12 Dec 22

Euro emission standards mark 30 years of cleaner exhaust fumes

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the European Commission’s first Euro emissions standard for cars, a programme that will continue even for electric vehicles. 

Fleets have driven progressively cleaner cars and vans over the last 30 years, due in no small part to the Euro emission standards that all new vehicles have to meet.

As a result of the Euro emissions standards, each new generation of vehicles since 1992 has emitted less carbon monoxide (CO), unburnt hydrocarbons (HC), NOx and PM than its predecessor (the standards do not apply to carbon dioxide).

Euro 1 came into force for all new models in July 1992 and for all new registrations at the end of the year, making the fitment of catalytic converters compulsory on all new cars and requiring a switch to unleaded petrol.

This first standard set a maximum CO threshold for petrol cars of 2.72g/km and for HC and NOx of 0.97g/km. Diesel cars had to meet the same standard, with the extra requirement of producing no more than 0.14g/km of PM.

Cars and LCVs

Euro 1 was extended in August 1994 to registrations of include light commercial vehicles, as well as passenger cars.

Fast forward to September 2015 and the introduction of Euro 6, which remains the emission standard for new registrations, and the maximum CO permitted from petrol cars is almost one-third lower than Euro 1, at 1g/km, while the maximum NOx emissions have shrunk to 0.06g/km, while PM emissions have to be below 0.05g/km.

The limits are even lower for diesel cars at 0.5g/km for CO, 0.08g/km for NOx, and 0.005g/km for PM.

According to ACEA, Euro 6 standards delivered a 28% reduction in PM emissions and a 25% cut in NOx emissions from the EU car and van fleet between 2014 and 2020; and will reduce NOx emissions by 80% by 2035, compared to 2020 levels.

Euro 7

Looking ahead, the European Commission has proposed Euro 7 standards, to apply from 1 July 2025, which OEMs have criticised for being an unnecessary diversion of time and resource from their electrification objectives.

But environmental campaigners insist Euro 7 does not go far enough. Even today, road transport is the largest source of air pollution in cities, accounting for more than 39% of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 10% of primary particulate matter (PM) in the EU as recently as 2018. These pollutants damage public health and shorten lives, according to the EC.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, said: “We cannot accept a society where exposure to air pollution is responsible for more than 300,000 premature deaths in the EU-27 alone annually.”

Electric vehicle emissions

Even if all new cars do electrify, elements of Euro 7 will remain relevant, with the European Commission proposing to include emissions from brakes and tyres within future emission standards.

Authored by: Jonathan Manning