The European Commission has rejected its own expert advice on new rules for non-CO2 car emissions – Euro 7 – aimed at slashing deadly pollution from cars. The Commission sided with car lobbyists in a move that will greenwash 100 million heavily polluting cars sold in the decade up to 2035.

In a late intervention, the Commission also bowed to further pressure from truckmakers and weakened proposals for particulate matter pollution for heavy duty vehicles.

It is now critical that the European Parliament strengthens these shockingly weak standards or simply rejects them, says Transport & Environment (T&E).

“The proposals for cars are so weak, the auto industry might have drafted them themselves. Despite enjoying record profits, carmakers have sold the Commission a lie that an ambitious Euro 7 is unaffordable”, said Anna Krajinska, vehicle emissions and air quality manager at T&E.

She adds: “The tragedy is that toxic pollution from road transport kills 70,000 people each year and this proposal does close to nothing to prevent that. It will put close to 100 million highly polluting cars on our streets which will stay there for decades to come,”

Carmakers argued stricter standards would force them to invest in new engine and exhaust technology, diverting resources from electric vehicles. In reality, technologies able to meet stricter limits that could cut toxic pollution by 50% and require no hardware changes to the engine already exist.

The Commission’s own impact assessment finds the average cost to be €304,, less than the cost of a paint job on a Renault Clio.

Despite a cost of living crisis and supply chain issues, carmakers’ profits have never been healthier. The industry has always opposed tighter standards, going as far as to cheat consumers during the Dieselgate scandal. Its opposition to Euro 7 on cost grounds looks more like a bid to profit further at the expense of human health, says T&E.

The European car manufacturers association (ACEA), has acknowledged that the Commission’s proposals will have only a “marginal” impact on toxic NOx emissions.

“This is the Commission’s very own Dieselgate moment. The tearing up of its own expert group advice is a scandal that will be devastating for air quality across Europe, especially in Eastern and Southern Europe with high numbers of older and second hand cars. The industry lobby has fiercely opposed Euro 7, using dirty tricks to influence decision makers. Now the Commission has caved into their demands. Carmakers’ profits are being prioritised over the health of millions of Europeans,” continued Krajinska.

The Commission spent four years working on the Euro 7 proposal to clean up toxic pollution from road transport. Its consortium of experts, known as CLOVE, assessed new emission technologies and on this basis proposed lower limits which at the minimum would slash toxic NOx pollution by 50% and toxic particles by over 80%.

Despite acknowledging that road transport causes 70,000 premature deaths in the EU each year, the Commission rejected a tightening of limits beyond standards already set for petrol cars. Key failures in the proposals include:

  • The existing (Euro 6) petrol limits are kept for cars, completely failing to take into account technological progress since the Euro 6 limits were set over a decade ago.
  • At the last minute the Commission has increased the particle number limit for trucks by 100%. This is 100% higher than advised by its own experts.
  • The brake particle limit (7mg/km) fails to ensure that the most effective technology to reduce pollution (vacuum aspiration) will be introduced until 2035 (when limits are finally tightened) despite it being available and affordable.
  • The on road driving conditions under which limits will be checked are weaker for several criteria such as temperature and altitude than the lowest ambition scenario assessed by the CLOVE. For example, whenever the temperature is less than 0 degrees cars will be able to pollute 1.6 times more.
  • Driving conditions under which limits apply are more stringent for trucks than cars
  • Durability i.e. the period during which limits have to be met is poor at 8 years/160,000km for cars, additional durability has been added of up to 10 years, 200,000km but it appears that during that 2 year/40,000km period even weaker limits will apply. 10 years would still not cover even the average age of EU cars (11.8 years). The U.S. has much higher durability of 240,000km.
  • 700,000km/15 years does not improve durability for trucks. Additional durability limit of up to 875,000km will likely allow weaker emissions limits. It still falls far short of durability in California of 1.3 million km.
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