CO2 emissions of cars up second year in row
CO2 emissions from new cars rose sharply in 2019 for the second year in a row. New cars emit an average of 121,2 grams of CO2 per kilometer in Belgium. This brings us back up to the level of 2014.
There are a number of reasons for this negative evolution, such as the switch from diesel to gasoline, and the new official WLTP standard for measuring fuel consumption. Possibly the massive choice of car buyers for SUVs also plays a role.
In recent years, Belgian car buyers have massively switched from diesel to gasoline cars. They emit less nitrogen oxide (NOx), but more CO2. The share of diesel cars fell from more than half in 2016 to 31% last year. The share of gasoline rose to 62% in the same period. With an average emission last year of 127,7 grams per kilometer, gasoline is the most CO2-unfriendly choice.
A second cause is the introduction of the new European emissions test, WLTP, in 2017. This more realistic test cycle increases the CO2 emissions of new cars on paper. According to the automotive federation Febiac, this is an increase of 5 to 10 grams on average.
SUV or not?
Environmental groups see the enormous popularity of the SUV as the third cause for rising emissions. In 2018, one in three Belgian buyers opted for an urban off-road vehicle; last year, that share rose to 39 percent.
“SUVs are heavier and emit up to a fifth more CO2 than a normal car,” says Julia Poliscanova of the European environmental federation, Transport & Environment. “Because sales of SUVs are rising so fast, it’s making itself felt strongly in the figures.”
Votes in the automotive world dispute that. “People who choose an SUV now, used to drive a minivan, which is just as heavy,” says Jean-Marc Ponteville, spokesman for the Belgian Volkswagen importer, D’Ieteren, in the Flemish newspaper De Tijd.
Rising CO2 values pose a major problem for carmakers. As of this year, 95 percent of newly sold cars are allowed to emit 95 grams per kilometer on average. Car builders who fail to meet that target risk hefty fines.
From this year on, electric and hybrid cars will have an increased impact on the calculation of CO2 emissions. That’s why manufacturers want to sell considerably more electric cars. Last year, they accounted for only 1,6 percent of the market.