drive as and when they wish… – Michele Lupini

Tagged with: