16 Oct 2023

Contribution of internal combustion vehicles to the decarbonization of road transport in France

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Jean-Philippe Hermine
Managing Director
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Louis-Pierre Geffray
Head of Programs


The aim of this Policy Brief is to identify the potential benefits that could be made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade as a result of changes in the fleet of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles on French roads. The analysis is based on a reconstruction of the consumption history of new vehicles and then of the fleet between 2012 and 2022. The model is then used in a predictive manner, incorporating known technological developments and supported assumptions for the expected renewal of the fleet. The analysis provides a clearer picture of changes in average vehicle fuel consumption over ten years and the corresponding emissions. The study focuses on ICE passenger vehicles (including hybrids), with a particular focus on changes in the petrol fleet (the diesel fleet is set to decline sharply) and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).


Key Messages


  • The average consumption of a petrol vehicle in the French fleet fell by 1.07%/year between 2014 and 2021. Our simulations suggest that a similar fall will take place between 2021 and 2030 (including hybrid engines). These figures are based on the structural assumption that the environmental penalty is increased by 5g/year, as has been the case for the past three years. This pathway (a decline of 11.5% between 2019 and 2030) should be seen in the context of the target set by the Secrétariat général à la planification écologique (General Secretariat for Ecological Planning – SGPE), which is to achieve a 34% reduction of emissions for all French private vehicles over the same period.
  • A return to a trend of 19% SUV sales (compared with more than 40% over the last three years) would enable better results than achieved in previous years (excluding sufficiency measures; lower motorway speeds). This scenario would result in a reduction of 3 MtCO2e by 2030 compared with 2019, in line with the target set by the SGPE.
  • In the case of HGVs, major efficiency gains on new vehicles will make it possible to achieve a reduction that is well above historical levels, with an 11.9% reduction in the average consumption of the fleet between 2019 and 2030. However, this result falls short of the SGPE target (17%).
  • The results highlight an asymmetry in the achievement of fleet emission reduction targets between light and heavy vehicles. To meet the carbon budget target for transport in 2030, it would be necessary to transfer part of the emissions reduction set aside for HGV fleets to light vehicles. The analysis shows that a greater contribution from light vehicles is possible and achievable. It would not require a continuation of past policies, but a strengthening of their ambition.