U.S. vehicle CO2 emissions still almost double Europe and Japan


June 21, 2010

Gasoline fueled cars still dominate U.S. roads

Gasoline fueled cars still dominate U.S. roads

Despite ongoing efforts to wean itself off the teat of foreign oil, the U.S. car market is still almost twice as polluting as Europe and Japan. This new finding from automotive data provider, JATO Dynamics, comes despite the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) – better known as “cash for clunkers” – program that replaced over 690,000 vehicles on the roads with more fuel-efficient models and the fact that American consumers are significantly more inclined to adopt Hybrid technology than Europeans. Then why is it so?

JATO’s study of the U.S. light vehicle market in the first quarter of 2010 reveals that the market’s average CO2 output is 268.5 g/km. In order to reflect like-for-like comparison with car markets in other global regions, excluding pick-up trucks, full size vans and small commercial vehicles, the figure falls to 255.6 g/km. This figure compares very unfavorably to Japan (130.8 g/km) and Europe’s five biggest markets, which average 140.3 g/km.

All markets improved marginally when compared to the full-year average in 2009 with Japan’s CO2 output down 0.4 g/km, the USA down 1.0 g/km and Europe improving most significantly with a 4.3 g/km reduction in the year-to-date.

“It is still clear that American consumers need to undergo a fundamental re-think of their vehicle buying preferences, but the past period of economic upheaval is likely to have meant that other domestic issues have taken consumer’s priority”, says David Mitchell, President of JATO Americas. “The blame can’t just lie with consumers though, the OEM product offering in the US still does little to promote alternatives to the large engine capacity gasoline vehicles which still dominate the market.”

Gasoline, diesel and Hybrid cars

However, Americans consumers have taken a shine to Hybrids such as the Toyota Prius. Hybrids enjoy a 2.3 percent market share in the U.S., while in Europe it is still only 0.5 percent. Not surprisingly though, Japan leads the way with 10.1 percent of market share going to Hybrids.

While they mightn’t have embraced Hybrids as much as Americans, Europeans have been able to reduce their CO2 emissions thanks to the rising popularity of diesel, a fuel which has a 48.9 percent market share in Europe. Conversely, Japan has a tiny diesel share of only 0.11 percent, but its highly congested roads make very small and economical gasoline cars a popular choice. Currently, the U.S. market is dominated by gasoline which has 81.9 percent market share, with only 1.7 percent being diesel.

Fuel too cheap?

JATO sees cost as a major factor in the difference between the popularity of different fuels and fuel technologies in different countries. The price of gasoline still remains comparatively low in the U.S. when compared to other global markets where its rising prices have been one of the key influences for change. Of the vehicles sold in the U.S. 33.9 percent fall within a 15-20 mpg consumption bracket, compared with only 0.63 percent in Japan and just 0.29 percent in Europe.

Carrot or stick?

JATO says varying CO2-based taxation regimes that reward or penalize certain technologies can also play a part in regional variances. Japan’s high-technology driven economy favors new technologies such as Hybrid and electric vehicles, while European vehicle "scrappage" schemes have contributed significantly to the introduction of a large number of low polluting, fuel-efficient small cars – something that “cash for clunkers” didn’t do to the same effect.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Why stay so focused on incremental decreases in emission when you can go to zero emission vehicles? Broad based support and adoption of battery only and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can put the fossil fuel era behind us once and for all.

Lawrence Weisdorn

Politicians and consultants (apparantly paid for by oil and auto companies) often claim that it will cost many thousands of dollars to get the average US fuel economy to over 36 MPG. That is criminally incorrect! It will only take smaller engines. We are spoiled by huge thirsty engines and 5000 pound SUVs that go zero to sixty faster than the original Porshe 911! Wasteful and ridiculous. We can get 40 MPG CHEAPER by buying smaller engines in smaller cars. CAFE rules in the 70\'s pushed the public into SUVs and the current regs do little if anything to stop that by allowing people to get around mileage requirements simple by buying a larger vehicle. How dumb is that? All this assumes that those buyers must need a larger vehicle when that is just not true. We need to specify that trucks can only be sold to companies that need them to haul commercial goods, and enforce it by limiting those trucks to 65MPH, no DVD, no nice leather interior, no macho commercials, and keep increasing their mileage requirements too. Then we will see a real shift in pollution, energy dependance and security.

Mark in MI

So if I\'m reading this right? The idea that U.S. cars pollute more than other cars is because of CO2 emissions? When are we going to get off this idea that CO2 is a pollutant? I wish I could figure out how to tune my Giant 5000 lb. SUV to emit pure CO2! Since when did it become greedy because I worked hard and could afford to do so, that getting any transportation I choose was a bad thing? I drive what I want (with in the limits of my income) and it is nothing less than criminal to impose some sort of made up tax over an invisible gas that is only the staff of life! If you want a small car and it suits your needs please feel free but don\'t impose your will on me. The planet will survive just fine no matter what we drive and technology will make them cleaner and better as time goes by, but the idea that some political group or party can tell industries or scientists that they must come up with what ever they think of when they say to is pure arrogance!


@mrhuckfin: If you seriously think that CO2 in higher amounts are not bad for the environment, animals or even people then why don\'t you try to fill a room full of it and the try to stay alive in that room.

Do you really believe that the changes of the PH levels in the oceans has nothing to do with pollution.

There\'s simple tests that could easily show you just how bad CO2 emissions can be if they reach high enough concentration.

But I guess it\'s easier to stick you head in the sand and continue to be ignorant. Hey, what you cant see doesn\'t hurt you, right?

Patrik Nordberg

This has little to do with the automobile or fuel and a lot to do with where we live, work and shop.

Zoning laws over the last 60 to 70 years have created a situation where it\'s necessary to rely on the POV to do almost anything. The simple fact is, in almost any place in America, a person lives a long distance from where he or she works. Also, the distance between neighbors is so large as to make public transportation, at the outset, prohibitively expensive, and therefore politically impossible, and impracticable for the user.

The ultimate solution is for people to live much closer to employment, schools, and shopping. Anything else is simply using bandages to cover a wound that will never heal.

Facebook User

Americans don\'t drive diesel cars, because their gas prices are relatively cheap, compared to Europe. mrfuckhin, nobody is going to tell you to drive an economical car, right? That attitude pervades America, and will only change when gas prices are hiked up.

By the way, someone pointed out that the amount of oil coming of the leaking well is under such enormous pressure that it must be an enormous reservoir. So, is oil really running out?


The BP disaster in the Gulf is the end of big oil as we know it in this country. Couple that disaster with the increased availability of eco-friendly vehicles, and gasoline consumption in this country will plummet within 5 years.

Facebook User

The problem is that North America has to change its infrastructure. If all of sudden everyone drove alternative fuel vehicles the economy would be thrown for a loop. Think of all of the gas stations that would be obsolete or the mechanics that can no longer service the new vehicles. Also think about how these new vehicles will refuel themselves. Electric? Sure, but the current power grids couldn\'t handle that much extra demand.

So far we haven\'t seen a clear winner in terms of vehicles that will run on an alternative fuel source(s). Once that becomes more evident then we can change the infrastructure and only then will we kick the fossil fuel addiction.

There is too much attention on this problem for there not to be changes ahead. Large industry and policymakers do not move quickly. Patience...


Lawrence, (don\'t need an @ here people!) mrhuckfin proves that a radical change is unpalatable to the uneducated, ignorant and just plain deniers because it doesn\'t benefit them, fit in their juvenile view of what gives them enjoyment (because they think they work hard and \"deserve\" to do whatever they want no matter what harm it does to themselves and others (sell him the lead paint)), or some oil industry shill told them so on their favorite anti-change rant radio talk show, and/or they are just too fearful of change all-together.

But far more important than satisfying the lowest 1% of society is the fact that radical change is hard to do too quickly without proper industry in place. Companies need time to adjust, retool, and build infastructure, not to mention see what the people will actually buy.

So we need incremental changes to start. If we had kept CAFE going from the 70\'s at an incremental pace instead of stopping it, we would already be at 40MPG and that would be the norm and the most ignorant \"6 year old in a 30-something body\" would be happy as long as his vehicle is bigger than the next guy\'s because that will give him his temporary sense of manhood and make him think he appears to be a rebel when we know he\'s just stuck at a child level of development.

Mark in MI

After the biggest oil spill of the entire history of mankind, After endless US wars for oil in the Middle-East, After the Bark Beetle epidemic ravaging the forests over the entire Western part of North America due to man-made climate change, It is incredible to me that individuals such as Mr Huckfin can continue to proffer such asinine, I drive whatever I like because I work hard, statements.

Not only do we need MUCH STRICTER emission standards for US cars and trucks, but people like Mr. Huckfin need to get off of their fat asses and ride a bicycle!

In the next ten years, driving a Giant 5000 lb. SUV will become prohibitively expensive, and hopefully illegal.

Automotive manufacturers will be required by law to build more lightweight hybrid and electric vehicles similar to the General Motors EV1 produced between 1996 and 1999 for the California market.

The mandate passed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in the early 90s that made the production and sale of zero-emission vehicles a requirement for the seven major automakers selling cars in the United States to continue to market their vehicles in California, is a good example of how intelligent regulations can protect the planet and other people from individuals like Mr. Huckfin.

Unfortunately, an alliance of the major US automakers litigated the CARB regulation in court, resulting in a slackening of the zero-emission vehicles mandate. The EV1 program was subsequently discontinued in 2002, and all cars on the road were repossessed by General Motors and CRUSHED!

This is why General Motors and people like Mr. Huckfin are part of the problem instead of being part of the solution. Hopefully, a majority of thinking Americans will no longer tolerate this type of behavior in the future.

Michael McGEE

Facebook User

In the UK, we have a thriving diesel auto market and the average mpg for a 1.9ltr engine size would be around 50 rather than the suggested target of over 36mpg on this forum. We are heavily taxed on fuel (around 80% is tax & gasolene & diesel is around $8/gallon) and also on a vehicle\'s CO2 emission (on a sliding scale). The aim of most business auto-users (sales people etc) and many private motorists, is to get the lowest CO2 & highest mpg at the most affordable price.

I\'m afraid mrhuckfin is the one who is being arrogant and appears to be out of touch with reality, as Patrik Nordberg points out. CO2 is about the most singular threat to the atmosphere & climate change and highly poisonous for oxygen-breathing animals & plants. Regarding the attempt of retuning your truck to produce just CO2 ... I\'m speechless!

Generally speaking, yes, US cars DO pollute more than \'other\' cars because of their very poor mpg returns (not a polluting cause in itself of course, but if a vehicle does only 15mpg, over a 12,000 average annual mileage, it\'s increased fuel consumption will emit more CO2 than a vehicle doing 50 over the same annual mileage) and high emissions (and you should be able to prove that by visiting a suitably supplied auto-garage for an emissions test). Frankly, I\'m at a loss to understand why none of the European car-makers, cannot export these frugal vehicles to the US anyway. Audi, Mercedes, Ford, Toyota, Renault, Citroen ... there are plenty available and I suspect many are supplying vehicles into the US already, so why not the less polluting models?

The real point is that with the fossil fuel supply waning, why wouldn\'t we be trying to improve sunstantially, the mpg\'s being achieved thus far AND reducing the emission of a gas which is detrimental to life as we know it?

Paul Taylor

All the arab oil states have started really ramp up their installation of solar cell electricity farms - as in BIG investments.

The question is why?

Why are they scraping up every nickel and dime they can to throw at these projects RIGHT NOW, while all the stupid and fat americans loaf around in their 10 gallon trucks... going \"Gayd Dammit Boy - I\'s an Meriken - thanks to Jeeeeezers Christ and our flag, we\'s all having a hell of a time!\"

Mr Stiffy

@ Facebook User, Paul Taylor, Mr Stffy Correct on all counts. The biggest investors in renewable technologies are the fossil fuel industry. BP for example is the third largest producer of photovoltaic (solar) cells and one of the largest producers of wind power generation in the world. Why? Because these companies spend billions (literally) doing research and development to gain a competitive edge and more importantly risk analysis of their exposure to market changes, including those from climate change and public opinion (something MrHuckFin has clearly never heard of, the way he writes!). Although this might seem a 'good' thing, that the fossil fuel industry is becoming more environmentally conscience, it also provides some serious concerns about their motivations. Firstly solar (photovoltaic) can take between 7-14 years to recover the energy necessary for it to be produced. This energy, nearly exclusively comes from fossil fuel, because, if it were to come from solar or wind it would be too expensive and no-one would buy solar. The outcome from solar production is similar to that of a debt, we purchase our energy in advance for 'instant benefit' and 'Green credentials', but also produce 7-12 years of emissions now for that benefit, which increases our CO2 output to now instead of over 7-12 years. Corporations obviously dont mind this at all, especially if their main line of business is selling fossils, plus they get to offset their emissions with 'green' publicity that drives the sale of their own fossils. BP has obviously not calculated the risk of deep sea drilling, considering the amount of devastation they have caused (and will continue to cause) in the Gulf. Hopefully this will bring about the change needed in the energy industry, but I fear that it will be us the consumer that will ultimately pay the price for the irresponsibility of the fossil fuel industry over the last 100 or so years. The problem is that all capitalist governments are funded by corporations. Big corporations... of which most are energy related. And if government is left to make policy on the environment it will ultimately lead to a CO2 tax. A Tax on CO2 is the ultimate tax on life itself. Nothing can escape a CO2 tax. Literally; you breathe and therefore emit CO2!! And this is the best revenue for governments, especially those in a debt spending frenzy, who are borrowing from our future to payout their mistakes of the past. This is just artificially prolonging the inevitable revaluation of private wealth, our private wealth. Greed's cost to society is patient, and its price will be paid. We must not let climate change become the driver for the further enslavement of citizens to corporations and government. Maybe it's time that the government of the people, for the people is by the people, with motivations beyond the power of money. My moto: If you want to change the world, start with yourself. ;)


Actually Paul Taylor, co2 is a byproduct of metabolism. If as you say it is highly poisonous for plants and animals, we would be killing ourselves just by the act of exhaling. Without co2 plants couldn\'t grow. Plants process the co2 utilizing photosynthesis, sequestor the carbon for growth and nourishment, and release oxygen, and the cycle continues. If you doubt me, just google (co2 plants). It is a little more complicated then that. But in a nutshell that is what happens.


Lonibor, no one denies the fact that plants use available CO2 in the atmosphere in the process of photosynthesis, but there is a delicate balance in terms of the amount of carbon present in the carbon cycle and the amount released artificially by anthropogenic (man made) sources.

Carbon sinks like the amazon rain forest, which account for much of the natural processing of CO2 in the mesosphere and troposphere, are being destroyed at an alarming rate, leaving the earth more and more unable to cope with the unprecedented amounts of CO2 being released by man made processes.

This CO2 eventually makes its way to the stratosphere, where it contributes to an enhanced greenhouse effect by trapping solar radiation reflected from the earth\'s surface.

I guess a good analogy would be sitting in a car on a hot summer day. With your windows half way up, the heat isn\'t so bad. But supposing you continued to close those windows at steadily increasing increments, you\'d eventually be stuck in a closed environment with no outlet for the heat being trapped inside. This is what carbon does in our atmosphere, and it will only continue to get worse.

The process is much, much more complicated and I have only a limited understanding of the myriad processes involved in the Carbon Cycle, but for the record, I am an english major this is all information I learned in a rudimentary Environmental Science class last semester at JMU. The fact that the vast majority of the public don\'t even understand the difference between Ozone Depletion and Global Warming is frightening, as their votes will ultimately determine our future. I think that making science literacy a priority in the United States (and the world at large) is a vital goal in ensuring our future as a species on this earth.

And Lonibor, in response to your speculation that CO2 is good for living, breathing animals, try placing a medium sized grocery bag over your head and seeing how long you can sustain successful respiration.


Ionibor, CO2 is poisonous. At 5-7% exposure leads to unconsciousness. 7-10% results in death; even if the remaining gas is 90-93% pure oxygen. Organisms exhale to remove the CO2 from their blood streams preventing CO2 poisoning.

Facebook User

Ben Crowe. Yes CO2 is poisonous in high consentrations but do you know what plant nursery\'s do when they want there plants to grow? They flood them with CO2 and the plants grow like crazy! Even Oxygen is poisonous in high amounts so what was your point? You all do know that CO2 has been in MUCH higher amounts in our earths past don\'t you? Also you do know that CO2 follows the rise in temps not proceeds it don\'t you? It\'s amazing some of the responses I\'m seeing here on this article including the comments to my comment!? I have a collage education and I read A LOT on this subject but some of you seem to take at face value what the left wing media says about green house gas and CO2! Look to see if there are any holes in what they say and see if there are any flaws. I for one am MUCH more concerned about poisons like carbonmonoxide and carcinogens in the air but NOT CO2! Be worried about real poison in the air not this myth of the stuff we all exhale everyday. You\'ll note that world wide plant life has been growing almost exponentially and the end result of that is Oxygen! Keep in mind we have so many other things to concern our selfs with, I\'m not going to get roped into some stupid tax over a gas that is nothing short of a Miracle in our life support system.


Is a \"collage education\" a certificate for arranging photos? The simple action required to bring the US into the 20th century (socially) is to raise the tax on fuel gradually (over say 10 years) to Euro levels of around $10 a US gallon. Around $150 a tank would really make people pay attention and do whatever is required to reduce the fuel bill - public transport, small efficient car, live near to their work. The extra tax bucks might also enable the US Govt. to balance the budget; everybody wins! (except for mrhuckfin)

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