The road to European automakers’ 2025 CO2 targets

The automotive industry in Europe is on a transformative journey, underpinned by stringent regulatory frameworks aimed at reducing carbon emissions. The European Union's CO2 regulations for new cars are pivotal in this shift, setting ambitious targets that car manufacturers, or Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), must meet. A recent analysis by Transport & Environment provides a critical overview of where these carmakers stand in relation to the upcoming 2025 targets based on their performance in 2023.
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Source: Transport & Environment

The EU has progressively tightened CO2 emission standards, with a significant reduction of 28% in emissions from new cars since 2019. The current target for 2021-2024 is set at 115 grams of CO2 per kilometre (gCO2/km), adjusted from the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) to the more rigorous Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP). By 2025, the stakes are higher, with the target further reduced to 93.6 gCO2/km, marking a 15% decrease from the 2021 baseline of 110.1 gCO2/km.

These targets are tailored for each carmaker through a mass adjustment formula, which provides some leeway for manufacturers of heavier vehicles. However, the adjustment parameters have been revised to reflect 2021 market realities, generally imposing stricter constraints.

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) reveals that average emissions within the European Economic Area (EEA) have dipped to 107 gCO2/km in 2023. Among the frontrunners, Volvo Cars has excelled with an impressive average of just 66 gCO2/km. In contrast, giants like Volkswagen and Ford are trailing with averages of 118 gCO2/km and above, exposing them to potential hefty fines if the trajectory remains unchanged by 2025.

The fines are substantial, set at €95 for each gram over the target per car sold, reminiscent of the penalties that loomed over the industry back in 2020. Despite dire predictions then, a surge in electric vehicle (EV) sales helped most carmakers dodge these sanctions.

The divergent paths highlight a broader issue within the industry—while some carmakers have embraced the shift to low-emission technologies, others have lagged, often constrained by their strategic choices to focus on larger, more lucrative electric models at the expense of launching affordable alternatives. This strategy may have to pivot significantly as regulatory pressures mount.

Looking ahead to 2025, the need for a more robust portfolio of accessible electric vehicles is clear. Carmakers must not only expand their offerings but also enhance the technological and cost efficiency of their fleets to meet these stringent targets.

As the 2025 deadline approaches, European car manufacturers face a critical period of adjustment. The progress made by some indicates that meeting the EU’s ambitious CO2 targets is well within reach with concerted effort and strategic alignment. However, for those trailing behind, the next two years will be pivotal. The industry’s ability to adapt will not only shape their financial health, given the potential fines, but also determine their competitive edge in an increasingly eco-conscious market.

Source: Carmakers’ progress toward the 2025 car CO2 targets | Transport & Environment

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