Carmakers are delaying building more efficient models until 2019 in a bid to maximise profit margins before new EU rules on CO2 emissions kick in, according to a new report.
Only 6 of top 50 models were upgraded in 2017 – but 21 will be re-launched as more fuel-efficient, low-carbon models in 2019-2020, the Brussels-based sustainable transport group Transport & Environment said in its report published 10 April.
Battery electric models are expected to increase five-fold to 100 by 2021, increasing driving-range, choice, and competition. That means most European carmakers – with the exception of Italian car manufacturer Fiat – are set to meet EU’s 2021 CO2 reduction targets on time, the report adds.
However, the move comes after European car constructors have pushed the sales of bigger cars, the organisation stressed in its report. “SUV sales have rocketed from 4% in 2001 to 26% in 2016 and the average SUV has emissions of 132 g/km compared to 118 g/km for a medium segment car. The increase in the average weight of new cars by 124kg from 2000 to 2016 led to a rise in average emissions of around 10g/km.”
Sharing of vehicles, coupled with congestion charges, road pricing, parking constraints and reducing road space for private vehicles represents a huge opportunity to tackle urban congestion and pollution, Transport & Environment concluded, citing a recent modelling by the International Transport Forum (ITF) that suggests more than 90% of cars could be removed from the road in Lisbon and Helsinki through ride sharing.
The German case
The study comes days after German carmaker Daimler held its annual shareholder meeting (5 April) where chief executive Dieter Zetsche announced the company will make the smart car brand all-electric in Europe by 2020.
It was coupled with a statement that Daimler will offer at least one electrified vehicle in every segment by 2022, without specifying if it will be a fully battery-electric or a plug-in hybrid vehicle.
“Electric cars are good for C02-balance but not for the company’s balance sheet” said Dieter Zetsche.
Asked to comment on this statement, Jürgen Resch, head of German NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH), told EURACTIV: “Zetsche gave an insight into the thinking and decision-making pattern of his company: electric cars are bad for short-term profits, is his argument. And that’s exactly how he acts: currently, there is not a single electric drive Mercedes to buy. And even with the introduction of Smart Electric by 2020, it will be manufactured in such small numbers that the few customers who might be interested will be deterred from buying because of a 12 month delivery delay.”
His organization won a landmark legal battle after suing local administrations in the cities of Stuttgart – home of Daimler and Porsche – and Düsseldorf over air pollution. The move opened the door for German cities to ban polluting diesel cars from entering city centres in order to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels below EU limits and thus improve air quality levels.
There are around 15 million diesel cars on German roads.
The German car industry has a large influence on domestic policy-making. The country is home to industry giants BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen, which employ around 800,000 people, including suppliers. It has very strong links to policymakers: the federal state of Lower Saxony is a major shareholder of carmaker scandal-driven VW.