Euro 7 truck rules can still be as good as the U.S. standards
While regulators in the United States have already set rules requiring significant reductions in pollutant emissions from trucks starting with the 2027 model year, similar regulations are currently the subject of much debate in Europe. Major truck manufacturers that support the tough regulations in the United States appear less willing to embrace similar rules for the Euro 7 standard. Let’s quickly walk through the key issues, why they matter, and what can be done to make a meaningful new standard in Europe.
After months of intense deliberations, the European Council reached a compromise on Euro 7 that will now be used in negotiations with the European Parliament. Parliament’s ENVI Committee will vote on October 12 to take a position on the matter and this is a pivotal moment for the regulation.
Council’s compromise position was met with skepticism and disappointment by those who consider it a diluted version of the European Commission’s initial proposal. What the EU-27 ministers agreed on for cars and vans keeps the existing test conditions and emissions limits of Euro 6 but calls it Euro 7 because new brake particle and tire abrasion limits would apply.
But let’s focus on trucks here. We assessed how Council’s stance compares with the European Commission’s initial proposal and the recently established pollutant standards for trucks in the United States. The Council’s position is fundamentally anchored in the Euro VI methodology that’s characterized by distinct limits for engine and on-road testing. Council placed renewed emphasis on bolstering on-road testing measures and the framework gives particular attention to low-power engine operations that are known to be a significant contributor to emissions. The Council’s proposed nitrogen oxides (NOx) limit is 300 mg/kWh for on-road tests, which amounts to a roughly 50% reduction from Euro VI standards.
The 50% might seem large, but the Commission’s initial vision aimed for a nearly 80% reduction from Euro VI emission levels. Additionally, in December 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized pollutant standards for trucks to begin with the 2027 model year that target a reduction of about 80% in NOx emissions. This is a big improvement over the previous U.S. 2010 standard, which is comparable to Euro VI.
There’s more. In late 2021, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) charted an even bolder path by adopting a regulation to cut NOx emissions from trucks by 90%. Then, in summer 2023, CARB joined forces with U.S. truck manufacturers to launch the Clean Truck Partnership. This alliance brought CARB’s regulations in line with the federal standards and secured the endorsement of major truck makers Daimler, Volvo, Traton, and Paccar. In agreement with industry, U.S. regulations set an on-road NOx limit at roughly 100 mg/kWh—not quite the 90% ambition mentioned above but one-third of what the Council has proposed for Euro 7. Keep in mind that the United States and Europe are served largely by the same vehicle manufacturers.
As Euro 7 deliberations continue in Parliament, another key aspect to consider is Council’s position to forgo minimum engine power requirements for on-road test data analysis. This is a commendable move because it mirrors real-world operations, and Parliament can go further by also eliminating the minimum payload requirement under Euro VI. This would address the reality that many trucks operate often without cargo and improve the emissions performance of trucks in cities.
It’s essential to anchor decisions in what’s technologically achievable. The numerical targets initially put forth by the Commission under the “Emissions Budget” approach could be revived and combined with the Euro VI testing provisions adopted by Council, which are gaining support in Parliament. For NOx this would mean an on-road limit of 150 mg/kWh, much closer to the U.S. standards than the 300 mg/kWh in the Council’s compromise.
Euro 7 is an opportunity to support adding clean air technologies to millions of truck engines that will hit the road during the transition to zero-emission technologies. This is not an abstract environmental endeavor but rather a tangible commitment to public health. And the technology costs to make such standards a reality are not high.
In the United States, truck manufacturers recently showed support for stringent standards, and now the European Parliament is faced with a choice. It can either accept Council’s recommendations or champion a more meaningful Euro 7 standard.