Light vehicle emissions intensity reports

Each year since 2009, we have published a carbon dioxide emissions intensity report on Australian light vehicles sold in the previous year. The report for 2020 is now available. 

We used data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) to prepare the report. 


The latest report looks at vehicle emissions intensity for light vehicles sold in Australia, in the 2020 calendar year.

Emissions intensity is the grams of carbon dioxide a vehicle may generate per kilometre (g/km) – not the total carbon emissions it generates. 

The data in this report reflects the carbon impact of tailpipe emissions. It doesn’t reflect:

  • all aspects of lifecycle emissions for a vehicle including manufacture, transport to point of sale, and disposal 
  • the carbon impact of the electricity used to power electric vehicles.  

Read the 2020 report

What’s a light vehicle?

Light vehicles include: 

  • passenger motor vehicles, for example a hatch, sedan, wagon, people mover or sports car 
  • sports utility vehicles (SUVs), for example a 4WD or all wheel drive vehicle 
  • light commercial vehicle, for example a utility vehicle (ute), light bus or van. 

On 31 January 2021, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported there were 18.1 million light vehicles registered in Australia.

Key findings from our latest report

  • Sales of hybrid vehicles almost doubled in 2020 compared with 2019, with 58,595 hybrid vehicles sold.
  • Green’ vehicles were 8.4% of total vehicle sales in 2020, up from 5.7% in 2019. A ‘green’ vehicle is defined as a vehicle with emissions intensity that does not exceed 120 g/km.
  • Data from the FCAI’s voluntary emissions standard shows that the 2020 average emissions intensity for passenger cars and light SUVs was 149.5 g/km. By contrast, the average emissions intensity of heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles was 216.7 g/km. 
  • The average emissions intensity for passenger cars and light SUVs was lowest for government car fleets (134 g/km), followed by private buyers (155 g/km) and business buyers (158 g/km). For heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles, the emissions intensity was relatively similar for all buyer types, with private buyers having the lowest (216 g/km) and business buyers having the highest (220 g/km).
  • Diesel engines produced the highest emissions by powertrain and fuel type in both categories though it was by a more significant margin in the passenger cars and light SUVs category.

Electric vehicle sales

Of the 18.1 million light vehicles registered in Australia, we estimate about 21,500 of these are electric vehicles. In the report, ‘electric vehicles’ refers to both fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. 

Additionally, in 2020: 

  • 6,900 battery or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were sold in 2020. (Tesla – 3,430, all other makes – 3,470). 
  • Sales of battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles increased by 17% in 2020.

The below graph shows electric vehicle sales across Australian states and territories in 2020. 

Comparison of electric vehicle sales across states.

Buying a new car? 

If people who bought new vehicles in 2020 had chosen the best-in-class for emissions performance, Australia’s average carbon emissions intensity would have dropped by:

  • 93% for passenger cars and light SUVs
  • 50% for heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles.

The below graph shows the top 10 vehicle models sold in Australia in 2020, along with a comparable model with the lowest emission intensity in that segment. 

Top selling vehicles in Australia alongside best in class alternatives.