ETC/ATNI Report 15/2019: Factors affecting the CO2 emissions performance of five EU car manufacturers

Since 2010, the year that EEA started collecting data from all EU Member States, the officially reported CO2 tailpipe emissions of new passenger cars, based on laboratory testing, have reduced substantially. The scope of this report is to estimate and assess the most important technologies and strategies contributing to the observed CO2 reduction for selected car manufacturers based on new vehicles registered in the time period 2010 to 2018. These reductions can be attributed to both the overall improvement of vehicle energy efficiency as well as to a change in the mix of vehicle models sold in favour of more efficient powertrains/technologies. In particular, car manufacturers (OEMs) are using a broad spectrum of technologies to improve fuel efficiency for their vehicles in response to EU CO2 targets. In summary, these technologies can be grouped in the following major categories: • Internal combustion engine (ICE) related technologies (e.g. Downsizing/Turbocharging, Direct Injection) • Different degrees of hybridisation/electrification • Transmission technologies • Improved vehicle design and aerodynamics

03 Jun 2020

Nikos Tsalikidis, Giorgos Mellios, Aris Mystakidis, Cinzia Pastorello, Leon Ntziachristos

Prepared by: Nikos Tsalikidis, Giorgos Mellios, Aris Mystakidis (EMISIA SA)

To this aim, five major car manufacturers were separately analysed, all in the top ranks in terms of new vehicle sales in the European market, taking into account aspects such as average yearly reported CO2 trend, total new registrations in the EU area, and the promotion of low or zero carbon vehicles, e.g. plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) or battery electric vehicles (BEV). Furthermore, the average trends regarding their car models with the highest number of registrations in the 2010-2018 time frame, as well as their respective SUV models, were separately analysed.

The primary driving force behind the achieved reductions in CO2 are the improvements in conventional powertrains (incl. hybridisation) and the design of modern cars. Based on estimated results, all OEMs, followed the same general tactics and deployed similar concepts, during the examined time period (2010-2018). A notable example of this is the downsizing of petrol engines, via the use of turbochargers, which was deployed intensely by almost all OEMs, for petrol cars. However, there are also indications of diversification among OEM strategies, such as the promotion of hybridised instead of fully electrified powertrains. Another diversification example is the different unique technological packages and optimizations deployed in popular model variants aiming to further reduce CO2 emissions.

Overall, the downward trend of average CO2 emissions peaks around 2016 and is then gradually followed by a rising trend for most of the selected OEMs. Key factors that could have contributed to this shift are:

  • De-dieselisation effect (especially in the small passenger car category)
  • Slow penetration of new HEV/PHEV/BEV
  • Rising popularity of SUVs and the so-called Crossovers

Such factors can decrease, to a certain extent, the environmental benefits (in terms of CO2 emissions) achieved from efficiency improvement technologies and practices already deployed in cars in recent years.