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European Emission Standards: What's their purpose?

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European emission standards began to be introduced in 1992 for all new cars to improve air quality. At the time of publishing, all new cars sold in the European Union must meet the Euro 6 emission standard.

Most recently, however, the final form of the new Euro 7 emission standard is being negotiated, which should apply in the summer of 2025. What will this mean, what do the other Euro emission standards represent, and what applies to diesel and gasoline engines?

Inhoudsopgave

According to the EU, vehicle exhaust emissions are among Europe's main pollution sources and air quality deterioration. The regulations set acceptable limits for exhaust emissions from vehicles sold in EU and EEA (European Economic Area) member states and are designed to become increasingly stringent over time.

European Euro Emission Standards to reduce harmful substances

  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx) - are harmful to health; they attack the lungs and mucous membranes. They are formed in the engine during combustion.

  • Carbon monoxide (CO) - is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas lighter than air. It is non-irritating but highly poisonous, binds to hemoglobin, and thus prevents oxygen transfer from the lungs to the tissues.

  • Hydrocarbons (HC) - mainly contain carcinogenic (cancer-causing) hydrocarbons, poisonous aldehydes, and non-poisonous alkanes and alkenes.

  • Particulate matter (PM) - tiny particles of a solid state dispersed in the air, so small that they can be carried by air. Their increased concentration causes health problems, such as inflammatory lung disease, respiratory diseases, and chronic lung diseases that cannot be cured.

"It takes 50 new cars today to produce the same amount of harmful emissions as one car built in the 1970s."

The numbers also show a drastic decrease in harmful substances

  • Carbon monoxide (CO): decreased by 63% in the gasoline engine and by 82% in the diesel engine since 1993

  • Hydrocarbons (HC): since 2001, their amount has decreased by 50% in gasoline engines

  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx): decreased by 84% since 2001

  • Particulate matter (PM): decreased by 96% in diesel engines since 1993

Because gasoline and diesel engines produce different emissions, they are also subject to different standards. For example, diesel engines produce more particulate matter and soot, which led to the introduction of the diesel particulate filter (DPF/FAP).

Nevertheless, emissions from road transport have not been reduced as much as the EU expected. Emissions are measured in artificial conditions that have nothing to do with real-life driving conditions, so while the table values agreed, the real ones were somewhere completely off.

A table prepared by the European Commission lists the Euro categories that apply to new vehicle models approved after a certain date. Any vehicle sold within one year of the date below must comply with the relevant standard.

Emission standard

Approved as of the date

Euro 1

July 1992

Euro 2

January 1996

Euro 3

January 2000

Euro 4

January 2005

Euro 5

September 2009

Euro 6

September 2014

Emission standard Euro 1

The first pan-European emission standard, Euro 1, was introduced in July 1992. Since then, all new vehicles have had to be fitted with a catalytic converter and pre-set for unleaded oil.

Euro 1 emission limits for gasoline:

CO

2,72 g/km

HC + NOx

0,97 g/km

Euro 1 emission limits for diesel:

CO

2,72 g/km

HC + NOx

0,97 g/km

PM

0,14 g/km

Emission standard Euro 2

The Euro 2 emission standard was approved on January 1, 1996. This standard lowered carbon monoxide and the combined limit for hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.

Euro 2 emission limits for gasoline:

CO

2,2 g/km

HC + NOx

0,5 g/km

Euro 2 emission limits for diesel:

CO

1 g/km

HC + NOx

0,7 g/km

PM

0,08 g/km

Emission standard Euro 3

The Euro 3 emission standard was approved on January 1, 2000, and divided the limits of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides but also added a special limit for nitrogen oxides.

Euro 3 emission limits for gasoline:

CO

2,3 g/km

HC

0,20 g/km

NOx

0,15 g/km

Euro 3 emission limits for diesel:

CO

0,64 g/km

HC + NOx

0,56 g/km

NOx

0,50 g/km

PM

0,05 g/km

Emission standard Euro 4

It was introduced on January 1, 2005.

Euro 4 emission limits for gasoline:

CO

1,0 g/km

HC

0,10 g/km

NOx

0,08 g/km

Euro 4 emission limits for diesel:

CO

0,50 g/km

HC + NOx

0,30 g/km

NOx

0,25 g/km

PM

0,025 g/km

Emission standard Euro 5

It was approved on September 1, 2009. The big news with Euro 5 was the introduction of particulate filters (DPF/FAP) for all new diesel vehicles.

Euro 5 emission limits for gasoline:

CO

1,0 g/km

HC

0,10 g/km

NOx

0,06 g/km

PM

0,005 g/km

Euro 5 emission limits for diesel:

CO

0,50 g/km

HC + NOx

0,23 g/km

NOx

0,18 g/km

PM

0,005 g/km

Emission standard Euro 6

The Euro 6 emission standard was approved on September 1, 2014. The sixth Euro emission standard is focused on diesel NOx, mainly due to the results of studies linking these emissions to respiratory problems.

To meet the new targets, some manufacturers have introduced a selective catalytic reduction in cars, where AdBlue is injected into the diesel engine's exhaust.

Euro 6 emission limits for gasoline:

CO

1,0 g/km

HC

0,10 g/km

NOx

0,06 g/km

PM

0,005 g/km

Euro 6 emission limits for diesel:

CO

0,50 g/km

HC + NOx

0,17 g/km

NOx

0,08 g/km

PM

0,005 g/km

The emissions from vehicles have indeed decreased, but not as much as the tables show, which is why the EU is introducing a different procedure for measuring emissions from September 1, 2017. Compared to the past when the laboratory measurements were fine, it will now measure the emissions during real driving scenarios, which should better reflect the vehicle's actual emissions.

Emission standard Euro 7

The Euro 7 emission standard should be introduced in July 2025, but the final form of this standard is still being negotiated. It will be the most stringent standard. Although the changes compared to the previous Euro 6 standard are not too drastic when only looking at the tables, the European Union will require that these standards apply in real operation.

This means even short drives, driving during freezing weather, or with a load on the roof or a hitched trailer. Until now, cars had to meet the limits in laboratory conditions, so this is a huge change.

To make matters worse, passenger cars should be able to meet the emissions guaranteed by the manufacturer for ten years and at least 200 thousand kilometers (or 125 thousand miles). In the case of trucks, this limit is set at fifteen years and at least 875 thousand kilometers (or 550 thousand miles).

Would the Euro 7 Emission Standard be the final nail in the coffin?

Several car manufacturers have a negative attitude towards the Euro 7 emission standard. According to many, the increase in the price of passenger cars is inevitable under this standard. It would mean, among other things, a limitation of production, the end of available vehicles, or even the end of some car plants within the European Union.