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Information that EU member states submit annually per Regulation (EC) No 443/2009 to the European Commission and onward to the European Environment Agency (EEA) on newly registered passenger cars provide a unique opportunity to analyze CO2 emissions. The data reveal thought-provoking trends from the perspective of purchasing patterns of lowest to highest emission cars and the corresponding potential contribution of each make and model to air pollution.

  • Premium-class sport cars are the ‘dirtiest’ based on CO2 emissions, with Bugatti vehicles—each emitting more than half a kilogram of CO2 per kilometer (km)—at the top. Yet, the potential contribution of these cars to the climate change is restrained by the limited number on the roads. Member countries reported a total of only five Bugatti new car registrations during 2015. Likewise, only one Pagani, the second dirtiest car in the class, was registered last year.
  • In contrast, cars with relatively low CO2 emissions are, as a rule, more popular and consequently pollute more air in total. For example, while Ford cars are among the ten ‘cleanest’ cars—emitting around 100 grams of CO2 per km—with more than 1 million new Ford cars registered in Europe last year, the contribution from this make to atmospheric pollution is far more significant than that of Ferrari, the most popular premium-class sport car.
  • Excluding electric cars, hybrid cars, such as the BMW I (23g of CO2 per km), Fisker (53g of CO2 per km) and Smart (93g of CO2 per km), have the lowest CO2 emissions among passenger vehicles. However, just as too few of the dirtiest premium-class sport cars are registered each year to dramatically contribute to air pollution, too few of the cleanest cars are purchased to combat climate change. At least, for now.

The EEA data also reveal interesting differences among the EU member countries. Germany recorded the highest average CO2 emissions per new passenger car registered in 2015. Residents of other North-East countries such as Poland, Latvia and Estonia showed similar car buying preferences. Residents of South-West Europe, stretching from Portugal to Malta to Greece and even Croatia, knowingly or not, tended toward cleaner cars.

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