Electric car sales surge as Europe’s climate targets bite

    One in nine new cars sold in Europe last year was an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, with sales of low-emission cars rising even as the COVID-19 pandemic hit overall vehicle sales, the European Environment Agency said on Tuesday.

    The increase in electric car sales caused a 12% reduction in the average CO2 emissions of new cars sold in Europe last year, compared to 2019, reversing a trend that had seen such emissions increase for three consecutive years.

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    It was the largest annual reduction in these emissions since the EU introduced CO2 standards for its cars in 2010.

    Of the 11.6 million new cars registered in the EU, Iceland, Norway and Britain last year, 11% were fully electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, according to provisional figures. These vehicles tripled their share of new car sales, from 3.5% in 2019.

    Tighter CO2 targets for automakers went into effect last year, prompting manufacturers to cut emissions across the entire fleet by selling more low-emission vehicles, buying credit from other automakers that exceeded their targets or facing fines.

    The EEA did not confirm which carmakers achieved their goals.

    Countries such as France and Germany also included subsidies for electric vehicles in the COVID-19 economic recovery packages last year.

    While total sales of new cars declined, sales of electric and hybrid cars in Europe increased to over 1 million in 2020.

    The Transport & Environment campaign team said the data showed emissions targets were working, but urged Brussels to propose CO2 standards that would ban new gasoline and diesel sales by 2035 when it announces a climate policy package next month.

    EU officials said policymakers had not yet confirmed what specific targets for the CO2 car would be proposed by the Commission.

    The average car stays on the road for 10 to 15 years, and militants say the sale of polluting vehicles after 2035 will overturn the EU’s goal of having zero zero emissions by 2050.

    Average emissions for new cars registered in Europe were 107.8 grams of CO2 per kilometer in 2020, a decrease of 14.5 grams compared to 2019. (Report by Kate Abnett, edited by Marine Strauss and David Evans)

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