Euro Emissions Standards Explained

Since 1992 the EU have imposed regulations on new cars. The main aim of this is to improve the quality of air. This means that when a car is manufactured it must meet a certain standard of emissions. We call this the Euro emissions standard.

From time to a time the emissions standards are revised, which is why the latest current set of standards are Euro 6 emissions standards. At the moment only exhaust emissions are considered. This is expected to change when the Euro 7 standards are outlined. Euro 7 emissions standards are expected to include non-exhaust emissions such as particles released from your car’s brakes and tyres.

The Euro 6 emissions standards were introduced almost a decade ago in 2014. Since then, there have been a number of revisions with the latest being in January 2021.

What are Euro emissions standards?

Emissions regulations actually date way back to 1970. However the first EU-wide standard wasn’t introduced until 1992.  This is when catalytic converters became compulsory on all new cars – setting the standard for fuel injection engines.

Since 1992 there has been a whole series of Euro emissions standards all the way up the the latest – Euro 6. The EU have designed the regulations to become more strict as time progresses. Up to now they mainly define the acceptable limits for the exhaust emissions sold in European and European Economic Area states. The aim of this is to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions that the EU contributes towards the planet from 20%.

What are the Euro emissions standards for?

The EU said that emissions from transport are a significant contribution to the sate of the air quality in Europe, alongside industry and power generation. Euro emissions standards aim to reduce the levels of the harmful emissions that come from our exhausts. The main ones are:

  • Nitrogen Oxide
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Particulate matter

Apparently these standards are having the desired affect on air quality. It would take as many as 50 new cars today to produce the same amount of atmospheric pollutants as a single vehicle that was built in the ‘70s. The only problem is that there are far more vehicles on the road than there were 50 years ago.

There are different types of emissions produced depending on whether a car is powered by a petrol or diesel engine. Diesel engines tend to produce more particulate matters, which is why diesel particular filters (known as DPFs) were introduced. Petrol engines tend to produce more toxic gasses.

Euro Emissions Standards checker

You can check which Euro category your car falls under by looking at the table below. This is only a rough guide as there may be an overlap between the different versions of standards. If your vehicle was made before 31st December 1992 then it won’t meet any of the Euro emissions standards. This means that it’s highly likely that you won’t be allowed to enter some towns and cities with it.

Registered from Euro emissions standard
31st December, 1992 Euro 1
1st January, 1997 Euro 2
1st January, 2001 Euro 3
1st January, 2006 Euro 4
1st January, 2011 Euro 5
1st September, 2015 Euro 6

Many cities and towns across the country and continent have Clean Air Zones. You can use this handy Clean Air Zone Checker to see if your car has to pay a daily fee to drive in any of these zones. All you need to do is enter your car’s registration number.

 

The UK government is dedicated to making all of our transport zero-emission. This is why they have introduced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 as well as a complete ban by 2050.

Some cities across the UK even have low-emission zones, such as London which introduced the ULEZ back in April 2019. Transport for London then expanded the ULEZ in August 2023.

 

London ULEZ Zone

The London ULEZ zone restricts vehicles from entering the capital based on their Euro emissions standards. Any cars that do not meet the standards will need to pay a daily fee. This includes any vehicle’s owned by anyone who lives within the zone.

As of September 2022 it costs £12.50 a day to drive a petrol car that doesn’t meet Euro 4 standards or a diesel car that doesn’t meet Euro 6 standards.

The ULEZ zone was expanded in August 2023 to cover virtually the entire area of Greater London within the M25. This resulted in a vast number of vehicles within the capital falling below standard. The government introduced a £110m scrappage scheme to help people on benefits upgrade to ULEZ-complaint cars.

You can find out more about the ULEZ charge on the Transport for London website.

What do we know about Euro 7 emissions standards?

In November the government are likely to introduce a new standard. It is likely that this will come into force in 2025. So they have already delayed the introduction twice, so we don’t know for sure what they will announce.

It is likely that Euro 7 will be the final stage of the Euro emissions criteria as Europe looks forwards and hopes to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars over the coming decade.

Some people say that the Euro 7 standard will be pretty simple in that it will just enforce stricter standards on the levels of Nitrogen Oxide and Carbon Monoxide gasses released from vehicles. There has also been talk to real time monitoring of emissions to ensure that cars meet their standards at all times.

 

Does the Euro emissions standard affect the MOT?

If your car fails to meet the emissions standards for its age then it will fail the MOT. In other words you cannot get an MOT if your exhaust emissions are too high.

Since 2018 the MOT has got even stricter when it comes to diesel cars. If your car has a DPF fitted (which is a requirement for all Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesels), then there should be no visible smoke of any colour during the test. This will result in a major fault which is an automatic failure of the MOT.

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Is my car Euro 5 or Euro 6?

Check your car's year of manufacture in the table above to find out what Euro standard it is.

What will Euro 7 be?

It is not yet known for sure, but it is likely that Euro 7 will just be a stricter limit on exhaust gasses and particulates

How we reviewed this article:

Our experts continually monitor motor industry news & research, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

  • 27th October 2023
    Current Article - By Harry Edwell
  • 19th January 2024
    Checked & Reviewed - By Sjoerd Bakker
  • 27th October 2023
    Copy Edited - By Harry Edwell
  • 21st February 2024
    Reviewed - By Gary McKrill

Car Monkey has strict sourcing guidelines and we try to rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and motoring associations where possible.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_emission_standards
  2. https://www.gov.uk/clean-air-zones
  3. https://www.gov.uk/emissions-testing

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