Air pollutant emissions from transport are a main contributor to air quality problems in Europe. Emissions of particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) and carbon monoxide (CO) are regulated in the EU.

Emission regulations are adopted as part of the EU framework for the type approval of cars, vans trucks, buses and coaches. Successive "Euro" standards are designated by Arabic numerals for light-duty vehicles (cars and vans) and Roman numerals for heavy-duty vehicles (trucks, buses and coaches). The latest standards are Euro 6 for light-duty, and Euro VI for heavy-duty.

    • Directive 2007/46/EC provides a common legal framework for the type approval of cars, vans, trucks, buses and coaches
    • Euro 5 and 6 Regulation 715/2007/EC sets the emission limits for cars for regulated pollutants, in particular nitrogen oxides (NOx, i.e. the combined emissions of NO and NO2) of 80mg/km
    • Regulation 692/2008/EC implements and amends Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 on type-approval of motor vehicles with respect to emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles (Euro 5 and Euro 6) and on access to vehicle repair and maintenance information
    • Regulations 2017/1151 (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) and 2018/1832 (Real-Driving Emissions 4) are defining the new test procedures for vehicle type approval and enable real world testing, including testing by independent certified laboratories.
    • Regulation 595/2009/EC requires new heavy duty vehicles and engines to comply with new emission limits and introduces additional requirements on access to information.
    • Commission Regulation (EU) 582/2011 implements and amends Regulation (EC) No 595/2009 with respect to emissions from heavy duty vehicles (Euro VI).

Successive Euro emission standards have led to very significant drops in emissions of exhaust PM and other pollutants such as HC and CO. However, NOx emissions--and in particular NO2 emissions--from road transport have not been reduced as much as expected with the introduction of Euro standards since 1991 because emissions during "real-world" driving conditions are often higher than those measured during the type approval test (in particular for diesel vehicles).

To deal with high on-road emissions from passenger vehicles, where a significant discrepancy with the laboratory testing has been confirmed in recent years, the Commission has developed the Real-Driving Emissions test procedure (RDE), which applies from 1 September 2017. This test procedure, which better reflects the actual emissions on the road and reduces the discrepancy between emissions measured in real driving to those measured in a laboratory, uses portable on-board emission analysers to measure emissions during a realistic, on-road test.

The RDE procedure complements the laboratory-based procedure to check that the emission levels of nitrogen NOx and the particle numbers (PN) measured during the laboratory test stay below reasonable limits also in real driving conditions. Light duty vehicles certified as Euro 6d-TEMP or Euro 6d are certified with real driving emissions tests.

In addition to substantial modification of the testing regime, Regulation (EU) 2018/858 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles has been adopted, which will enable effective independent market surveillance of the environmental performance of vehicles. 

Further information is available on the Commissions' website on emissions in the automotive sector.