euro emission standards

Euro emission standards. What are they, and how have they changed?

30 August 2021

The Euro emission standards set the emissions limit for new cars in the EU and European Economic Area. These standards are different for various vehicle types, so a car or train will have different standards. Importantly, vehicles that exceed the limits cannot be sold in the EU and EEA, Poland included. So how have emission standards evolved over the years?


History of the Euro emission standards

The first emission standards was introduced in 1993. Since then, the average emissions have changed significantly due to the development of combustion engines. Therefore, one of the European Union tasks is to adjust the level of harmful substances in exhaust gases to current values. Subsequent limits set the directions for manufacturers and impose new requirements. For instance, from 2017, every model must be tested for actual values on the road, not just in laboratory conditions.

The Euro standards were not the first of the kind. Before them, in the 1980s, the first regulation named R49 was introduced, which addressed carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide. However, it is the Euro standards that have had an enormous impact on the further development of motoring and the adaptation of engines to new conditions, including climate change.


Euro 1 

It was introduced in 1992 for passenger cars and light goods vehicles. The values were considerably higher than today, but already then, manufacturers opted for exhaust catalysers. Since then, the standards for combustion gases and particulates have been raised significantly. In the case of nitrogen oxides, the difference is as much as 98%; for hydrocarbons 95%, carbon monoxide had to be reduced by 89% and particulates by 97%. That is impressive.


Euro 2 

This standard was in force since 1997. It applied to passenger cars and two-and three-wheelers with internal combustion engines.


Euro 3

These were the limits from 2001. In that case, not only cars and trucks had to comply with the standards, but all vehicles with combustion engines. That standard first distinguished different types of motors. Diesel motors can emit more nitrogen oxides, but the standards for carbon monoxide are stricter.


Euro 4

It entered into force in 2006. It applied to all vehicles, including two- and three-wheelers, but if, for example, an automobile was petrol-powered, it was exempted from the particulates emission limits.

The introduction of the EURO 4 standard in 2006 forced the vehicle manufacturers to introduce substantial changes in the vehicles they offered. The particulate matter filter became a default part of the diesel engines, and more and more engines started to feature the gasoline direct injection. The Common Rail system was more often installed, as the unit pump injectors, very popular then, made it difficult to meet the emission standard criteria. EURO 4 did not verify yet the emission for the cars with the gasoline engine. However, the carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons emission limits were substantially reduced. These changes concerned both the gasoline and the diesel engines. For the passenger cars, the EURO 4 standard was valid until 2011, until the EURO 5 standard was introduced.


Euro 5

This standard was introduced in January 2011. It covered light passenger cars, utility vehicles, two- and three-wheelers. After its introduction, manufacturers began equipping cars with particulates filters, significantly reducing emissions during driving.

New norms gradually increase the requirements, which the car manufacturer must follow. The same applies for the EURO 5 standard, which concerns cars registered since 1 January 2011. What’s important, unlike in the case of the previous standards, the fifth version embraced passenger cars and light utility vehicles, as well as the two- and three-wheel vehicles, whereas for other categories – trucks and buses – separate regulations were introduced. In order to meet the even more rigid requirements, the manufacturers started to apply new solutions, i.a. emission recirculation from the exhaust system to the combustion chamber, selective catalytic reduction, particulate matter filters – all this in order to make driving cars less negatively impactful on the environment.


Euro 6

The EURO 6 standard applies to the cars registered for the first time since September 2016. There have been a few editions of it released – up to the currently enforced one, EURO 6d. Initially, its principle was to reduce the permitted nitrogen oxides emission for cars with the diesel engines. In other ranges – in terms of the particular emission components – there haven’t been many differences. However, the average limits of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission are reduced for all models offered by individual manufacturers – over which the constructors lose their sleep.
The subsequent editions of the EURO 6 standard also introduced new ways of measuring the
emission. The seasoned NEDC procedure has been replaced with a new one, WLTP. The
RDE tests have started to be conducted, which is an analysis of the emission during the
regular use, as well as the reduction of the permitted deviations from the laboratory and the
road test results was introduced. All this leads to achieving the same goal – to limit the
negative impact of transport on the natural environment even more.


Euro 6c 

The modification from September 2019. It tightened the limits even stronger.


Euro 6d 

First introduced provisionally, then the EU enacted the current version. The provisional Euro 6D stipulates how emissions tests are to be carried out.


Euro 7

So far, the European Commission has not announced when it is going to introduce further limits. However, there are many indications that lowering emissions may be truly problematic or impossible without the extensive introduction of electric cars, while minor differences will not make a real change. The EURO 7 standard, which has been announced for some time already, has terrified the automotive industry. And in fact, if the regulation would be introduced in the announced form, it would cause solid problems to the manufacturers. The warnings of the perspective of the end of the combustion engines are also not groundless. And although the principles of EURO 7 are still unknown, according to the latest reports, it brings good news. The introduction of the EURO 7 standard would mean the tightening of the criteria, but it wouldn’t mean the introduction of unattainable limits. The end of the combustion engines era is still in front of us – similarly to the specific information concerning how strict the new standard is going to be. The final establishments are to be revealed until July 2022.


How do I check a car’s Euro emissions standard?

Technically, there must be information about the standards in the vehicle card or registration certificate. However, if you want to know whether your car meets the limits set by the European Commission, it is worth going for a diagnostic test. It is particularly vital if you are importing a vehicle from abroad. The test is referred to as NEDC and precisely measures emissions. At the same time, it is worth noting that prices can be high.


Testing emissions at the service station

The introduction of mandatory testing at service stations during inspections has been announced for some years now. It is primarily supposed to prevent the removal of particulate filters from and deactivation of EGR valves in vehicles. Although these procedures are illegal and harmful, they remain utterly unpunished as diagnostic stations seldom check emissions. However, it can be done using an opacimeter. Yet, that is not a test that can reliably check all the values, as it is more of an optical test than a quantitative and qualitative assessment.

The absence of the particulate filter can be seen, but only if there are clear signs of interference, for a standard pipe inserted in this area. At this point, the central unit can be programmed not to show the absence of the filter. However, the Dieselgate affair of a few years ago demonstrates the need for advanced diagnostic testing during inspections. Therefore, such an amendment should be expected in the not too distant future. Of course, it will require considerable financial outlays from the state budget, but such costs are worth bearing for the environment’s sake.

Euro emission standards. What are they, and how have they changed?
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Euro emission standards. What are they, and how have they changed?
The Euro emission standards set the emissions limit for new cars in the EU and European Economic Area. These standards are different for various vehicle types.
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