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European Commission - Fact Sheet

FAQ - Air pollutant emissions standards

Brussels, 25 September 2015

How are pollutant emissions regulated at EU level?

Directive 2007/46/EC provides a common legal framework for the type approval of cars, vans trucks, buses and coaches. Type approvals are subject to fully harmonised EU requirements under:

- legislation defining the emission limits, such as Regulation 715/2007/EC - approved by the European Parliament and the Council;

- implementing legislation defining the test procedures - reviewed according to comitology procedure by the technical Committee for Motor Vehicles (TCMV) where all Members states are represented.

The Euro 5 and 6 Regulation 715/2007/EC, agreed by the European Parliament and Council, specifies emission limits for all important toxic pollutants. These include nitrogen oxides (NOx, i.e. the combined emissions of NO and NO2). The currently applicable NOx emission limit for new diesel passenger cars and light vans sold in the EU is 80 mg/km.

What is the Commission doing to address shortcomings of emissions testing of diesel vehicles?

Currently emissions are measured on a laboratory test cycle (NEDC) which does not reflect the emissions of vehicles in normal driving conditions. The Commission has therefore been working intensely to develop robust procedures for the emission testing of vehicles in real driving. Currently nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions of diesel vehicles measured on the road may in reality exceed substantially the emissions measured on the regulatory test cycle (NEDC), though in most cases probably in line with the applicable legislation. To address this shortcoming, the Commission has been working to develop Real Driving Emission (RDE) test procedures. They replace the current laboratory based testing and will assess the emission performance of vehicles on roads. The new procedure was voted in May 2015 by the respective regulatory committee (Technical Committee for Motor Vehicles, TCMV) where all Members states are represented, and it will come into force in January 2016.

How will the RDE test procedure work? Will it eliminate the risk of cheating with a defect devices?

The RDE procedure will complement the laboratory based procedure to check that the emission levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and at a later stage also particle numbers (PN), measured during the laboratory test are confirmed in real driving conditions. This means that the car will be driven outside and on a real road according to random acceleration and deceleration patterns. The pollutant emissions will be measured by portable emission measuring systems (PEMS) that will be attached to the car. RDE testing will reduce the currently observed differences between emissions measured in the laboratory, and those measured on road under real-world conditions, and to a great extent limit the risk of cheating with a defeat device.  

When will the RDE test procedure be in force?

In May 2015 the new procedure received a positive vote from the Technical Committee for Motor Vehicles, where all Members states are represented, and it will come into effect in January 2016. In this initial stage the portable emissions system will be used for monitoring purposes and it will have no implications on the conformity certificate issued by the national type-approval authority (TAA). Work is now underway to establish the regulatory not-to-exceed (NTE) emission limits applicable in RDE testing. These limits define the acceptable small degree of deviation from the emission limit set in Regulation 715/2007/ECto take into account measurement uncertainties present in the on-road testing. The NTE approach has proven its robustness in the assessment of, for example, emissions form heavy-duty vehicles. Other elements that are being discussed are test boundary conditions, such as temperature, altitude or velocity. All the details related to the RDE procedure for passenger cars and vans are currently being discussed with stakeholders and Member States. The Commission services aim to have the not-to-exceed emission limits applicable for all type approvals in the autumn 2017 and for new vehicles in the autumn 2018. The not-to-exceed limits should reflect environmental objectives as well as economic and technical feasibility.

What does WLTP stand for?

A new test procedure, the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedures (WLTP), has been adopted in the United Nations system (UNECE) for measuring pollutant emissions and CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light commercial vans in the laboratory. The implementation process in the EU has started in parallel. The focus of the improvements is CO2 emissions testing. For NOx, RDE testing will complement laboratory test procedures.

Who is responsible for the emission testing?

Before vehicles can be put on the market, they are tested by a national technical service in accordance with the EU legislation. The national type-approval authority (TAA) grants the approval on the basis of these tests. The manufacturer may make an application for approval in any EU country. Once approved in one Member State, all vehicles of its type may be registered throughout the EU. The type approval legislation requires that cars meet the limit values 'under normal conditions of use'. In practice this requirement is implemented by establishing a test cycle to put the car through its paces, and checking whether the cycle emissions are below the limit value. Any car whose emissions are below the limit value is fit for type approval. The detailed description and rules for these test are laid down in the implementing legislation pursuant to the Euro 5/6 Regulation 715/2007/EC. The same monitoring system will continue to apply for the RDE testing and the portable emission measurement system.

Who checks that national authorities actually carry out the tests correctly?

Market surveillance and control of compliance with the type-approval legislation is a competence of the Member States. Article 30 of the Framework Directive requires Member States to take all the necessary measures to ensure that vehicles conform to their type-approval and Member States other than the Member State which granted the type-approval can do their own tests if they feel that here is a breach of the legislation. If a Member State demonstrates that there is a problem, it may ask the Member State which granted the type-approval to take corrective measures.

Are there any emissions tests after the vehicle has been type approved?

In accordance with type-approval legislation, vehicles are subject to checks on conformity of production and also to measures to ensure in-service conformity. Conformity of production tests are carried out on samples of freshly produced vehicles and ensure that their emissions values are in-line with the ones measured at type-approval. In-service conformity tests are carried out on vehicles that have been in use for a certain number of kilometres or years to ensure that they still have a pollution performance that is within a certain margin of the type-approval values. The procedure used for both tests is the same laboratory test that was done for type-approval.

Can the EU impose penalties if the rules regarding type approval are violated?

Under the Euro 5/6 legislation, it is for the Member State which has type-approved a vehicle to impose penalties for breach of the type-approval procedure. In particular, if it were determined that a car type-approved in a Member State had been modified to beat the cycle, the Member State which type-approved the car would be responsible for imposing penalties. More specifically, article 30(1) of Directive 2007/46/EC states that if a Member State which has granted an EC type-approval finds that new vehicles do not conform to the type it has approved, it shall take the necessary measures, including, where necessary, the withdrawal of type-approval, to ensure that production vehicles are brought into conformity with the approved type. In addition, Article 46 of the same Directive requires Member States to determine the penalties and to take all necessary measures for their implementation.

Are defeat devices illegal in the EU?

Yes. Defeat devices are forbidden in the EU. Article 5 (2) of Euro 6 Regulation 715/2007/EC prohibits the use of defeat devices. Article 3(10) defines defeat device as any element of design which senses temperature, vehicle speed, engine speed (RPM), transmission gear, manifold vacuum or any other parameter for the purpose of activating, modulating, delaying or deactivating the operation of any part of the emission control system, that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system under conditions which may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal vehicle operation and use.

Why did the Commission decide to introduce RDE testing?

Once it became clear that the test procedure set out in Regulation 715/2007/ECand its implementing legislation was not reflecting real driving emissions of vehicles, the European Commission decided in 2010 to address this situation by complementing the current laboratory test with a real-driving test procedure, which should be able to capture the wide range of driving conditions encountered on the road. A "real-driving emissions of light duty vehicles" working group composed by industry stakeholders and Member States representatives was set up to develop a test procedure to directly assess the regulated emissions of light duty vehicles under real driving conditions. In the course of the work of the working group, two candidate procedures were investigated: a randomised test cycle and the use of portable emission measurements systems (PEMS). Following an in-depth analysis of both approaches, on-road testing with a portable device was judged to better cover the wide range of driving and ambient conditions than laboratory test cycles. As soon as the new procedure was ready from the technical point of view, the Commission proposed draft legislation which was voted in May 2015 by the respective regulatory committee (TCMV).

How does regulation differ in the EU and US both on emission limits and on testing procedures?

In the US, the Clean Air Act (CAA) requires every engine and motor vehicle to meet a set of emission standards and conformity requirements. Anyone wishing to sell an engine or vehicle within the United States must demonstrate compliance with the CAA and all applicable EPA regulations. Today, in the EU as well as in the US, vehicles are being tested on a chassis dynamometer in the lab according to well-described driving patterns (= regulatory test cycles) for compliance with regulatory emission limits. Test cycles are different in the EU and US. In the US there are several test cycles while in the EU there is only one. However, the differences in the test cycles are not relevant, since any laboratory test cycle can be defeated. As for the emission limits for NOx, in the US it is 50mg per mile, while in the EU it is of 80mg per km but also this difference is not relevant for the existing case. This is why the introduction of the RDE procedure is so important, as it would allow authorities to detect the use of defeat devices.

What are the applicable limits for CO2 emissions?

Unlike pollutants, at low concentrations CO2 emissions are not directly harmful to our health, but cause climate change. That is why the EU is reducing its CO2 emissions, including from transport. In contrast to pollutant emissions, for CO2 emissions there are no maximum limits per vehicle. But CO2 emissions are monitored and EU Regulations 443/2009 and 510/2011 establish CO2 performance standards for cars and vans and emission reduction targets. By 2021, the fleet average to be achieved by all new cars is 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre. This means a fuel consumption of around 4.1 l/100 km of petrol or 3.6 l/100 km of diesel. For vans, the target is 147 grams of CO2 per kilometre, corresponding to around 5.5 l/100 km of diesel. To help drivers choose new cars with low fuel consumption, cars have a label showing their test cycle fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions. If defeat devices were used to influence test CO2 emissions, it is likely the relative size of their impact would be lower than for pollutant emissions. For CO2 emissions the laboratory test procedure should improve with the introduction of the "Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure".

What is the Commission doing to tackle air pollution?

The Commission adopted a Clean Air Policy Package in December 2013, consisting of new air quality objectives for the period up to 2030, a revised National Emission Ceilings Directive with stricter national emission ceilings for the six main pollutants (SO2, NOx, non-methane VOCs, NH3, PM2.5 and CH4), and a proposal for a new Directive to reduce pollution from medium-sized combustion installations. The local air quality limits which may not be exceeded are set under the Ambient Air Quality Directives. The Directives address three main pollutants, particulate matter (PM10) originating from emissions from industry, traffic and domestic heating, sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Infringement procedures in this area are about the exceedances of the limit values which are measured at the monitoring stations in each Member State and appropriate measures to comply with these limit values.

How does the EU inform citizens about the consequences of air pollution and car emissions?

EU legislation foresees that Member States must ensure that up-to-date information on ambient concentrations of the different pollutants is routinely made available to the public. When information or alert thresholds are exceeded, Member States need to inform the public about the exceedance and the actions that are eventually taken. To facilitate consumer choice, citizens will also be informed of the real-world vehicle emissions measured according to the new test cycle (from the Euro 6 deadlines onwards). At EU level a number of sources exist that provide information to the public. Several important databases concerning air quality are managed by the European Environment Agency (EEA), including the AirBase database, the database on ozone. The Ambient Air Quality Portal contains a collection of documents delivered by each country, concerning various topics, including air quality.


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