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Why you need to know about the new Euro 7 emission standards

November 10, 2022 by

Euro 7 emission standards have just been revealed; we explain all

Jump the preamble and get straight to what Euro 7 regulations say and when they come into force.

There once was a time when knowledge of Euro emission standards was largely confined to national and international policymakers, and people who worked for car companies.

Things changed when authorities realised Euro standards could provide an effective method for categorising cars, allowing them to refine how they raised revenue, or impose restrictions on drivers.

London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone was the first large-scale project in the UK that made legislative use of Euro emission regs, charging drivers whose cars did not meet specific standards a fee to drive in parts of the capital.

A number of other local authorities subsequently cottoned on to this idea, with more emission zones that charge drivers based on their cars’ Euro standards planned or in operation across the country. HMRC, meanwhile, levies more tax against company car drivers if their diesel car does not conform to specific aspects of Euro 6, which is the current Euro emission standard.

Euro standards have therefore changed from being a relatively esoteric set of rules and regulations, to something all drivers should have at least a passing knowledge of – basically because not knowing about them could cost you money.

This means the unveiling of the new Euro 7 standards should definitely be on your radar.

What do Euro standards mean?

A Euro standard sets the maximum level of various exhaust emissions a car can put out before it is ‘type approved’ and can go on sale. Type approval is an established and essential practice that requires passenger cars to meet certain safety and environmental requirements. Passenger cars must have hazard warning lights, windscreen wipers and a horn, for example, before they can go on sale – and they must also meet the requisite Euro standards.

Euro standards are periodically updated, with tougher limits brought in with each iteration.

Euro 1, the first standard, was introduced in 1992 and we are now on Euro 6, which came along in 2014. This means all new cars sold today must emit no more pollutants than set out by Euro 6 rules. For reference, London’s ULEZ sees drivers of petrol cars that don’t meet Euro 4 (introduced in 2005) and diesels that don’t meet Euro 6 charged to enter the zone.

Petrol and diesel cars have to meet different sets of rules due to the different nature of the fuels they run on and the different ways these fuels are burnt. On a like-for-like basis, diesel cars put out less carbon dioxide but more nitrogen dioxide than petrol cars, for example.

We won’t go into detail of what each specific standard requires (though there’s a handy table in our guide to Euro 6 if you want to know more), but to give you an idea of how much tighter the rules have become over the years, diesel cars could emit 970 milligrams of NOx (nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide) per kilometre and meet Euro 1 regulations, but this requirement had shrunk to just 80 milligrams grams when Euro 6 was introduced.

There are different Euro standards for cars and vans, and lorries and buses, but we’ll concentrate on cars for obvious reasons.

When do Euro 7 rules come into force?

From 1 July 2025, all new mass-produced cars will have to meet Euro 7 standards. Small volume manufacturers (those that built fewer than 10,000 cars a year) will have to meet the standards by 2030.

What are the emission limits for Euro 7 regulations?

There had been rumours that Euro 7 standards would be so strict as to either make petrol and diesel cars almost unaffordable due to the complex exhaust treatments required, but the European Commision has now released the regulations (which still require the approval of the European Parliament), and the requirements are less stringent than some feared – though they will still require significant investment for car makers.

In terms of exhaust emissions, Euro 7 Standards take the lowest limits from Euro 6, and apply them to all new cars, regardless of what fuel they run on.

For example, the limit for NOx for under Euro 6 is 60 milligrams per kilometre for petrol cars, and 80 milligrams per kilometre for diesels. Under Euro 7, both petrol and diesel cars must emit no more than 60 milligrams.

Other changes introduced by Euro 7 comprise:

Tougher testing procedures when assessing vehicles: pollutant levels will be measured for short trips, and in ambient temperatures up to 45 degrees celsius.

Emission limits for tyres and brakes: tyres and brakes shed particulate matter (microscopic pieces of material) as they wear. Euro 7 will set limits for how much brake dust and tyre particles can be produced by new cars. This is an entirely new requirement.

Cars must stay cleaner for longer: Euro regulations are predominantly based on assessing new cars, but they also involve checking the emissions vehicles as they age, and engines become less efficient (and therefore less clean-burning). Euro 7 doubles the period over which compliance is checked, from five years and 100,000km (62k miles) to 10 years and 200,000km (124k miles). Car makers must also fit electronic sensors to individual cars that allow them to automatically detect engine faults that lead to higher emissions.

Longevity assessments for electric car batteries: EVs and plug-in hybrids will have the longevity of their batteries assessed under Euro 7, checking how much capacity they hold as time and mileage increases. This is being done to improve confidence in second-hand electric cars, and is an entirely new requirement.

The European Commission estimates Euro 7 regulations will add an average of €304 (£264) to the cost of a new car, although some car makers have argued a new set of emission regulations places additional pressures on the automotive industry at a time when they are having to invest significantly in electric cars.

Aren’t sales of new petrol and diesel cars being banned though?

Yes, indeed they are. Sales of conventional new petrol and diesel cars are being banned in the UK from 2035, leaving only electric cars and any hydrogen cars that might exist in new-car showrooms.

The story is similar in the European Union, which aims to ban petrol and diesel cars being sold from new by 2035.

None of this will stop, however, second-hand petrol and diesel cars from being sold, so Euro 7 will affect new petrol and diesel cars for at least five and up to 10 years. As cars are driven for an average of 14 years before they are scrapped, this means Euro 7 cars will be on the road until 2044 or 2049 on average.

Will Euro 7 rules affect ULEZ and other emission zones?

There have been no indications that the introduction of Euro 7 will see rules changed for emission zones like London’s ULEZ, though authorities have past form of making such rules tougher rather than more relaxed. The ULEZ has already expanded once since it was introduced, for example, with another expansion proposed for 2023.

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