CO2 emissions from vans are continuing to decline ahead of EU targets, according to latest figures released by the European Environment Agency.

Around 1.4 million new vans were registered in the EU last year, with average emissions of 169.2g of CO2/km. This represents a 2.4% drop on 2013’s emissions and is significantly below the EU’s target for 2017 of 175g CO2/km.

The light commercial vehicle market is growing significantly each year, with registrations up by 18% last year across Europe, as city centre populations continue to expand and increasing amounts of goods need to be delivered into busy, urban environments.

The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) secretary general Erik Jonnaert said: “Vehicle manufacturers have invested billions of euros into helping improve the fuel efficiency and environmental performance of their products. This investment has underpinned this 4g drop in CO2 emissions per km this year. The industry will continue to work to ensure that its new vehicles go on to meet the target of 147g of CO2/km by 2020.”

He added that further reductions in CO2 will also be dependent on greater market uptake of alternative powertrains, including electric, hybrid, fuel-cell and natural gas-powered vans.

However, EEA figures show that less than 2% of new van registrations in Europe comprise alternative-fuelled vehicles, with less than 0.5% electric.

Jonnaert said governments across Europe will need to increase their support for a wider roll-out of alternative powertrains, both in terms of building supporting refuelling and charging infrastructure and in influencing consumer choices.

“With a view to the future post 2020, we need to initiate a wider debate involving all stakeholders on a more ambitious system for further reducing CO2 emissions from road transport. This means we should focus not only on emissions from the vehicle itself, but also other factors influencing emissions during the use of the vehicle,” he added.

This would include the carbon content of fuels, driver behaviour, infrastructure, and the age of the fleet.