Reducing car emissions: new CO2 targets for cars and vans explained

The EU is banning the sale of new cars and vans with combustion engines as of 2035 in order to make the road transport sector climate neutral.

The EU wants to make sure that zero-emission cars and vans are the norm by 2050.

In an effort to deliver on its ambitious climate goals, the EU is revising legislation in sectors that have a direct impact under the Fit for 55 package. This includes transport, the only sector in which greenhouse gas emissions remain higher than in 1990, having increased more than 25%. Transport accounts for a fifth of total EU emissions.

Road transport accounts for the largest percentage of transport emissions and in 2021 was responsible for 72% of all EU domestic and international transport greenhouse gas emissions.

Why cars and vans?

Passenger cars and vans (light commercial vehicles) produce about 15% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions

Toughening car emissions standards would help to achieve the EU's climate targets for 2030.

Current situation

Average CO2 emissions from new cars was 122.3 g CO2/km in 2019, better than the EU target of 130 g CO2/km for the period 2015-2019, but well above the target of 95g/km set for 2021 onwards.

The number of electric cars has been growing fast, accounting for 11% of newly registered passenger cars in 2020.

Find out more facts and figures about car emissions

Parliament is calling for more ambitious CO2 reduction targets for cars and vans for 2030.

New targets

The new legislation sets the path towards zero CO2 emissions for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in 2035. Intermediate emissions reduction targets for 2030 are set at 55% for cars and 50% for vans.

Targets are expressed in percentages because the 95 g/km standard will have to be recalculated according to the new more rigorous emissions test that better reflects real driving conditions.

The revised legislation should help Europeans by deploying zero CO2 emission vehicles more broadly - better air quality, energy savings and lower costs for owning a vehicle - and stimulate innovation in zero-emission technologies.

The Parliament and EU countries reached an agreement on the final form of the rules in October 2022. It was approved by Parliament in February 2023 and adopted by the Council in March 2023. The legislation entered into force in April 2023.

In addition, the EU plans to provide for more electric charging and hydrogen refuelling stations on main roads. In July 2023, Parliament adopted new rules to deploy electric charging pools for cars once every 60 kilometres along main roads by 2026, as well as hydrogen refuelling stations at least every 200 kilometres by 2031. The rules must be endorsed by the Council, before coming into force.

More on transport emissions

Blurred silhouettes of cars surrounded by steam from the exhaust. ©APimages/European Union-EP
The EU is working on plans to cut cars' CO2 emissions ©APimages/European Union-EP