Lightening up: how less heavy vehicles can help cut CO2 emissions

This study examines how inversing the trend towards ever heavier light-duty vehicles would impact CO2 emissions from road transport. The average mass of passenger cars in the European Union has increased by around 40% over the past four decades. In 2015, a vehicle weighed on average 1 400 kg, compared to just under 1 000 kg in 1975. Additional mass consumes more energy and results in higher CO2 emissions, and a reduction in vehicle mass could contribute to achieving emissions reduction goals. Based on a vehicle stock model, the study establishes a baseline scenario, in which current policy trends are supposed to continue, and a mass reduction scenario, in which the average mass of new vehicles is assumed to decline to the levels of four decades ago. The CO2 impacts of the different scenarios are then compared to assess how much mass reduction can contribute to reducing transport CO2 emissions. The study also develops cost-benefit assessments for the different scenarios.