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UK new car average CO2 emissions rise to highest level in five years

Sat 10 November 2018 | Back to news list

The average level of CO2 emissions of new cars sold in September this year was 128.3g/km, the highest recorded since July 2013 according to the latest statistics published by the Department for Transport. The rise has been attributed to a combined shift in buyers preferences from diesel to petrol and towards more SUV and crossover vehicles. There is also an influence from the introduction of new WLTP emissions regulations which calculate CO2 figures based on more representative estimates of on-the-road performance. 

The data, taken from the quoted CO2 emissions of each new car registered in the UK, shows that the average NEDC figure for September reached 128.3g/km. This compares poorly with the lowest monthly figure on record of 119.2g/km, recorded in August 2016. 

According to data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) earlier in the year, average CO2 emissions for new cars registered in 2017 rose to 121.0g/km, up from 120.1g/km in 2016.  

Last year's rise, which marked the end of 20 years of consistent reduction, came after a record low new car average CO2 output was recorded in 2016. The SMMT says the rise is directly linked to the sharp fall in diesel car sales in the UK market in 2017. Diesel car sales have been falling since soon after the 'dieselgate' scandal and policy pressure to cut levels of NOx emissions, implicated with diesel vehicles, which have been shown to impact on human health. The new RDE (real driving emissions) regulations introduced alongside the WLTP have however, already shown a dramatic improvement in the emissions of the latest diesel cars. 

The September introduction of the new WLTP emissions regulations, which are providing more realistic mpg data for motorists has also impacted the reported NEDC CO2 figure, used for taxation. While the mpg figures will be adopted in all labels and adverts form January 2019, full adoption of WLTP CO2 will not occur until April 2020 in conjunction with a revised taxation banding.  The LowCVP is central to the discussion around these changes. 

The average emissions rise comes despite an increase in the number of ultra-low emission vehicles registered, with plug-in hybrids and EVs making up over 3% of the UK’s car market in both August and October.

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