Only 5.3% of the EU’s Total Passenger Car Fleet is Powered by Alternative Fuel

Only 5.3% of the EU’s Total Passenger Car Fleet is Powered by Alternative Fuel

Transportation is one of the major sectors that contribute to climate change, as it accounts for 25% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it a necessary area to regulate in order for the EU to reach its 2030 and 2050 emissions goals. Lessening emissions of passenger cars in particular will be pivotal, and both the EU as a collective and individual member countries have been encouraging and incentivizing citizens to switch from petrol and diesel cars to electric cars.

The most recent data regarding the size of the EU’s passenger car fleet comes from 2020 and is detailed in the European Automobile Manufacturers Association’s (ACEA) Vehicles in Use, Europe 2022 report. As of 2020, the EU had 246.3 million cars on the road in total. The average age of these cars was 11.8 years old, with Lithuania and Romania having the oldest passenger car fleets on average (17 years) and Luxembourg having the newest passenger cars (6.7 years). While there has been an increase in the number of passenger cars on the road that use alternative fuel, these cars are still rare compared to cars that are powered by petrol or diesel. Only 5.3% of the EU’s total passenger car fleet is powered by alternative fuel, with only 1.2% of cars being hybrid electric, 0.5% being battery electric, and 0.6% being plug-in hybrids. However, there has been a notable increase in recent years in the EU in the registration of passenger cars that use alternative energy sources. Between 2018-2021, only 40% of all newly registered passenger cars ran on petrol and 19.6% ran on diesel while 18% were electrically chargeable and 19.6% were hybrids. Yet, emissions from newly registered passenger cars that run on petrol and diesel are still an issue. In 2019, average emissions from new passenger cars reached 122.3 g CO2/km, which was significantly above the EU’s 2020-2024 target of 95 g CO2/km.

The EU also continues to export more passenger cars than it imports. In 2021, which is the most recent year with data available, 3,097,550 passenger cars were imported to the EU, with the majority of imports coming from Turkey (14.8%), China (14%), and Japan (13.8%). Conversely, 5.1 million passenger cars were exported from the EU, with the main export destinations being the United Kingdom, the United States, and China.

Interestingly, the EU also exports more hybrid vehicles than it imports. As of 2020, 892,000 electric and hybrid electric cars were exported from the EU while 725,000 were imported, with Japan and the United States being the main countries where imports came from. In 2020, 5.665 million electric and hybrid vehicles total were on the road in the EU. However, this number is expected to increase as electric and hybrid vehicles continue to be registered in higher quantities. Germany and Norway are currently the primary EU countries that have been spearheading this movement; in 2021, over 681,400 electric vehicle sales were recorded in Germany and battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles represented over 86% of new vehicle sales in Norway. By 2026, Statista estimates that there will be 4.4 million electric vehicles sold in EU countries, leading to revenues that surpass $300 billion. The EU is currently aiming to have at least 30 million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2030.

The major regulation that the EU has implemented in order to achieve this goal is delineated in its Fit for 55 packages. Passenger cars are responsible for around 12% of the EU’s CO2 emissions currently and between 2021-2024 the limit of emissions that can come from new cars is set at the aforementioned 95 g CO2/km. By 2030, the EU is aiming to limit this number by 55% (52.25 g CO2/km) and from 2035 onwards it is aiming for all of its new cars to produce zero emissions. As a means to incentivize this shift, the EU currently has a super-credits system in place that rewards those who drive passenger cars with emissions of less than 50 g CO2/km.

Yet, more will need to be done in order for the EU to achieve its goal of increasing the number of zero-emission passenger cars on the road. The continued monitoring of the production and emissions of passenger cars in EU member states will be pivotal, and the ACEA, as well as other organizations, will need to continue to efficiently conglomerate and present data that details how well member states are meeting passenger car emission goals. Currently, the ACEA’s data on passenger car production, emissions, and use is easily accessible and reliable, and new reports are frequently released. However, these reports are only helpful insofar as penalties for non-compliance are enforced, and the EU should ensure that manufacturers are held accountable when their newly registered vehicles exceed outlined passenger car emission limits.

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This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Europe Country Manager Brittany Demogenes


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