In a wake-up call to the European Union, a recent report from the European Court of Auditors reveals that the majority of passenger cars within the EU emit a carbon footprint identical to that of 12 years ago. The warning sounded on Wednesday emphasized the need for the 27-nation bloc to kick things into high gear, emphasizing the importance of transitioning to a zero-emissions car fleet, with electric vehicles emerging as pivotal players in this transformative journey.
The Uphill Battle: Heavy Vehicles and Powerful Engines Offset Efficiency Gains
Led by Pietro Russo, a member of the European Court of Auditors, the audit emphasized that achieving the EU’s green revolution requires a significant reduction in polluting vehicles. However, Russo acknowledged the enormity of the challenge, stating, “A true and tangible reduction in cars’ CO2 emissions will not occur as long as the combustion engine prevails, but at the same time, electrifying the EU’s car fleet is a major undertaking.”
According to the auditors’ findings, despite a decade of technological progress in engine efficiency, real emissions from conventional cars, constituting nearly three-quarters of new vehicle registrations, have not seen a decline. The report notes that emissions have remained constant for diesel cars, while petrol cars have only marginally decreased (-4.6%). This lack of progress is attributed to increased vehicle mass (approximately +10% on average) and more powerful engines (+25% on average).
The EU has set an ambitious target of achieving zero-emissions for new passenger cars by 2035. However, the auditors stress the urgency of addressing the current scenario, where carbon dioxide emissions from the transport sector have been on the rise for the past 30 years. In 2021, this sector accounted for 23% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, with passenger cars contributing over half of that figure.
The auditors highlight a glimmer of hope, stating, “Only electric vehicles (which jumped from 1 in every 100 new car registrations in 2018 to almost 1 in 7 in 2022) have driven the reduction in average on-the-road CO2 emissions witnessed in recent years.” As carbon dioxide continues to be released into the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion, the need for a swift and effective transition to sustainable alternatives becomes increasingly imperative in the fight against climate change.