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Fuel economy in the United Kingdom

Part of Global Fuel Economy Initiative 2021

Almost 2.7 million light-duty vehicles (LDVs) were sold in the United Kingdom in 2019, down 8% from 2017 levels. Average fuel consumption of new LDVs improved from 7.4 litres of gasoline equivalent per 100 kilometres (Lge/100 km) in 2005 to 5.7 Lge/100 km in 2016, but has since risen to 6.3 Lge/100 km in 2019, which is 12% below the global average. This recent hike is largely driven by a growing market for SUVs/pick-up trucks and a reversal in fuel economy improvements across LDV segements.

The sales share of of SUVs/pick-up trucks has increased nearly four fold since 2005, reaching 39% of LDV sales in 2019. This growth has primiarly occurred in the small SUV/pick-up segment, where sales shares increased from 4% in 2005 to 34% in 2019. Despite improvements in fuel economy in each LDV segment since 2005, average fuel consumption in each segment has been on an upward trend from 2017 to 2019. Notably, fuel consumption has increased on average by 6.7% per year since 2017 in the small SUV/pick-up truck segment, and 6.5% for large SUV/pick-up trucks. The average weight of LDVs has also increased from 1 448 kg in 2017 to 1 518 kg in 2019, which is 2% above the global average.

Sales shares of diesel LDVs have declined since 2014, while shares of gasoline, hybrid, electric and plug-in vehicles have grown. Hybrid vehicles were 2.4% of LDVS sold in in 2017, growing to 3.7% in 2019, and sales shares of plug-in vehicles grew from 1.1% to 1.3%. 

Since 2009, vehicle CO2 emissions regulations were adopted in the United Kingdom based on European-wide regulations. In 2020, the EU set fleet-wide average emissions target of 95g CO2/km applied to new passenger cars, and a target of 147g CO2/km was established for light commercial vehicles. From January 2021, following the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, these regulations were retained in UK law with minor technical adjustments.

However, the UK has committed to phasing out new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, with all new cars and vans being zero emission by 2030. Given that the retained EU 2020 regulations will not deliver on this target, the UK is exploring policy options which include tightening efficiecy-based regulations and deploying a zero emission vehicle mandate, alongside a CO2 regulation. Following consultation with stakeholders on a new framework, regulatory proposals will begin in early 2022.

The Passenger Car (Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions Information) regulations came into force in 2001 and require fuel consumption and CO2 data to be displayed in several ways. The first-year tax rate for vehicles registered on or after April 2017 are based on the amount of CO2 the car emits, while electric vehicles remain exempt from taxes. Currently, a plug-in grant close to USD 3 000 is applied to purchase of new electric cars.