On October 16th, the European Parliament will debate the necessity and feasibility of reducing the average CO2 emissions of new cars registered in the EU to 130g/km by 2012. Some car manufacturers are claiming that this is an unrealistic target and are calling for more time, but a report by car industry expert Dr Paul Nieuwenhuis from Cardiff University claims that these targets are achievable.
The report maps out a strategy for compliance, but highlights that the trend towards heavier and higher performance vehicles at the luxury end of the market is a key stumbling block. Dr Nieuwenhuis points out that in order to make these vehicles compliant a great deal of expensive re-design would have to take place. Hybrid technology and alternative fuels alone would not be enough; weight reduction would be needed to reduce CO2 emissions to the required levels.
The impact of weight reduction strategies could split the market between vehicles very similar to those available today emitting below 130 g/km, available at price levels similar to today’s, and a new breed of larger vehicles using lightweight technology, which would be more expensive than their equivalents today.
“The net result could be a decline in sales of some of these vehicles within EU markets. Alternatively, we could see an emergence of smaller, lighter specialist cars, luxury cars, SUVs and MPVs.” Said Dr Nieuwenhuis.
The report also highlights clear advantages to such developments; “Reduced running costs due to greater fuel efficiency are an obvious benefit, but there are others” explains Dr Nieuwenhuis. “Large luxury cars tend to lose value quickly compared with small hatchbacks, for example. This is due to the fact that used car buyers tend to be less affluent, thus less able to afford the high running costs of heavy cars. If luxury cars were smaller and lighter, their appeal to the used market would rise, thus boosting residual values. This would impact on the overall lifecycle costs of luxury cars, making them generally more economically competitive. Not only would customers benefit, but so would manufacturers as higher residual values would boost their brand image.”
Dr Nieuwenhuis recommends that some of the industry’s concerns could be addressed by means of a gradual roll-out of the 130g/km limit, based on the logic that the climate system is affected by total volumes of CO2, not industry averages. He suggests that in the first phase, the limit could apply to vehicles produced in volumes of over 200,000/year. In the next phases this limit could be reduced to 100,000 a year.
The report, Car CO2 Reduction Feasibility Assessment; is 130 g/km possible? Is available for download in PDF format from