Average new car CO2
emissions have fallen to a new low of 120.1g/km with fleets leading the way,
according to latest data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and
The figures reveal that average
new car CO2 emissions fell for the 19th consecutive
year. The ‘SMMT New Car CO2 Report 2017’ highlights that the 2016 figure beat the
previous year’s record by 1.1% and 2000 levels by more than a third (33.6%).
Average CO2 emissions for
fleet sector new cars fell 1.3% to 118.3g/km last year (2015: 119.8g/km), which
compares with 175.4g/km in 2000. Average emissions of new cars registered to
private customers last year were 122.3g/km and those for businesses (sub-25
fleets) were 119g/km.
Average new van CO2
emissions, meanwhile, fell 1.9% to a new low of 173.7g/km, ahead of the
2017 deadline for the pan-European target of 175g/km.
The reduction was thanks to
billions of pounds worth of investment in new advanced engine, fuel and battery
technology, as well as increasing use of lightweight materials such as
aluminium and composites, said the SMMT.
The growing alternatively
fuelled vehicle market and the shift of consumers towards diesel cars, which
emit on average 20% lower CO2 than petrol equivalents, was also critical
to the emissions reduction.
The industry had achieved
tremendous gains, but changes in consumer buying behaviour away from diesel in
2016 caused the rate of progress to slow, said the SMMT. UK motorists
registered a record number of diesel cars in 2016, but market share for the
fuel type fell by 0.8 percentage points.
Although the UK now has
Europe’s largest market for zero emission capable cars, accounting for almost a
quarter (23.8%) of European Union electric and plug-in hybrid registrations in
2016, the growth in alternatively fuelled vehicle demand slowed, from 40.3% in
2015 to 22.2% last year. Furthermore, the preference for sports utility
vehicles over smaller cars continued to make progress on CO2 reduction much
harder, according to the SMMT.
If these trends continue,
the UK’s contribution towards the European Union target of 95g/km average CO2
in 2021 would become tougher, requiring a 20.9% cut in emissions over the
next five years, or 4.6% per year.
Of great concern, said the
SMMT, was the current anti-diesel agenda, which failed to distinguish between
old models and the latest cleaner vehicles on sale and which could have a
negative effect on future CO2 reduction progress.
There are also fears that
changes to Vehicle Excise Duty from April 1, 2017 could have a further negative
Under the new system, two
thirds (66%) of the alternatively fuelled vehicles currently on the £0 standard
rate will be subject to an annual flat charge of £130, in addition to varying
levels of first year tax.
Meanwhile, a £310 surcharge
for five years for cars with a showroom price of £40,000 could affect demand
for some of the lowest emitting vehicles - which were invariably more expensive
than conventional technologies, said the SMMT.
As a result, the
organisation warned, take up of innovative technology such as hydrogen fuel
cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles could suffer.
Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The
automotive industry has some of the most challenging CO2 reduction targets
of any sector and continues to deliver reductions as it has for nearly two
“For this positive trend to
continue, modern low emission diesels and alternatively fuelled vehicles such
as plug-ins, hydrogen and hybrids must be encouraged with long term incentives.
Turning our back on any of these will undermine progress on CO2 targets as
well as air quality objectives. The UK has a successful track record in
encouraging these new technologies but this must be maintained through a
consistent approach to fiscal and other incentives.”
The British Vehicle Rental and
Leasing Association (BVRLA) welcomed the report and chief executive Gerry
Keaney said: “More people are choosing to lease their cars, because it provides
affordable access to a newer, cleaner, safer vehicle.
“We are proud that BVRLA members
are leading the way when it comes to reducing emissions - the average leased
car added to a member’s fleet in 2016 emitted just 110.8g/km CO2, 7.7% less
than the average new car sold in 2016.”
But, he warned: “This trend of
falling CO2 emissions could be about to end as the government goes in search of
greater tax revenues, particularly from company car drivers.
“Policymakers need to
recognise that motoring and business car taxation is more than just a revenue
stream. It can provide a powerful incentive for people and businesses to choose
low-emission cars. With poorly designed tax incentives, the government could be
putting the brakes on sales of low-emissions cars.”