The Euro emissions standard was introduced 25 years ago and was created to curb vehicle emissions throughout Europe.

In the UK, this meant that from 1992 onwards cars would have a catalytic converter fitted. From then – Euro 1– to now, we have passed through various stages to cut emissions and make cars much more environmentally friendly.

What is the purpose of Euro emissions?

This set of regulations was introduced to cut the carbon footprint vehicles were making in the UK and across Europe.

Nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons are just some of the harmful toxins found in exhaust fumes from combustion-powered cars, trucks and motorbikes.

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 it would take 50 Euro 6 cars from today to create the emissions of one car from 40 years ago.

Euro 6 came into operation in 2015, and since then there has been a lot of negative publicity surrounding diesels. Although more fuel efficient, the contents of the emissions were a cause of respiratory issues throughout the UK.

Diesel cars produce a black soot-like substance that blasts out of the exhaust. One way of tackling this issue was the introduction of diesel particulate filters. This is something that has been fitted to diesel cars, by law, since 2006, with 99 per cent of particulate materials being successfully collected.

Older cars do have emission limits, however, those between 10 and 15 years old will be significantly more polluting than newer models.

Figures from the SMMT show that since 1993, carbon monoxide levels are down more than 62 per cent on petrol-powered vehicles and 82 per cent on diesels. Nitrogen oxide has also been reduced significantly, with figures improving by 84 per cent since 2001.

Particulate matter is the most impressive, however, having been reduced by 93 per cent in 24 years.

How are you affected?

With the introduction of the air quality plan earlier this year, all sales of new cars with combustion engines and no form of electrification will cease by 2040. However, before then sanctions have already been put in place to discourage drivers of older diesel cars. This particularly relates to cars that are over 10 years old.

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.

Many manufacturers are also 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 does the future hold?

Despite emissions falling dramatically in the last quarter of a century, the EU feels that we aren’t quite there yet.

Following the emissions scandal brought about by the Volkswagen Group in 2015, the European Union introduced “Real Driving Emissions” (RDE) in September 2017. It is hoped the RDE will allow for real life testing that shows more accurate emissions of a vehicle and not under factory conditions.

Despite Brexit, the set 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 more strict.

What are the different Euro specifications?

Euro 1 – July 1992

This was the first year the standards were introduced. All petrol cars were required to switch to unleaded fuel and catalytic converters were also fitted.

Euro 2 – January 1996

This saw the introduction of a limit on carbon monoxide across both petrol and diesel models.

Euro 3 – January 2000

Test procedures for emissions were changed to stop manufacturers using an engine-warm up period.  A limit on the amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted from diesels was also implemented.

Euro 4 – January 2005

Tougher sanctions were brought in to tackle the emissions from diesel cars, which were fast becoming popular because of the excellent economy. This was also the first time many cars were being fitted with particulate filters.

Euro 5 – September 2009

The focus remained on diesel cars and their emissions. The limit on nitrogen oxides emitted from diesel-powered cars was reduced by 28 per cent. Particulate filters were also fitted to petrol cars.

Euro 6 – September 2014

This is the current standard for all new cars, and this time saw another reduction in NOx, this time by a further 67 per cent compared with Euro 5. Many cars now use additives to convert harmful gasses emitted form diesels into nitrogen and water.

This outlines the amount of toxic pollution such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC) found in exhaust fumes by the European emissions standards. As the decades have progressed, the number of toxin emissions allowed has dropped rapidly. New cars must have restricted amounts to preserve not only the environment but benefit people’s health.

To put it into context, here is a look at the emissions standards 25 years ago compared with today.

All new cars registered from January 1992 onwards had to comply with these 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 2014 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

What about Euro 7?

As of yet there is no confirmation of a Euro 7 standard being set. However, with dramatic events during 2017 outlining the eventual cease of all combustion engines, and the introduction of the T-charge to London, and some cities such as Oxford even announcing a total ban on all vehicles in certain areas, people can expect emissions to be severely rationed over the coming few years.

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

James Ash


Content Marketing Executive at

December 14, 2017

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