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FAQ - Type approval of vehicles

FAQ - Type approval of vehicles

This is a list of frequently asked questions on passenger vehicles (excluding heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks and buses).

Type approval of vehicles

What does type approval mean and how does it work?

Type approval describes the process applied by national authorities to certify that a model of a vehicle meets all EU safety, environmental and conformity of production requirements before authorising it to be placed on the EU market.

The manufacturer makes available about a dozen or more pre-production cars that are equal to the final product. These prototypes are used to test compliance with EU safety rules (installation of lights, braking performance, stability control, crash tests with dummies), noise and emissions limits as well as production requirements (of individual parts and components, such as seats or steering wheel airbags). If all relevant requirements are met, the national authority delivers an EU vehicle type approval to the manufacturer authorising the sale of the vehicle type in the EU. The system is based on the mutual recognition of approvals granted by Member States (certified once, accepted everywhere in the EU).

Every vehicle produced is then accompanied by a certificate of conformity, which is like the car's birth certificate, in which the manufacturer certifies that the vehicle corresponds to the approved type. On the basis of this document, the vehicle can be registered anywhere in Europe.

Who is responsible for carrying out the emission testing in the type approval and checking that tests are carried out correctly?

The manufacturer may make an application for approval in any EU Member State.

In most Member States the national type approval authority (TAA) does not have in-house testing facilities, so it designates the technical service(s) allowed to test prototypes on its behalf. The TAA checks that the tests are done correctly. The manufacturer can get partial type approvals in the different Member States but the overall type approval will always be delivered by one national authority.

The approval of a vehicle type in one EU country is valid EU-wide without the need for further tests and re-certification. This principle of mutual recognition of type approvals is at the core of the EU Single Market, but it requires strict rules and thorough enforcement.

Isn't there a conflict of interest when the car manufacturers pay for the certification work?

It is common practice in most of the regulated product sectors that the manufacturer pays for the authorisation process required to sell its products. Currently, manufacturers pay a fee directly to the technical services for the type approval testing that these carry out for them. Technical services are dependent on these revenues and compete for this work.

Given the potential conflict of interest arising from the possible financial links between technical services and manufacturers, and to preserve the independence of testing, the Commission in its proposal for a reform of the type approval framework of 27 January 2016 suggested to modify the remuneration system. Under the proposed new rules, technical services would no longer receive direct payments from manufacturers but instead all fees would be collected by the Member States. Member States would have to establish a comprehensive national fee structure to cover the costs for testing and inspections carried out by the technical services they have designated, as well as to cover the costs for the type approval certification, market surveillance activities and conformity of production review assessments. The proposal also foresees more stringent performance criteria for technical services. They would be regularly and independently audited to obtain and maintain their designation.

What are the roles and differences of type approval authority, technical service and market surveillance authority?

  • Type approval authorities (e.g. KBA in Germany, RDW in the Netherlands) are national public authorities in charge of officially approving vehicles before they can be put on the EU market. The decision to approve a new vehicle type is based on compliance tests that are carried out by testing bodies and laboratories (‘technical services’) that are either in-house or, in most cases, specifically designated by the type approval authorities. In some Member States where neither the TAA nor the Technical Services (TS) has their own laboratories, the TAA can decide that the compliance checks are carried out at the vehicle manufacturer's premises, under the control of TAA/TS representatives.
  • Technical services (e.g. TUV, UTAC, IDIADA, etc.) are the test bodies and laboratories that are specifically designated by the Member States’ type approval authorities to carry out the type approval tests in accordance with EU legislation.
  • Market surveillance authorities are national public authorities in charge of market surveillance. They check that the products already available on the market are safe and not harmful to the environment and exactly the same as the samples offered for initial testing and approval. These authorities are usually also in charge of general product safety (e.g. Consumer Rights Protection in Latvia or customs office in Italy). Market surveillance authorities linked to vehicle compliance activities are in some cases the same as the type approval authorities.

Market surveillance

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

Yes. Vehicles are subject to checks on the 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 on the prototype vehicles 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 the limits. The procedure used for both tests is the same laboratory test that was done for type approval.

Under the proposed reform of the type approval framework, Member States and the Commission would carry out compliance verification spot-checks of vehicles that are already on the market. The Commission is working to extend the check tests to on-road (Real Driving Emissions – RDE) measurements.

Who checks that type approval rules are enforced?

The Commission sets the regulatory framework for type approval of vehicles. But within the current type approval framework, national authorities are solely responsible for checking car manufacturers' compliance. National authorities do the policing on the ground – the type approval authorities perform the checks before the product is put on the market, while the market surveillance authorities are responsible for the products that are already on the market. Those national authorities dispose of all the enforcement tools necessary to implement EU legislation.

The proposed reform of the type approval framework would give to the Commission the right to carry out checks on vehicles already placed on the market and to impose penalties in case of non-compliance, as well as to suspend the designation of a technical service. This increases the deterrents for unscrupulous manufacturers and underperforming technical services that might place or admit non-compliant vehicles on the market. National type approval authorities would also be subject to peer reviews to ensure that the relevant rules are implemented and enforced rigorously across the EU.

Who can decide on withdrawals of non-complying vehicles from the market?

Under the current framework (Article 30 of the Directive 2007/46/EC) only the Member State that has type approved the vehicle in question can decide to demand a recall or, in severe cases, a full withdrawal from the market. Other Member States can only ask the Member State which approved the vehicle to take action. The Commission can only take action indirectly.

Under the proposed reform, any Member State would have the right to order recalls or market withdrawals for non-compliance.

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

Under the current system, only the Member State that has type approved a vehicle can impose penalties for breach of the type approval procedure. The general obligation on Member States to make the penalties effective, proportionate and dissuasive complements the general civil and criminal law of Member States that may be applicable if allegations of fraud are confirmed.

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 should take the necessary measures, including, where necessary, the withdrawal of the type approval, to ensure that the production of vehicles is brought into conformity with the approved type. Article 46 of the same Directive requires Member States to determine the penalties and to take all necessary measures for their implementation. Under Article 13 of Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 Member States have to set out penalties applicable in case of breaches by manufacturers of the provisions of the said Regulation.

The proposed reform of the type approval framework would empower the Commission to impose penalties in case of non-compliance. Car manufacturers who are in breach of type approval legislation (e.g. defeat devices or fake declarations) would risk administrative fines of up to EUR 30,000 per vehicle which can be levied by the Commission if no fine is being imposed by the Member State. Fines can also be imposed on technical services if they fail to carry out the tests rigorously. Member States would also have to inform the Commission every year on the penalties they have imposed.

How would the Commission's proposal on the EU type approval framework improve the market surveillance?

On 27 January 2016, the Commission proposed a Regulation on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles to replace the current Framework Directive. This reform is intended to:

  • Reinforce the independence and quality of testing before a car can be placed on the market: The majority of Member States designate technical services, which are paid directly by car manufacturers, for the testing and inspection of the vehicle's compliance with EU type approval requirements. The Commission proposes to modify the remuneration system to avoid financial links between technical services and manufacturers, which could lead to conflicts of interest and compromise the independence of testing. The proposal also foresees more stringent performance criteria for these technical services, which should be regularly and independently audited to obtain and maintain their designation. National technical services would be subject to peer reviews to ensure that the relevant rules are implemented and enforced rigorously across the EU.


  • Introduce an effective market surveillance system to control the conformity of cars already on the market: While the current rules put more emphasis on ex-ante controls, in the future Member States and the Commission would carry out checks on vehicles already on the market in a more coordinated manner. This would make it easier to detect non-compliance at an early stage, and ensure that immediate and robust remedial action is taken against vehicles that are found to be non-compliant and/or to present a serious safety risk or harm to the environment. Furthermore, all Member States would be able to take safeguard measures against non-compliant vehicles on their territory without waiting for the authority that issued the type approval to take action. Member States would also have to review regularly the functioning of their market surveillance activities and make the results publicly available.


  • Reinforce the type approval system with greater European oversight: In agreement with Member States, the Commission would have the power to suspend, restrict or withdraw the designation of technical services that are underperforming and too lax in applying the rules. In the future the Commission would be able to carry out ex-post verification testing (through its laboratories in the Joint Research Centre) and, if needed, initiate recalls. By allowing also the Commission to impose financial penalties, the proposal aims at deterring manufacturers and technical services from allowing non-compliant vehicles onto the market. The Commission would also chair an Enforcement Forum which would develop common compliance verification strategies with Member States.

For more information see the press release and the frequently asked questions about the proposal.

What are defeat devices and what is the Commission doing to prevent future instances of fraud?

Article 3 of the Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 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".

Defeat devices are explicitly prohibited in EU legislation. Member States have a standing obligation to police and enforce the ban. Defeat devices were first banned by Directive 98/69/EC and later by the currently applicable Regulation (EC) No 715/2007. There are however some exemptions for the use of such devices when it is necessary for the protection of the engine from severe damage and/or for safety related issues.

The new Regulation on type approval proposed by the Commission in January 2016 would improve market surveillance and allow for coherent action across the EU in instances of non-compliance. It would introduce deterrents for unscrupulous manufacturers and underperforming technical services as well as sanctions at EU level. If adopted, the Regulation would also oblige manufacturers to provide access to data of vehicle software for the purpose of carrying out external checks. This complements the 2nd Real Driving Emissions act which introduces an obligation for the car manufacturer to declare its emissions reduction strategy, thus widening the legal basis for action in case of any irregularities.

Did the Commission become aware of the use of defeat devices in the course of the research carried out by the Joint Research Centre (JRC)?

Defeat devices have been banned by EU legislation since 1998. Member States have a standing obligation to enforce and police this ban. The risk of the presence of defeat devices was hence known to the Commission, the European Parliament and the Member States, but the Commission was not aware of any actual instances of fraud. What the Commission was aware of is that laboratory tests do not accurately capture the amount of NOx emitted during real driving conditions, which can be due to many different factors.

The Commission's in-house research centre, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), carried out studies at the request of the Commission, comparing different methodologies to measure car emissions (laboratory vs on-the-road testing). These were scientific studies in view of future policies, not technical controls. The studies were published on the Commission's website in 2011 (Analysing on-road emissions of light-duty vehicles with Portable Emission Measurement Systems) and 2013 (A complementary emissions test for light-duty vehicles: Assessing the technical feasibility of candidate procedures), made available to the public and discussed extensively with Member States.

The research confirmed that laboratory tests do not accurately capture the amount of NOx emitted during real driving conditions and provided vital support in the Commission's efforts to introduce Real Driving Emissions testing. The research also showed that the on-the-road option using Portable Emission Measurement Systems (PEMS) could be considered viable for light-duty vehicles once the technological and methodological challenges were solved. Real driving testing using PEMS was already in use for heavy-duty vehicles (trucks, buses) but it was bulky and heavy. Test equipment had to be adapted for use on the lighter and smaller passenger cars, and the test procedure with its boundary conditions as well as the data processing methodology had to be developed.

The Commission followed this scientific evidence and immediately started the work to develop the Real Driving Emissions test as a more accurate way to measure NOx emissions, minimising also any potential risk of misuse of defeat devices.

Was the Commission's proposal to reform the type approval framework a reaction to the Volkswagen revelations?

A "fitness check" of the current framework in 2013 concluded that differences in the interpretation and application of the rules by national type approval authorities and technical services could undermine the effectiveness of the system across Member States, highlighting the need for more efficient enforcement. The Commission was finalising a legislative proposal to review the current type approval system when the revelations of emissions manipulations emerged. The Commission concluded on the need for more far-reaching reform to prevent cases of non-compliance from happening again.

What actions did the Commission take to investigate the Volkswagen case?

Within the current type approval system, the Commission sets the regulatory framework on type-approval of vehicles. National authorities are responsible for checking that car manufacturers comply with these rules.

Immediately after the Volkswagen revelations, the Commission invited Member States to carry out the necessary investigations at the national level into the possible presence of defeat devices in the vehicles circulating on their territory and report on the scope and modalities of the investigations. A number of Member States announced that they would carry out investigations of their own. The Commission is facilitating the exchange of information between Member States and supporting their investigations with a common testing methodology, elaborated with the help of the Joint Research Centre, to harmonise national testing. The Commission is regularly asking for updates on the state of play of national investigations and for information on what vehicles were tested and how, and on the interpretation of the results. The Commission is already assessing the results of the first reports from Member States.

Following Volkswagen's announcement on CO2 irregularities, the Commission asked Member States to widen their investigations to also establish potential breaches of EU law in the context of the certification of official fuel consumption and CO2 emission values.

The Commission has also asked Volkswagen to accelerate its internal investigation to clarify without delay what types of irregularities have been found, what caused them, which cars are affected and where they were registered, and the measures that the Volkswagen Group will undertake to remedy the situation.

The Commission's proposal to overhaul the type approval system would bring much greater European oversight and enforcement powers for the Commission in the future. In addition, the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedure would to a great extent help limit the risk of cheating with a defeat device, and prevent that manufacturers exploit flexibility within the laboratory based test procedure.

Can consumers get compensation if car manufacturers have violated the rules?

The legal assessment of consumer compensation is always a matter for national courts, on a case-by-case basis.

In general, under the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive (Directive 1999/44/EC) the seller is liable for any lack of conformity with the sales contract that exists at the time the product was delivered. In the case of a car, if the seller repairs it by ensuring that the emissions are reduced to the correct level, then the overall performance of the car must remain in conformity with the contract. If this is not the case the consumer may ask for a price reduction or to get his/her money back. The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (Directive 2005/29/EC) stipulates that traders may not provide consumers with misleading information likely to cause them to conclude transaction they would not have concluded otherwise, including in relation to the marketing of cars.

Measuring of pollutant emissions

Which pollutant emissions from vehicles are regulated by EU rules?

The principal air quality pollutant emissions from petrol, diesel, and alternative-fuel engines are carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NO and NO2), unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) and particulate matter (PM). Emissions of these pollutants are regulated by the "Euro emissions standards".

Unlike pollutants, at low concentrations CO2 emissions are not directly harmful to our health, but cause climate change. That is why the EU law also sets CO2 emissions targets for cars and vans. The targets are not set by vehicle, but for a vehicle fleet. They are not set by the "Euro emission standards" but by dedicated legislation (see section CO2 emissions).

How are pollutant emissions of vehicles regulated at EU level?

Emissions of air quality pollutants from road vehicles have been progressively reduced by improving the quality of fuels and by setting increasingly stringent emission limits for new vehicles. As an example, it would take 50 new cars to produce the same quantity of air quality pollutant emissions per kilometre as one vehicle made in 1970. Over the last twenty years increasingly stringent emission limits have been set for light-duty vehicles at a European level, starting with the "Euro 1" limits in 1993. From September 2015 all new cars have had to meet the Euro 6 limits. Similarly, Euro VI limits for heavy-duty vehicles have introduced new stricter emission limits. Euro VI standards became mandatory on 1 January 2013.

Emission regulations are adopted as part of the EU framework for the type approval of cars, vans trucks, buses and coaches:

  • 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 (EC) No 715/2007 sets the emission limits for cars for regulated pollutants, in particular, nitrogen oxides (NOx, i.e. the combined emissions of NO and NO2) at 80mg/km
  • Regulation (EC) No 692/2008 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
  • Regulation (EU) 2016/427 of 10 March 2016 amends Regulation (EC) No 692/2008 as regards emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles (Euro 6)
  • Regulation (EC) No 595/2009 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).

What has been done to tighten the NOx emissions limits of diesel vehicles?

Over the past decades, the Commission has been working to tighten up both the actual NOx emissions limits (scientifically proven to be one of the causes of lung cancer in humans) and to improve the testing procedures. The NOx emissions limits for diesel passenger cars have been tightened for new emission type approvals on several occasions:

  • January 2000: 500 mg/km (Euro 3)
  • January 2005: 250 mg/km (Euro 4)
  • September 2009: 180 mg/km (Euro 5)
  • September 2014: 80 mg/km (Euro 6)

The introduction of the Real Driving Emissions test procedure (RDE step 2) is further tightening the rules since it will reflect the actual emissions on the road and reduce the current discrepancy between emissions measured in real driving and those measured in a laboratory. To continue tightening NOx emissions from next vehicle generation, the Commission plans to integrate the recently approved RDE regulation (EU) 2016/646 with provisions on cold start emissions (RDE step 3) and with improved In Service Conformity and market surveillance measures (RDE step 4).

What is the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) testing?

The RDE procedure complements the current laboratory based procedure to check that the vehicle 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. Currently, nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions of diesel vehicles measured on the road may in reality substantially exceed the emissions measured on the currently applicable laboratory test cycle (The New European Drive Cycle - NEDC).

To correct the shortcoming, the Commission proposed, already before the revelations of the Volkswagen case, to measure emissions in real driving conditions. The RDE test procedure (RDE step 1) was voted positively by the Member States in the Technical Committee of Motor Vehicles (TCMV) in May 2015 and has entered into force in 2016 (OJ L 82, 31.3.2016). In the RDE procedure, pollutant emissions will be measured by portable emission measuring systems (PEMS) that will be attached to the car while driving in real conditions on the road. This means that the car will be driven outside and on a real road according to random variations of parameters such as acceleration, deceleration, ambient temperature, payloads, etc.

In the initial phase starting in early 2016, the RDE testing will only be done for monitoring purposes, without an impact on the actual type approval which will continue to be delivered on the basis of the laboratory measurements. On 28 October 2015, Member States meeting in the Technical Committee of Motor Vehicles (TCMV) voted by a large majority for the RDE step 2 (OJ L 109, 26.4.2016) which was necessary for the RDE tests to have an actual impact on type approvals issued by national authorities. From 1 September 2017, in addition to the existing Type Approval procedure, the new RDE tests will be compulsory to determine whether a new car model is allowed to be put on the market.

What is the conformity factor in the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedure?

The purpose of testing vehicles on real roads is to introduce a certain degree of non-predictability into the testing procedure, which is the essential difference to laboratory testing on a pre-defined test cycle. As a consequence, the quantitative emission results of different RDE trips will inevitably vary to some degree and stray within some range. The regulatory emissions under normal conditions of use can be understood as the average emissions of all individual RDE trips. On the other hand, the so-called “not-to-exceed” (NTE) emission limit sets an upper limit for emission results of any individual RDE trip.

For technical reasons, measurement results from RDE testing using portable emission measurements systems (PEMS) are associated with higher uncertainties than results measured in the laboratory. These technical uncertainties of the measurement equipment, if not duly taken into account, could have two different unwanted results: vehicles that actually are compliant would fail a PEMS test or vehicles that actually are non-compliant would pass a PEMS test. The concept of Conformity Factor (CF) helps overcome this problem.

The CF sets the maximum allowable emissions – the NTE emission limits – during a single RDE trip as multiples of the Euro 6 limits defined in Regulation (EC) No 715/2007. This allows room for statistical and technical uncertainties of the measurement procedure to be taken into account as well as for the route-to-route variability of the RDE test. As the emissions of a vehicle under "normal conditions of use" are not simply equivalent to the emissions of the vehicle measured at an individual RDE trip for statistical and physical reasons, the NTE emission limit cannot simply be set equal to the regulatory Euro 6 emission limit (which would correspond to a CF =1). In other words one could say that setting a CF = 1 would mean an actual emission limit for the vehicle in real life well below the Euro 6 emission limit.

With a conformity factor, the focus is put on the vehicle's average compliance with emission limits. For example, regulatory emission limits may be exceeded when driving up a steep hill, which then must be compensated by emissions below the regulatory emission limits under different conditions, such as driving moderately in the city, so that the average emissions, when weighing these conditions according to their statistical occurrence, are not above the limits.

Given technical limits to improve the real world emission performance of currently produced diesel cars in the short-term and an intrinsic uncertainty of Real Driving Emissions test measurements, Member States agreed on a phasing-in period for reducing the divergence between the regulatory limit that is measured in laboratory conditions and the values of the Real Driving Emissions procedure when the car is driven by a real driver on a real road.

According to the agreed RDE test procedure, car manufacturers must reduce the divergence in two steps:

  1. car manufacturers will have to bring down the discrepancy to a conformity factor of maximum 2.1 (110%) for new models by September 2017 (for all new vehicles by September 2019);
  2. this discrepancy will be brought further down to a factor of 1.5 (50%), taking account of technical margins of error, by January 2020 for all new models (by January 2021 for all new vehicles). As the technology improves, the conformity factor will be reduced further.

So car manufacturers are allowed to permanently exceed the Euro 6 limit value by 50% from 2020?

For statistical and physical reasons, the emissions of a vehicle in real life are not equal to the emissions of the vehicle measured during an individual RDE test. It is important though that the average of all individual RDE trips is below the legislative emission limit. Therefore the NTE (“not-to-exceed”) emission limit, which is the limit that must never be exceeded by the emissions measured at an individual PEMS trip, must be somewhat higher than the regulatory emission limit, leading to a conformity factor CF > 1 due to statistical uncertainties.

The portable emissions measurement technology is still under development and measurements are therefore subject to an error margin. That is why the Commission included an annual review of the portable measurement technology that will be used for RDE. As this technology improves, we will be able to reduce the 50% error margin further. Therefore the 50% margin (or 1.5 conformity factor) cannot be considered as final.

The Commission is committed to activating the revision process immediately in 2017, based on the information collected in the course of the monitoring phase in 2016, and on an annual basis. The objectives of this revision clause are to reflect the technical progress of the portable emissions measurement systems (PEMS) and to bring the conformity factor down to 1 as soon as possible and at the latest by 2023.

Car manufacturers should thus already start designing vehicles for compliance with a conformity factor close to 1.

It is also important to note that these CFs are in line with the acceptable NOx emission limits to achieve the objectives of foreseen in the Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC.

When will the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedure become mandatory?

In the initial phase, starting from early 2016, the RDE is being used for monitoring purposes. From 1 September 2017, the new Real Driving Emissions tests will determine whether a new car model is allowed to be put on the market (from September 2017 for all newly approved types of vehicles, from September 2019 for all new vehicles).

Why did it take so long to introduce Real Driving Emissions (RDE) testing?

Once it became clear that the test procedure set out in Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 and its implementing legislation was not reflecting real driving emissions of vehicles, the Commission launched, in early 2011, the "real-driving emissions of light-duty vehicles" working group, which aimed at developing a test procedure to directly assess the regulated emissions of light-duty vehicles under real driving conditions. It is worth noting here that Euro 5 limits had been introduced in 2009 for new vehicle types and in 2011 for all vehicles. 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) and subsequently adopted by the Commission on 10 March 2016 (published in OJ L 82, 31.3.2016). The procedure already applies for monitoring purposes.

Considering that:

  1. the RDE test procedure was technically very complex to develop since it was an entirely new concept without precedent in any legal system worldwide;
  2. the PEMS device that had been previously developed for heavy-duty vehicles was not fit for purpose as such to be used in smaller and lighter cars (the model used at that time weighed approximately 100 kg and was extremely bulky, which made it too heavy and too big to fit into a car);
  3. similar legislative processes, for example at United Nations – Economic Committee for Europe (UNECE) level, take between 4 and 8 years to be completed;

The total time employed for the development and adoption of RDE legislation was less than three and a half years for the technical work and another year for discussions with Member States in the technical committee and final adoption.

The introduction of the RDE procedure and the mandatory limits correspond to the timing set out in the CARS 2020 Action Plan.

What is the decision-making process for establishing the test procedures?

The legislation on type approval of vehicles agreed by the European Parliament and the Council (Regulation (EC) No 715/2007) authorises the Commission to further define the test procedures to achieve the objectives set out in the framework legislation. This implementing legislation is adopted under the so-called comitology procedure; here the regulatory procedure with scrutiny applies. The key body in the development of the Real Driving Emissions test procedure is the Technical Committee for Motor Vehicles (TCMV), which consists of representatives of all Member States and is chaired by the Commission. The Committee discusses and votes by a qualified majority on implementing legislation proposed by the Commission. After a positive vote, the European Parliament and the Council have the right to scrutinise that the Commission has acted within its implementing powers provided by the framework legislation. If there is no opposition, the Commission adopts the implementing legislation. Adopted documents are publically available in the Comitology register and published in the Official Journal of the EU.

How will the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) tests affect air pollution?

RDE tests will have a net effect on the amount of air pollution emitted by cars. Today's divergence will be brought down from the current average of 400% to below 110% from September 2017 and to below 50% from January 2020. This is a significant reduction compared to the current discrepancy. When put in terms of actual real emissions, we are moving from the current average real NOx emissions of 400mg/km down to less than 168mg/km (September 2017), then to less than 120mg/km (January 2020). So the real amount of NOx emissions will be more than halved, helping to protect citizens' health and the environment.

In addition, the Commission will carry out an annual review of the portable measurement technology that will be used for RDE. As this technology improves and refines, the 50% error margin foreseen from 2020 will be further reduced.

Will consumers have access to information on each vehicle's emissions levels?

The Commission intends to increase transparency towards consumers and is preparing a proposal (RDE step 3) in this direction.

Regarding consumer information of CO2 emissions, the Commission is currently evaluating the car labelling Directive, which already requires information on these emissions to be provided to consumers.

For more information see the website of DG CLIMA.

What else is the Commission doing to tackle air pollution?

EU rules do not only limit emissions by cars but also establish objectives for air quality which are constantly monitored and enforced. 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 (Sulphur dioxide (SO2), NOx, non-methane Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs, NH3, Particulate Matter (PM2.5) and methane (CH4);
  • 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. Member States are required to adopt and implement air quality plans that set appropriate measures so that the exceedance period of these harmful pollutants can be kept as short as possible.

On 30 June 2016, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional first reading agreement on the proposed revision of the National Emission Ceilings Directive. The agreement reached will cut the annual 400,000 premature deaths caused by air pollution in the EU by about half by 2030.

The final agreement sets stricter emission reduction commitments for the periods from 2020 to 2029, and from 2030 onwards for five important pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds, fine particles, and ammonia. Contrary to the Commission's original proposal, methane has not been maintained in the final agreement.

The agreement will increase the involvement of local and regional authorities in designing and implementing national air pollution policy, thus enabling citizens to have a say on an issue as important for their health as air pollution.

The revised NEC Directive will also reinforce the role of Member States in ensuring that EU emission control legislation delivers the intended emission reductions by active monitoring and reporting of any discrepancies between real-world emissions and test emissions to avoid future cases where real emissions overshoot many times the legal requirements. The Commission will work to support all Member States on solid implementation, also involving the local and regional authorities, to deliver on the benefits from today until 2030.

Air quality is also one of the objectives of the Clean Power for Transport Package, adopted in 2013, which promotes the market of alternative-fuel vehicles in order to reduce transport's oil dependence and, at the same time, transport's environmental impact. This package includes the directive 2014/94/EU which mandates Members States to deploy infrastructures for alternative-fuel vehicles, such as electric vehicles recharging points and natural gas and hydrogen refuelling stations. Additionally, the European Commission adopted the Urban Mobility Package in 2013 which encourages cities to set up Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans, particularly to reduce traffic congestion and improve the air quality in urban areas.

Measuring of CO2 emissions

What are the applicable targets for CO2 emissions and how are they measured?

The EU CO2 emission Regulations apply to passenger cars since 2009 and to light commercial vehicles since 2011. The Regulations require the emissions of new vehicles registered in the EU not to exceed certain targets that are decreasing over time. Unlike for pollutants, the targets are not set by vehicle, but for a vehicle fleet. For cars, the current EU fleet average targets are 130g CO2/km to be achieved in 2015 and 95g to be achieved in 2021. This reflects fuel consumption of around 4.1 l/100 km of petrol or 3.6 l/100 km of diesel. For vans, the 2020 target is 147 g/km, 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. The EU CO2 Regulations base the targets and the compliance checking on emissions values tested under the current test cycle NEDC (the New European Drive Cycle).

For more information see the website of DG CLIMA.

Who monitors CO2 emissions by cars?

Member States have the responsibility to perform and supervise the CO2 emission tests as part of the type approval framework. Each year Member States report to the Commission the CO2 emission values of registered new cars (thus cars on the market). Manufacturers are then invited to check that the data is correct. On that basis the Commission publishes, by 31 October each year, a list showing the performance of each manufacturer in terms of its average emissions and compliance with their annual emissions target. The data can be found at the European Environment Agency's website.

What if car manufacturers exceed the CO2 emission targets?

Starting from 2012 (first year of application of penalties) the Commission must impose financial penalties in case the annual average CO2 emissions of a manufacturer's fleet exceed its annual target value. In this case, the manufacturer has to pay a fine for each car registered/sold on the market:

  • EUR 5 for the first g/km of exceedance
  • EUR 15 for the second g/km
  • EUR 25 for the third g/km
  • EUR 95 for each subsequent g/km.

From 2019, the penalty will be EUR 95 from the first gram of exceedance onwards. So far, the Commission has imposed fines in three cases (for a total of one million euros).

When did the Commission take action to address the divergences seen in type approval CO2 and fuel consumption values?

Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 requires the Commission to keep under review the representativeness of the test cycles and test procedures. The need for a new more realistic test procedure became apparent already from the entry into force of that Regulation and the Commission therefore immediately supported the work that was initiated in 2008 at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in developing a new more representative laboratory test procedure – the Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). The first part of the WLTP procedure was agreed at UNECE level in March 2014. Although this was not the complete package - some important elements were still missing, such as the procedure for electric/hybrid vehicles and the revision of the Road Load determination procedure - it was enough to start the implementation of WLTP in EU legislation. The whole WLTP package was completed at UNECE level in November 2015 and on 14 June 2016, the technical regulatory committee gathering Member States representatives ("Technical Committee of Motor Vehicles – TCMV ") voted its positive opinion on the Commission's proposal to replace the NEDC and introduce the WLTP from 1 September 2017.

The WLTP is expected to significantly reduce the difference between the CO2 emissions and fuel consumption values measured in the laboratory and those measured under real driving conditions. It will provide a drive cycle that is more representative of EU driving conditions and a test procedure that is more strictly defined, minimising the use of tolerances and reducing the difference in technology performance between the test and real-world conditions.

Why are we mainly relying on laboratory tests for measuring CO2? Isn't it better to use a real driving test performed on the road, such as the real driving emissions test for pollutant emissions?

The WLTP aims at determining a precise CO2 emissions and fuel consumption value for each vehicle on the road. In order for these values to serve regulatory purposes, such as consumer information and CO2 emission targets, they have to be strictly comparable, repeatable and precise. This cannot be achieved with a test on the road since external factors, such as ambient temperature, humidity, wind, and driving style, may influence the test results significantly.

This means that there will always be a certain difference between emissions measured in a laboratory and those measured under real driving conditions. However, as long as that difference is small and remains constant, it can be adequately taken into account both with regard to setting CO2 targets as well as for consumer information purposes.

How will the Commission ensure that WLTP reflects real driving conditions as closely as possible?

It is important to ensure that the WLTP continues to reflect realistic conditions as much as possible. For that reason, complementary methods for measuring CO2 on the road are also being looked at, including methods for how to take into account the variability in the test results from the different external factors.

In support of this work, the Commission has also requested its Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) to study this issue, involving experts from the Commission as well as from industry, NGOs and academia.

How will manufacturers meet their CO2 emission targets when the test procedure changes?

It is expected that CO2 emission values of new vehicles will be higher on the new WLTP as compared to the current New European Drive Cycle (NEDC). The Commission is proposing to put in place a methodology for correlating the old and the new CO2 emission values in order to be able to check compliance with the CO2 emission targets during the phasing-in of the WLTP (2017-2020). That methodology has been designed so that the CO2 emission reduction requirements for each manufacturer will remain of the same stringency up to 2021. Member States gave their agreement on the correlation procedure in the Climate Change Committee on 23 June 2016.

The WLTP will be applied from 2017 but the WLTP emission values will not be used for checking CO2 emission target compliance until later - why?

The existing CO2 reduction targets that have been determined until 2021 are based on the emissions measured according to the New European Drive Cycle (NEDC) test. With the new WLTP test, emissions levels will change and likely increase for the majority of vehicles.

While the WLTP is being phased-in between 2017-2020, NEDC values will continue to be used for target compliance checking. Once WLTP is fully applicable to all new vehicles registered in the EU, it will be possible to change to WLTP based targets. The Commission proposal is for this to take place in 2021.

The Commission is currently preparing a proposal for future CO2 emission targets that will contribute to meeting the EU's 2030 climate targets. The future CO2 emission standards will be defined on the basis of the emissions measured on the WLTP, with the expectation that the new test procedure will offer a more robust basis for defining the reductions expected and for ensuring that they will actually be delivered.