New eu co2 limits for cars

Starting this summer, the EU Commission is revising the CO2 limits for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. The opportunity must be seized to make them fit for the climate policy challenges and the technological development in e-mobility.

New EU CO2 limits for cars
New EU CO2 limits for cars
New EU CO2 limits for cars

There is no way around a drastic increase in the efficiency of each individual vehicle. Photo: Helge May

There is no way around a drastic increase in the efficiency of every single vehicle. Photo: helge may

While CO2 emissions in other sectors, such as energy supply, are falling, transport remains the the problem child of climate policymore and more cars and trucks on the road mean that emissions in this sector have actually risen slightly since 1990 and are currently stagnating at a high level. the transport sector was only able to meet the targets set by the german climate protection act for 2020 due to the pandemic-related decline in vehicle mileage.

In the EU, transport is responsible for one-third of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, about half of which, or 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, come from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. And there’s no end in sight: according to estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global vehicle population will increase to around 1.7 billion by 2035, which means that a further increase in emissions caused by cars is to be feared.


Legally binding CO2 limits have been in place in the EU for the first time since 2015. Previously, a voluntary commitment by car manufacturers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions had failed. The limits are specified in grams of CO2 per kilometer and apply to the average of all newly registered cars of a manufacturer in the EU, i.e. they are fleet limits. The fleet of a manufacturer also includes vehicles from different brands (audi is part of VW). purely electric cars enter the balance sheet with 0g CO2/km. The regulation contains numerous loopholes, for example a bonus for particularly heavy vehicles, which means that the actual limit value to be complied with is higher than the target value.

When it was launched in 2015, a fleet limit of 130g CO2/km applied. This has been tightened to 95g from 2020, initially with an exemption for the dirtiest 5 percent of the new car fleet. Since 2021, the limit value has applied to the entire fleet. Manufacturers will have to pay a penalty of 95 euros per vehicle sold for each gram above the limit value. In the last revision of the regulation in 2019, it was agreed that carmakers must reduce emissions from their fleets by 15 percent by 2015 and 37.5 percent by 2030, compared with a base year of 2021. In 2019, the EU agreed to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and is revising the fleet limits again. A draft is expected from the EU Commission this summer.

CO2 requirements take effect

There is no way around a drastic increase in the efficiency of each individual vehicle. Ambitious CO2 targets are one of the most effective measures for reducing vehicle fuel consumption. As a result, the average CO2 emissions of new cars in the EU have been reduced by more than three percent annually since 2008 – before that, manufacturers only managed a meager one percent.

Despite all the claims of the auto industry, the market does not automatically regulate fuel consumption in the direction of greater efficiency, rather the opposite: the demand for heavy off-road vehicles for the city as well as high-performance sedans and sports cars has increased disproportionately in recent years and led to a real boom in these segments. Low weight and air resistance or moderate engine power – in short, all the factors that would be important for achieving the lowest possible fuel consumption and CO2 emissions – have long since ceased to be an issue there.

Since 2020, a fleet limit value of 95g CO2 per kilometer has been in force for the first time for all newly registered vehicles in the EU. But the regulation has numerous loopholes: high vehicle weights, a bonus system for electric vehicles and unrealistic measurement methods allow manufacturers to emit much more CO2 on average. But even this leeway has not been enough: VW will have to pay a three-digit million amount for violating the limit values in 2020. With the introduction of electromobility, the regulation provides little incentive to invest in more fuel-efficient combustion engines. Electric vehicles enter the fleet balance with 0g CO2/km. The consequence: the burners in the fleet are allowed to emit more CO2.

NABU demands

In 2019, the EU launched the european green deal to become climate neutral by 2050. In the course of this, the limit value regulation will also be revised. This step is the right one and must be used to make the regulation fit for the age of electromobility. The coming years will be decisive for the question of whether and how transport can become climate-neutral. In its info paper, NABU sets out clear demands for what needs to be done now to define a realistic path to phasing out internal combustion engines by 2030 and to climate neutrality in 2050.

The demands in detail

1. In the interests of phasing out internal combustion engines, in 2030 there must be a limit value of 0g CO2 per km for all newly registered vehicles in the EU. Milestones for 2023: reduction of 15 percent, for 2025: reduction of 44 percent, for 2027: reduction of 75 percent.

2. Upper limit for internal combustion engines: the burners in a fleet must not exceed the average EU-wide fleet value for 2021, measured according to the WLTP test cycle.

3. Efficiency standards for battery electric vehicles must be included in the regulation.

4. The fuel consumption data that manufacturers will have to report to the EU from this year onwards will be transparent, publicly available and subject to regular spot checks. In particular, this applies to the currently completely unrealistically measured plug-in hybrids.

5. The possibility of mitigating the specific limit value through low-emission vehicles (ZLEV factor), must be deleted without replacement.

6. The weight bonus is abolished.

7. A crediting of e-fuels must not be made possible.



We have formed a broad alliance of trade unions, social and environmental associations, and the protestant church. In a joint paper, we show how an ecological and socially just mobility transition can succeed. More → more

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