The European new car market continues its battle against emissions. While the European authorities keep pushing the OEMs to become cleaner through tougher regulations and targets, consumers have finally responded positively to alternatively fuelled vehicles.

Partly because of the incentives, and partly because of the increasing awareness among consumers, EVs are finally having a positive impact on the average emissions in the region.

The latest data published by JATO Dynamics on its annual CO2 emissions report shows that the total average for 17 markets in Europe fell by 16 percent between 2020 and 2021. The average decreased from 117.7 g/km in 2020 to 99.0 last year. That’s a big improvement that is mainly explained by the increasing popularity of low emissions cars like Tesla, the ID lineup from Volkswagen, Fiat 500e, and the electric versions of the Hyundai Kona, Kia Niro, Peugeot 208, Opel Corsa, among others.

Top 10 car brands in Europe with lowest average emissions in 2021 graphic

The leaders beyond the zero-emissions brands

The ranking by brands shows of course Tesla, Polestar and Smart leading the way with 0.0 g/km of average emissions. As their lineup is only composed of fully electric cars, they can be safe in terms of meeting regulations. These three brands made up 2.1 percent of the registrations last year.

Further down the ranking, there are those brands whose sales are mostly comprised of cars with hybrid technologies. It is the case of MG, the British brand owned by the Chinese SAIC, that posted an average of only 45.7 g/km in 2021, becoming one of the least polluting ICE makers in Europe. In addition to the fully electric MG ZS small SUV and the MG5 estate, this brand also offered plug-in versions of the MG GS.

In total, these electrified cars represented almost two in three of the cars registered in these 17 nations.

The improvements of Renault and DS

The French brands Renault and DS Automobiles also occupied key positions in the overall ranking. The former recorded an average of 86.7 g/km thanks mostly to the contribution of the Renault Zoe, Europe’s second best-selling BEV in 2021.

Renault also benefited from the increasing sales of the plug-in versions of the Renault Captur and Megane. The E-Tense versions of the DS 3 Crossback (fully electric), the DS 4, DS 7 Crossback and DS 9 (plug-in hybrid) made up the biggest part of DS registrations in Europe.

Top 10 car brands in Europe with highest drop in average emissions between 2020-2021 graphic

Cupra reduces its average by 40%

The best performers of the year were Cupra, Jeep, Skoda, MG and Mini. Their average emissions fell the most among the main brands selling cars in Europe.

Cupra led the way with a reduction of 40 percent between 2020 and 2021, or from 174.0 g/km to 104.2 g/km. The Spanish division of Volkswagen Group gained traction thanks to the strong results of the Cupra Formentor, whose plug-in hybrid version accounted for 35 percent of its volume last year. More than the rebadged versions of the Leon and Ateca, and the electric Born, the Formentor Plug-in is the one making the real revolution in terms of sales and emissions.

Jeep was the second brand with the highest emissions drop, at -23 percent, or from 159.8 g/km in 2020 to 122.8 g/km last year. As it happened to Cupra, the main driver of progress was the introduction of plug-in hybrid versions of its two top-sellers, the Compass and Renegade. These two were the top-selling PHEVs in Italy in 2021. The Compass plug-in hybrid emitted 68 percent less CO2 than its diesel equivalent.

Top 25 best selling brands in Europe by average CO2 emissions WLTP in 2021

Then came Skoda, down by 22 percent to 101.0 g/km. Most of the improvement came from the increasing sales of the electrified lineup that includes the fully electric Enyaq (10 percent of total sales volume), plug-in hybrid Octavia (4.3 percent of volume), and the Superb (2.6 percent). However, the average emissions for the petrol and diesel models fell by 3 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

Other big gainers included MG, Mini, Fiat, Ferrari, Audi, Mercedes, Volvo and Porsche, all with drops between 17% and 21%.

The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.