In Europe, there have been emissions regulations for passenger cars since 1970. However, the first standard regulations brought into effect across the EU and UK were first introduced in 1992. Known as Euro 1, these Euro emissions standards were imposed on new cars by the European Union in order to cut-down exhaust pollutants to improve the quality of air for the environment and for the health of citizens. From 1992 to today, vehicles with combustion engines have had to pass through various stages of increasingly stringent limits designed to reduced harmful emissions.

To date, there have been 6 standards, with the latest Euro 6 applying to all new cars from September 2015, and to new type approvals from September 2014 – that is, the confirmed production samples that meet specified performance standards.

To understand the impact of the Euro emission standards, just remember the Euro 6 has seen a massive 96% reduction for some pollutants since the Euro 1. It has undoubtedly made cars a lot more environmentally friendly.

What are Euro Emission Standards?

Nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrocarbons (HC) are just some of the harmful toxins found in exhaust fumes from combustion-powered cars, trucks, and motorbikes. The Euro emissions standards is simply a set of regulations introduced to cut down these pollutants, to reduce the carbon footprint vehicles were making in the UK and across Europe.

How effective are Euro Emission Standards?

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the changes since the 1970s have seen the emissions footprint reduced dramatically. Its figures suggest that it would take 50 Euro 6 cars from today to create the same emissions of just one car from 40 years ago! Figures from the SMMT also show that since 1993, carbon monoxide levels are down more than 62% on petrol-powered vehicles and 82% on diesels. Nitrogen oxide has also been reduced significantly, with figures improving by 84% since 2001. Particulate matter is the most impressive, however, having been reduced by 93% in 24 years.

Also, diesel cars, which produce a black soot-like substance that blasts out the exhaust, are now fitted (by law) with diesel particulate filters. In effect since 2006, these particulate filters collect 99% of particulate materials. It’s an important point, as the contents of such emissions could cause respiratory issues. Again, this is the result of the Euro emission standards.

How do Euro Emission standards affect you? And why do you need to know your car’s Euro Emission Standards?

With the introduction of the air quality plan in the UK, the sale of new cars with combustion engines will be banned from 2030 with certain hybrids allowed to remain on sale until 2035. Before this ban is put into place, drivers already face sanctions to discourage the use of older diesel and petrol cars, which produce higher emissions compared to the vehicles manufactured today. This particularly relates to cars that are over 10 years old. You can also see this reflected in vehicle tax rates, with cars that produce more CO2 being charged more.

In addition, under the new Toxicity Charge, those with a car that’s older than Euro 6 diesels and Euro 4 for petrol will have to pay a £10 per day surcharge to drive into central London on top of the current £11.50 congestion charge. This only applies to certain areas of the city such as Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Westminster, and Fitzrovia. And with the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London, motorists can expect emissions to remain a focal point over the coming few years. Indeed, similar low emission zones are expected in other major cities, such as Glasgow and Birmingham.

On the plus side, many manufacturers are encouraging those with older cars to trade them in for an incentive when buying a new car. Customers from Ford, for example, can expect up to £5,000 off a new car when trading in an old car under its scheme.

What’s the future of Euro Emission Standards?

Despite emissions falling dramatically in the last quarter of a century, the European Union feels that we aren’t quite there yet. Following the emissions scandal brought about by the Volkswagen Group in 2015, the EU introduced “Real Driving Emissions” (RDE) in September 2017. In addition to laboratory tests, the RDE will allow for real-life testing that shows more accurate vehicle emissions not under factory conditions.

Following Brexit, the current standards for emissions and Euro specification on UK cars are expected to remain unchanged. The RAC also predicts that over the coming years sanctions will become much stricter.

Photo by Matt Boitor on Unsplash

Check the Euro Emissions of your car

If you’re wondering what Euro emission standard is my car? then take a peak at our handy chart below. Just look at when your car was registered to see its corresponding emissions standard.

My car registered from: Emissions standard
31 December 1992 Euro 1
1 January 1997 Euro 2
1 January 2001 Euro 3
1 January 2006 Euro 4
1 January 2011 Euro 5
1 September 2015 – take note, some cars sold before 1st September 2016 may still have a Euro 5 engine. Be sure to check with the manufacturer/seller in advance. Euro 6

What are the different European Emission Standards?

The European emission standards go from Euro 1, which was the first set off standards, all the way up to the present-day standards of Euro 6. We’ll be looking at each one in more detail, but in reverse order, starting from today’s emission standards and working our way back to when they were first implemented. If you’d like to skip to a specific standard, you can do so below.

  • Euro 1 emission standard
  • Euro 2 emission standard
  • Euro 3 emission standard
  • Euro 4 emission standard
  • Euro 5 emission standard
  • Euro 6 emission standard

Euro 6 and Euro 6 diesel

The Euro 6 emission standards, introduced in September 2014, is the sixth and current standard for all new cars. The Euro 6, following on from the other standards before it, sees a greater reduction in nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are reduced a further 67% from the previous Euro emission standards check, going from 0.18g/km in Euro 5, to just 0.08g/km. Many cars now use additives, via Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), to convert harmful gasses emitted from diesels into nitrogen and water.

As the decades have progressed – from the introduction of the Euro emissions standards in 1992, to today – the number of harmful car emissions allowed has dropped rapidly, in order to preserve the environment and people’s health. To put it into context, let’s compare the very first Euro emissions standards with today’s output.

From 1992, new vehicles had to meet the Euro 1 measures:

  • Petrol: CO: 2.72g/km HC + NOx: 0.97g/km
  • Diesel: CO: 2.72g/km HC + NOx: 0.97g/km PM: 0.14g/km

Fast-forward to Euro 6 and the numbers have changed significantly:

  • Petrol: CO: 1.00g/km HC: 0.10g/km NOx: 0.06g/km PM: 0.005g/km PM: 6.0×10 ^11/km
  • Diesel: CO: 0.50g/km HC + NOx: 0.17g/km NOx: 0.08g/km PM: 0.005g/km PM: 6.0×10 ^11/km

Euro 5

The focus is on diesel cars and their emissions with the introduction of Euro 5 in September 2009. Euro 5 emissions reduced the limit on nitrogen oxides from diesel-powered cars by 28%, and diesel particulate filters (DPFs) were needed by all diesels to meet the new requirements, capturing 99% of particulate matter. A particulate limit was also introduced to petrol cars with direct injection engines. Limits were also reduced across the board.

Euro 4

In January 2005, the Euro 4 emission standards brought tougher sanctions in to tackle the emissions from diesel engines, which were fast becoming popular because of their excellent fuel economy. This was also the first time many cars were being fitted with diesel particulate filters to reduce particulate matter (PM).

Euro 3

With the incoming of Euro 3 in January 2000, the test procedure for emissions was changed in order to stop manufacturers using an engine-warm up period. A limit on the amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted from diesels was also implemented, along with separate hydrocarbon and NOx limits for petrol engines. Permitted carbon monoxide and diesel particulate limits were also further reduced.

Euro 2

In January 1996, Euro 2 emission standards introduced different emission limits for petrol and diesel cars. It reduced the limit for carbon monoxide and further reduced the combined emission limit for unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides for both petrol and diesels.

Euro 1

Introduced in July 1992, Euro 1 was the first Europe-wide emissions standards. It required all new petrol cars to switch to unleaded fuel and have catalytic converters fitted to reduce carbon monoxide. Back then, the emissions regulations weren’t as strict as they are now. Only hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide were tested, along with particulate matter for diesel engines. Nonetheless, it was the first step towards improving air quality and reducing harmful emissions.

What about Euro 7 emission standards?

As of yet, there is no confirmation of Euro 7 emission standards being set. However, under current UK plans, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is set to be banned from 2030, with certain hybrid cars allowed until 2035. In short, we are seeing the end of the combustion engine, and the rise of Electric Vehicles (EVs).

Despite there being no announcement on Euro 7, cross-fleet CO2 figures are also being reduced. By 2021, the European commission is hoping the average will be 95g/km of CO2. This will be a reduction of 18% compared with 2015.

Over the years, the Euro emissions standards has helped improve the air quality by reducing vehicle emissions from petrol and diesel cars. The overall result is better for people’s health and the environment.

Live More. Search Less. And find out which fuel is best in our informative Petrol vs Diesel vs Hybrid vs Electric guide