Adopting a carbon dioxide (CO2) emission standard or its fuel economy equivalent for passenger vehicles in South Africa would result in big emissions reductions, easing the environmental impact of an expected increase in the country's passenger vehicle fleet, finds a recent study by Francisco Posada of the International Council for Clean Transportation.



Most households have a car on Bo Kaap street in Cape Town, South Africa,
December 26, 2017 (Photo by Martyn Smith)


Posada's work focuses on developing technology roadmaps for improving the emissions and fuel economy performance of passenger cars, and assessing the cost of implementing those technologies in emerging markets.


"Road transportation is one of the leading sources of outdoor air pollution in Southern and Western Africa, particularly in cities, where emissions from light- and heavy-duty vehicles, minibuses, buses, and two-and three-wheelers continue to negatively affect public health, making motor vehicles a central area for rapid policy response," Posada writes.


Although domestic new vehicle sales have been impacted by economic and political instability in the last couple years, Posada says the sheer size of the young South African population and projected economic growth points to an burgeoning fleet of private vehicles, with a corresponding increase in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.


According to the Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), the total South African passenger vehicle population was 6.4 million units in 2015. This is by far the largest fleet in Africa, accounting for 22.6 percent of vehicles on the continent.


The transportation sector is the second-highest contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, just after the energy generation sector. 


New passenger vehicle sales were more than 412,000 units in 2015, about 37 percent of the African market and 60 percent more than Egypt, the second largest new vehicle market in Africa.


In 2015, the average CO2 emissions of new passenger cars in South Africa was 148 gCO2/km, tested under the New European Driving Cycle test cycle.


The equivalent metric in terms of fuel consumption is 6.3 liters/100 kilometers.


A comparison of South Africa’s passenger car fleet with the European fleet shows that, on average, the South African passenger vehicle emits 21 percent more CO2 than the average European passenger car, rated at 121 gCO2/km for the same year.


This large gap is widened by the fact that South Africa’s fleet is five percent lighter than the European fleet, indicating lower average fuel efficiency of vehicles in South Africa.


Posada studied three different scenarios:


a) the baseline case where no emission standards are adopted,

b) a short-term policy adoption scenario where the standard requires a 19 percent improvement by 2024, and

c) a long-term scenario where the rate of improvement is maintained till 2030, resulting in a fleet improvement of 36 percent.


A model developed to assess the impact of each scenario in terms of total CO2 contributions shows there would be "significant benefits" from adopting CO2 standards, even in the face of a larger fleet:


  • Adopting a 120gCO2/km standard by 2024 would result in an annual reduction of 4.5 million tons of CO2 by 2050, Posada calculates.


  • Adopting the long-term target of 95 gCO2/km by 2030 would result in an annual reduction of 11.1 million tons of CO2 by 2050.


These metrics represent a 12 percent and 28 percent reduction in emissions compared to the baseline scenario.


Posada concludes that there is great potential for fuel efficiency/CO2 emission standards to decarbonize South Africa's passenger vehicle market.


By Sunny Lewis

Environment News Service (ENS)

June 15, 2018