Global Economics

German Cars Lead in CO2 Reductions


European carmakers trimmed average carbon emissions 1.7% last year, but the Germans did far better, with BMW in the lead

Cars sold in Europe last year reduced carbon emissions slightly, with manufacturers managing to achieve an average improvement of 1.7 percent, according to a new report.

Green campaign group Transport & Environment, the authors of the report released on Tuesday (26 August) tracking the progress of Europe's major car manufacturers have made in reducing CO2 emissions, welcomed the reduction.

The group celebrated the fact that the companies had beaten their all-time nadir last year of an improvement in fuel consumption of just 0.7 percent, but warned that such figures showed the firms are still not on track to meet climate targets.

"The lack of progress was, again, explained to a large extent by the lack of progress in cutting weight. In 2007, cars again became 10 kg heavier...Heavier cars use more fuel," reads the study.

In a turnaround of its fortunes however, BMW showed a marked improvement in the fuel consumption of its fleet, with the average new car sold by the German firm in 2007 consuming some 7.3 percent less fuel than in 2006.

Jos Dings, director of the environmental group said: "With the threat of legislation looming, BMW has shown that even premium carmakers can seriously reduce CO2."

"But the slow response of most carmakers shows that the EU needs to keep up the pressure with challenging, long-term CO2 targets."

The group credits BMW's 'Efficient Dynamics' programme with engineering the reductions. The programme introduced a series of fuel-saving measures across the entire range of BMW's models.

German cars gaining

Indeed, the report shows that German carmakers now appear to be gaining on their French and Italian rivals, which traditionally produce much lighter and efficient than German firms.

The change is particularly notable, argues the campaign group as in 2006, emissions from German cars increased on average.

Hyundai and Daimler came in second and third in the rankings of emissions reductions, dropping an average of 3.9 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.

However, the latter's reduction is deceptive, as more than half of Daimler's improvement was a product of the company selling off Chrysler, its heavier, fuel-intensive American wing, instead of coming from enhanced fuel efficiency of its vehicles.

The report criticises both French car makers, Renault and Peugeot, for achieving reductions of less than 1 percent.

American firms Ford and General Motors performed similarly to their French counterparts, while Japanese car companies performed worst of all.

Italy's Fiat came fifth overall, having achieved a reduction of 2 percent.

"It is striking that three of the bottom four carmakers are Japanese: Suzuki, Mazda and Nissan," says the report. "All three did not close the gap sufficiently in 2007 and will have to speed up their efforts."

Legal proposal

In December 2007 the European Commission published a legal proposal to regulate the fuel efficiency of vehicles, with new cars being restricted from emitting, on average, more than 130g of CO2/km by 2012.

The legal proposal has to be approved by the European Parliament and member state governments before becoming law, a process that is expected to end in early 2009.

The European Parliament's Environment Committee is scheduled to vote on the car CO2 law on 8 September.

Transport & Environment, for its part, wants to see a target of 120g/km by 2012, in line with an official EU target first proposed in 1994 by the then German environment minister, Angela Merkel.

The 14-year-old target was supposed to be achieved by 2005 and has been postponed three times—in 1996, 1997 and 2007.

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