Carbon dioxide CO2

Carbon dioxide has become synonymous with the environmental friendliness of modern cars. Yet it is a non-toxic, colourless, tasteless and odourless gas that is heavier than air. CO2 is formed by the reaction of carbon with oxygen, for example in a process called combustion. But it doesn’t have to be combustion in engines as everyone thinks of it now! It’s also produced by ordinary breathing…

A quarter of a century ago, motorists were rightly celebrating victory over violently poisonous carbon monoxide (CO). The catalytic converter helped them win. The mass introduction of catalytic converters, which convert poisonous CO into “only” non-breathable carbon dioxide (CO2), significantly reduced the risk of exhaust poisoning in a closed garage. Over time, however, CO2 also began to matter as one of the main causes of the greenhouse effect, or global warming.

CO2 is a hot topic at the moment. However, it is often confused with the concept of exhaust emissions, which is not entirely correct. There are many more components of exhaust gases. In recent years, car manufacturers have been racing to reduce carbon dioxide production, drivers are starting to think ‘green’ and many countries are running government-backed programmes to promote green vehicles. Carbon dioxide has become a phenomenon of our times. But what do you know about it? Let’s take a look at some basic questions and answers related to CO2.

What is CO2 and is breathing it harmful to health?

A carbon dioxide (or carbon monoxide) molecule is a compound of two oxygen atoms and one carbon. It is formed during the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, but also during ordinary breathing. It is a colourless, tasteless and odourless gas. Unlike CO (carbon monoxide), CO2 is not poisonous.

What is CO2 used for?

Carbon dioxide can be produced industrially. It is used, for example, in fire extinguishers, in air conditioning units or in the food industry for sodas and lemonades.

CO2 vs. life:

There is no doubt that carbon dioxide contributes to the greenhouse effect. The most harmful greenhouse gases are water vapor, CO2, methane and ozone. So CO2 is second only to water vapor (9-26% share). But its presence in the atmosphere does not necessarily spell disaster, quite the opposite. Carbon dioxide entered the atmosphere in ancient times thanks to volcanic explosions. This caused a positive greenhouse effect that allowed the Earth’s surface to warm to the point where life could emerge. Without the warming of the earth due to the greenhouse effect, the earth’s temperature would be about -18 °C. Moreover, carbon dioxide is an integral part of the basic process of living nature – photosynthesis.

How is CO2 produced in nature?

Most of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is naturally occurring. It is produced, for example, by volcanic eruptions, composting, biomass burning, etc. Carbon dioxide is even produced when living things breathe. When we breathe in, we take in air with an approximate CO2 concentration of 0.03%, but when the air leaves our lungs it has a CO2 concentration of 4%.

How do I calculate the CO2 emissions of my old car?

CO2 emissions are essentially directly proportional to consumption, so they can be calculated with a very simple approximation. If you know the average consumption in litres per 100 km, multiplying it by 23.92 (26.40 for diesel) gives the CO2 production. So, for example, seven litres of petrol corresponds to 167,44 g of CO2 per km. A more precise calculation of CO2 production can be found here.

How does transport contribute to CO2 production?

Transport contributes only about 12 percent of the total CO2 production! Compared to industry and agriculture, this is not a significant share. Nevertheless, enormous pressure is being put on car manufacturers to reduce CO2 production. More interesting charts can be found here:


Where are the main production/pollution centres?

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) statistics from 1990 to 2006, the main centres of carbon dioxide pollution lie elsewhere than would be expected. Mainly due to refineries and heavy air traffic, the main centres of pollution per capita are in the Gulf region. And as the table below shows, this is not directly related to the number of cars per 1,000 inhabitants.

  Countries CO2
in 1990
in 2006
Number of cars per 1000 population
1. Qatar 25,2 56,2 378
2. SAE 29,4 32,8 193
3. Kuwait 19,0 31,2
4. Bahrain 24,1 28,8 322
6. Luxembourg 26,0 24,5 686
9. USA 19,0 19,0 765
11. Australia 17,4 18,1 619
24. Czech Republic
12,8 11,3 399
33. Russia 13,9 10,9 195
35. Japan 9,5 10,1 543
36. Germany 12,2 9,7 546
55. Slovakia 8,4 7,0 237
96. China 2,1 4,6 17
139. India 0,8 1,3 12

carbon dioxide pollution

How much carbon dioxide do new cars produce?

Fleet average carbon dioxide emissions are steadily declining. In 2003, newly manufactured cars emitted an average of 165 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled. In 2010, twenty grams of CO2 less, averaging 145.9 grams of CO2 per kilometre driven. In 2013 it was just 126.8 g/km and in 2017 it was just 116.84 g/km.

Which brand emits the lowest fleet CO2 emissions?

  Fleet CO2 emissions in 2013   Average CO2 value (g/km)
Renault 110,1
Peugeot 114,9
Toyota 115,9
Citroen 116,2
Fiat 118,1
Seat 118,9
Ford 122,1
Skoda 125,3
Dacia 127,1
Suzuki 127,3
Volkswagen 127,8
Nissan 129,3
Mini 129,5
Kia 129,5
Hyundai 129,7
Opel 132,0
Volvo 132,1
Audi 135,0
BMW 135,7
Mercedes-Benz 139,5

Source: JATO

What are the penalties for exceeding the emission limits?

According to a decision of the European Commission, since 2012, carmakers have been fined for every gram of CO2 above the fleet emissions limit. The fine has been increasing year on year. While in 2012 carmakers paid €5 for each gram above the limit, in 2019 the fine was a full €95! And the penalties for CO2 production continue to rise. Unfortunately, only in the European Union!!!

The increasing production of CO2 is a serious problem, reflecting in particular the growing population of the planet and the human development associated with it. Rising CO2 production must be seen primarily as a global problem, which is why we talk about global warming. It is clear from these facts that Europe alone, through its green policy – the Green Deal – will not save the world! Its contribution to pollution, particularly in the area of car transport, is already relatively low. It is not yet putting further pressure on reducing CO2 production.

If you are arguing that someone has to lead by example and be first, you are certainly right. But will others follow when they see that it has ruined itself economically and socially?