Analysis
21 May 18

Van CO2 emissions fall sharply

Fleets and businesses are buying vans with lower emissions of greenhouse gases, according to the European Commission. It announced this week that the average carbon dioxide emissions of new light commercial vehicles enjoyed its highest annual reduction on record in 2017.

New figures from the European Commission reveal that the average CO2 emissions of new vans sold across the European Union fell by 4.7% last year compared to 2016. Smaller, more efficient engines and lighter weights have helped to improve the environmental performance of vans.

The welcome downward movement is in stark contrast to the new car market, where an appetite for heavier SUVs and a growing anti-diesel sentiment saw the average emissions of new cars sold in 2017 rise by 0.4% year-on-year.

In real terms, the average CO2 emissions of new vans fell by 7.7g/km to 156g/km in 2017. This is more than 10% below the official emissions target of 175g/km for 2017.

New targets for OEMs

However, commercial vehicle manufacturers still have a major challenge to meet the EU van emissions target of 147g/km of CO2 by 2020, which is 19% lower than the 2012 average. The target equates to a fuel consumption of about 5.5l/100 km of diesel.

Moreover, last November the Commission set new national targets for 2025 and 2030, calling for van emissions to be respectively 15% and 30% lower than in 2021, when the new and tougher Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) regulations will also be applied.

The Europe-wide figures mask significant local differences in the size, weight and emissions of vans sold, and the overwhelming influence of four countries in the totals – France, Germany, Italy and the UK account for nearly two-thirds (64%) of the 2 million vans sold in the EU last year.

LCV sales

Sales of new light commercial vehicles rose by 3.9% across the EU in 2017, with the biggest increases in registrations recorded by Spain (+15.5%), France (+7.1%) and Germany (+4.9%). Demand for vans declined in two of the continent’s key markets, the United Kingdom (-3.6%) and Italy (-3.4%).

In terms of CO2, Portugal recorded the lowest average emissions per van sold, of just 133.2g/km, closely followed by both Cyprus at 133.4g/km and Bulgaria at 134.9 g CO2/km.

The countries with the highest average emissions per van were the Czech Republic (173.6g/km), Slovakia (170.1g/km) and Germany (169.2g/km).

The figures correlate with the average weight of new vans sold, with Slovakia, Czech Republic and Finland accounting for the highest proportion of larger vans, weighing more than 1.95 tonnes, while Malta, Cyprus and Portugal bought the highest share of light (<1.57 tonnes) vans.

Alternatively-fuelled vans

Diesel powers 96% of van engines in Europe, although sales of electric and plug-in hybrid vans did rise by 32% last year. These alternatively-fuelled vans still have a tiny market share of just 0.8%.

Individual van manufacturers face stiff financial penalties if they fail to achieve the average emissions threshold across all the light commercial vehicles that they sell. This ‘excess emissions premium’ amounts to a fine for each van registered of €5 for for the first excess g/km above the 2017 target, €15 for the second g/km, €25 for the third g/km, and €95 for each subsequent g/km. In every year since the fines were introduced, no manufacturer has been fined. The Commission will not announce until this autumn whether different manufacturers have met their own specific annual targets for 2017.

Authored by: Jonathan Manning