Today, car emission tests examine two main types of emissions from your car.
Climate change poses a serious threat to our environment. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that causes an increase in average global temperatures if its presence in the atmosphere becomes too high. That is why governments try to mitigate the impact of climate change by reducing CO2 emissions from various industrial sources. The European Union aims to reduce its domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to the 1990s. All economic sectors that produce CO2 will have to contribute to this goal. In the car industry specific CO2 reduction targets have been set for passenger cars and vans.
Greenhouse gas emissions, such as CO2, are emitted by different sectors. Energy supply is responsible for the most greenhouse gases, but also industry, buildings, forestry and the waste sector are sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
In Europe, the transport sector emits 25% of greenhouse gases. Passenger cars and vans account for about 13% of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.
EUROPEAN GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS BY SECTORS (2010)
Lab tests measure CO2 emissions from passenger cars and vans. These measurements are used to verify that a manufacturer’s new vehicle fleet does not emit more CO2 on average than the targets set by the European Union.
The target for average CO2 emissions of a car manufacturer’s fleet (that is all the cars produced by that manufacturer) is set at 95g CO2 per kilometre (95g/km) for 2021 and at 147g/km for vans.
The EU has set the most challenging targets for
reducing vehicle CO2 emissions in the world.
Air quality is important for people’s health. Pollutant emissions, such as oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particles (mass, PM and number, PN), impact the quality of the air we all breathe. There are two types of particles that are measured against ambient air quality limits: PM2.5 and PM10 (PM2.5 are smaller than PM10 and the number is a measure of the aerodynamic diameter of the particles).
Road transport is not the only contributor to air pollution. Other sources include the burning of fossil fuels, industrial processes and solvent use, agriculture, waste treatment, and natural pollutant emissions. Natural pollutant emissions can derive from volcanic eruptions, wind-blown dust, sandstorms, sea-salt spray, and emissions of volatile organic compounds from many industrial sources.
More than 80% of particle emissions are not related to actual road transport exhaust emissions. In cities, even the air displaced by a moving car or a bicycle results in dust particles being displaced into the ambient air. Research shows that industrial activity and households (for example heating systems) play a large role in particle emissions, especially in urban areas.
Passenger cars on the road are responsible for 9% of PM2.5, 5% of PM10 and 32% of NOx. NOx emissions are generally highest when traffic is standing still (as is the case in traffic jams) or driving at a very high speed (for example on motorways).
Lab tests measure pollutant emissions and ensure that a car does not emit any more pollutants than allowed by the European Union’s emissions standards (Euro standards).
Euro standards define the limits for exhaust emissions of each new vehicle sold in the EU. They are established through European Union Regulations and, through the years, they have introduced increasingly stringent maximum levels for pollutant emissions. The latest standard (Euro 6) establishes a maximum limit of 80 mg of NOx per kilometre.
The automotive industry has brought particle
emissions down to near zero levels.
Significant progress has been made in reducing both CO2 and NOx emissions in cars. However, reducing CO2 and NOx at the same time is still a technical challenge for car manufacturers, as efforts to reduce one often result in the increase of the other.