Is the Euro 7 proposal good or bad after all? — Yes.

If you are reading this blog, you’ve likely heard about the European Commission’s Euro 7 proposal to regulate the pollutant emissions of road vehicles and are wondering: Why is everybody unhappy with it?

Your confusion is understandable. While public health advocates call the proposal a disappointing step towards protecting the health of Europeans, industry representatives label it unrealistic and extreme. We at the ICCT did not give the warmest welcome to the Euro 7 proposal. Still, some things are good news. I will walk you through the strong and weak elements of what the Commission just proposed.

The strengths

The Euro 7 proposal is innovative in many aspects. We highlight three of those here.

If you can drive it, you can test it—well, almost: Since Dieselgate broke, thanks to an ICCT investigation, the real-world emissions of cars have finally started to decrease due to the introduction of the real-driving emissions (RDE) test procedure. However, the RDE regulation placed strict limits on how cars could be tested on the road. As a result, it is actually hard to perform a valid RDE test under Euro 6, so such tests cannot be considered truly representative. Euro 7 would drop most of these restrictive requirements, simplifying the testing and enhancing its real-world representativeness.

New requirements for non-exhaust emissions: While commonplace in Brazil, China, and the United States, Euro 7 plays catch-up by proposing limits for the vapor emissions of petrol that occur during refueling. Euro 7 also proposes new limits for the particle emissions from brakes—a world’s first—that would apply not only to combustion-powered vehicles but also to zero-emission technologies. These two elements would drive new emission control systems in areas neglected under previous regulations.

Durability requirements for EV batteries: In another world’s first, Euro 7 proposes durability requirements specific to the traction battery of electric vehicles, forcing manufacturers to continuously monitor the state-of-health and performance of the battery. While the specific requirements are aligned with current technology and would not put manufacturers in a pickle, these provisions are essential for increasing trust in the second-hand market for EVs.

The weaknesses

As mentioned above, there are some aspects of the Euro 7 proposal that could use some work. Two major issues are outlined below.

Pollutant limits could go even further: Pollutant emission standards, such as Euro 7, have two essential functions: Forcing the adoption of emission control technologies for which there is no market incentive, and ensuring these technologies are functioning correctly over the vehicle’s lifetime. Worryingly, it is here that Euro 7 shows its shortcomings.

In the case of cars and vans, the Euro 7 emission limits are not much different from those of the Euro 6 regulation. For NOx emissions in particular—the most important air pollutant—the Euro 7 limits are just a harmonization with the limits set for petrol vehicles under Euro 6. And, despite the proposal of a voluntary certification level—with the euphonious name Euro 7+—the optional limits are a meager 20% lower than what’s mandated by the unadorned Euro 7. ICCT’s research shows that the emissions performance of current Euro 6 cars is already better than that. One does wonder if those cars deserve the clean credentials that such a buzz-worthy certification would suggest.

The situation is different for trucks and buses. Our research indicates that, compared to Euro VI vehicles, the proposed Euro 7 limits will drive substantial improvements in the emissions of NOx and particles, bringing to market technologies ripe for commercialization.

Durability and lifetime provisions—cutting them short: For Euro 7 to maximize its impact on reducing emissions, its provisions should apply over the whole vehicle’s lifetime. Well, regrettably, that is not the case. For cars and vans, Euro 7 emission limits apply to up to 200,000 km or 10 years—a long time, many would argue. Unfortunately, some EU Member States have car fleets as old as 17 years, on average! For example, measurements performed by ICCT in the Polish capital showed that around 60% of vehicles are older than 10 years or have a mileage over 200,000 km. Let me repeat: Over half of the cars on the road in Warsaw would be outside the Euro 7 regulatory requirements.

A similar story can be told for trucks and buses. Compared to Euro VI, the durability requirements under Euro 7 are extended by 25% to 875,000 km. However, the European Commission itself estimates that trucks have an average lifetime mileage of around 1.2 million kilometers. By comparison, the durability requirements currently being considered in the United States and adopted in California extend to 1.3 million kilometers.

The verdict

Ambient air quality remains a substantial health risk in the EU, with more than 95% of the population being exposed to pollutant concentrations above the limits defined by the World Health Organization. The European Commission developed the new Euro 7 regulation with the expressed goal of mitigating air pollution, concluding that a more ambitious Euro 7 was not only feasible but also cost-effective. The impact assessment accompanying the proposal bears witness to this, finding that:

The low intensity and ambition level of PO1 [i.e., the scenario proposed in Euro 7] are not found to match the identified problems and objectives for cars/vans… PO3a [i.e., the Euro 7 scenario with higher ambition, not proposed] is found to be the most effective to improve control of real-world emissions for all vehicles, even in view of the end-date of 2035 for combustion-engine cars/vans.

So, given the assessment’s own findings, why was this Euro 7 proposed?

Clean air