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169g/km: Australian car emissions improve in 2021 but commercial vehicles still well over carbon targets


Average vehicle emissions fell by two percent in Australia last year, and commercial vehicles and 4WDs continued to be the dirtiest on the road

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has released its second annual average new car emissions report, finding the average new vehicle sold in Australia emitted 171 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) for every kilometre driven.

However, the FCAI report omitted all 12,094 Tesla sales in Australia from 2021 – vehicles which emitted 0g/km of CO2 from the operation of the vehicle.

Tesla Model 3 2022 front driving
The sale of over 12,000 Tesla Model 3s in 2021 aided efforts to bring down average emissions

Once Tesla data is added to the information voluntarily provided to the FCAI by car manufacturers, results show that the average emissions of a new vehicle sold in Australia in 2021 was 169g/km of CO2 – an improvement of two percent on 2020’s 172.8g/km result.

There is no government-mandated reporting of ‘fleet emissions’ in Australia as there is in Europe.

2022 Toyota Hilux SR5 manual ute white exterior front 3/4 driving shot 2
Commercial vehicles were again unable to reach the FCAI’s stated emissions goal

Tiny improvement well adrift of European action on vehicle emissions

The FCAI once again split its voluntary emissions report into a passenger car category (including some car-based SUVs), and a light commercial and 4WD category.

Emissions for new passenger cars sold improved solidly by four percent to 143g/km from 150g/km in 2020, but new light commercial vehicle emissions lagged with just a two percent improvement from 217g/km in 2020 to 212.5g/km in 2021.

While vehicle emissions did improve overall, the result is still well adrift of targets set in Europe which are set at 95g/km for passenger vehicles and 147g/km for commercial vehicles in 2021.

Toyota Yaris Cross 2021 long termer front
The sale of hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Yaris Cross has helped reduce emissions

Performance by manufactuer

Car manufacturers’ performance in 2021 was again split by what category their vehicles sat in with a huge difference between passenger vehicles and the remaining list of large SUVs, utes and vans.

Toyota was a testament to this fact, becoming the only car manufacturer (aside from Tesla) to emit less than 100g/km with an average of 96.73g/km for passenger vehicles thanks to the success of hybrid vehicles such as the RAV4 midsize SUV and Yaris Cross small SUV.

The Yaris Cross GXL hybrid emits 91g/km of CO2 while Australia’s favourite crossover, the RAV4, emits 114.8g/km of CO2 in Cruiser Hybrid AWD guise.

Mini Countryman JCW 2021-21
Mini cars and SUVs emitted the least amount CO2 aside from Tesla and Toyota

However its remaining selection of commercial vehicles recorded an average of 216.54g/km due to heavy-emmiters such as the diesel-powered Hilux ute and Prado 4WD.

A Toyota Hilux SR5 dual-cab 4×4 ute produces 208.6g/km of CO2, while a similarly-specified Nissan Navara emits the same 208.6g/km.

Mini was the next most efficient in terms of passenger cars, recording 105.52g/km followed by Fiat (115.37g/km), Suzuki (125.47g/km), Volvo (132.07g/km) and Lexus (135.31g/km) to round out the top five.

The worse emitter was Lamborghini (328.93g/km) followed by the now dead in Australia Chrysler brand (300.48g/km), LDV (254.94g/km), Ferrari (254.68) and Genesis (238.77g/km).

LDV Deliver 9 2021-4
LDV’s fleet of diesel commercial vehicles earned it no favours when it came to emissions

Large SUVs, utes and vans

Lexus has retained its title as Australia’s world emitter in the large SUV and light commercial vehicle segment with an average of 301.51g/km.

Chevrolet, who sells American pickup trucks and sports cars exclusively in Australia, was close behind with an average of 297g/km, just ahead of Mercedes-Benz (295.14g/km), Ram (278.68g/km) and LDV ( 244.05g/km).

The most efficient car manufacturers in this segment consisted of those who do not sell dual-cab utes in Australia with Peugeot coming out on top with an average of 150.46g/km, though popular brands such as Ford, Nissan and Mazda emitted more than 200g/km.