New Report: Global CO2 vehicle emission reduction measures falter

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Vehicle fuel economy improvements have slowed globally according to GFEI’s latest report, Fuel Economy In Major Car Markets: Technology And Policy Drivers 2005-2017. The slowdown was especially pronounced in advanced economies - 27 countries saw an increase or stagnation in average vehicle CO2 emissions in the two years up to 2017.

The report, which this year for the first time includes an online, interactive country data browser, reviews developments in fuel economy and highlights the changes which have shaped the modern global fleet of light-duty vehicles (LDVs) over a 12 year period. It was authored by the International Energy Agency (IEA), in collaboration with International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), and was funded by the FIA Foundation, through GFEI. 

Overall, global fuel economy has improved by an average of 1.7% per year over the past 12 years, although the rate of improvement has slowed to 1.4% in the past two years.

Improvements in fuel consumption slowed in advanced economies to an average of just 0.2% per year between 2015 and 2017. A total of 27 countries – including Sweden, Canada and the United Kingdom – actually saw the fuel economy of their fleets stagnate or worsen from 2015 to 2017. In advanced economies with fleets which have the worst fuel economy, such as the US and Canada, the average fuel consumption runs between 7.9 and 9 Lge/100 km, while the best (France and Italy) fell to between 5.2 and 6.5 Lge/100 km. There are several reasons for these differences, including fuel prices, and average vehicle size.

In contrast, the improvement of fuel use per kilometre in emerging economies accelerated to 2.3%. China saw new registrations of LDVs increase 17% per year in the period 2005 to 2017 while India saw an increase of 9% and Indonesia 7%. LDV sales in these economies have tripled since 2005 with the biggest rise in China, where sales were seven times higher in 2017 than in 2005.

These slumps in efficiency improvements are particularly concerning within the wider global context. To achieve the type of CO2 emissions reductions desperately needed to curtail rising global temperatures, and realize the aims of the Paris Agreement, fuel economy must be a significant transport priority. GFEI set a target to double fuel economy of LDVs by 2030, which is mirrored by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7.3. To achieve these targets now, annual improvements to the global fleet would have to be around an average of 3.7%, more than triple the improvement rate between 2016 and 2017.

A significant barrier to fuel economy improvements has been the growing market share of sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-ups, whose market share increased by 11 percentage points over the last three years – SUVs now represent nearly 40% of the global LDV market. North America and Australia have a particularly high market share of SUVs, reaching almost 60% in 2017. While all vehicles types saw improvements in their fuel efficiency, the shift in market shares to these larger, less efficient vehicles pulled down average vehicle fuel economy.

Countries with policies to encourage fuel economy through a mix of regulation and efficiency-based purchase incentives saw 60% faster improvements than those without. Higher improvement rates were also seen in markets with higher shares of electrified vehicles (hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric).

The growing gap between tested value and the real driving fuel economy is another issue of concern. Every key vehicle market, with the exception of the US, has shown an increased gap between tested results and real-driving CO2 emissions of more than 10%, diverging to as high as 50%.

Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of the FIA Foundation, said: “We know the environmental challenge we face. Unless countries take serious, concerted action on the CO2 emissions from their vehicle fleets, there will be devastating consequences, and improving vehicle fuel economy is a vital part of that process. Unless policies are introduced which curb the trend towards ever larger, combustion powered vehicles, and promote smarter alternatives, we will continue to fail to make progress towards GFEI’s targets, and our climate will suffer as a result.”

Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, highlighted: “The recent slowdown in average vehicle fuel efficiency improvement of light-duty vehicles is cause for alarm. Improving vehicle fuel efficiency saves money, cuts carbon emissions while also reducing harmful air pollution and boosting energy security. Much more effort will be needed to reverse the slowdown and put the world on track to meeting its energy security and sustainability objectives. The IEA, as a founding member of the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI), stands ready to help drive this process.”

Drew Kodjak, Executive Director of the ICCT, said: "This excellent report highlights not only the slowing pace of improvements in vehicle fuel economy globally, but also the growing divergence between official fuel-economy values from certification tests and real fuel consumption seen by drivers on the road. We need to close that gap, and quickly, through better test procedures and better compliance and enforcement measures, to make the progress we desperately need on our climate goals."


Notes to Editors

For further information and interview requests, please contact Kate Turner, Media Manager of the FIA Foundation, on or +447879893222.