Euro 6 test conditions and limits set to remain in place
The European Parliament has voted in favour of proposed revisions to the impending Euro 7 emissions regulations, which are set to relax the testing procedures for new cars with significant implications for their manufacturers.
MEPs today voted to back the proposal for a relaxed version of the rules, called for recently by a group of member states and vehicle manufacturers, and talks will now begin with each EU government ahead of the final law being ratified.
The new version of Euro 7 will mean passenger cars are subject to similar emissions requirements as under the current Euro 6 regulations, rather than imposing drastically stricter targets and mandating the fitment of costly new drivetrain technology that several high-volume manufacturers had rallied against.
MEPs agree, though, that buses and HGVs should still be subject to tighter limits on their emissions output in real-world and laboratory environments, and said Europe should move to test and restrict brake and tyre particle emissions in line with international standards.
There were 329 votes in favour of the proposals, 230 against and 41 abstentions.
Czech MEP Alexandr Vondra hailed the vote as a successful compromise between Europe's carbon-reduction objectives and the need to support Europe's automotive industry. He said: "We have successfully struck a balance between environmental goals and the vital interests of manufacturers.
"It would be counterproductive to implement environmental policies that harm both Europe’s industry and its citizens. Through our compromise, we serve the interests of all parties involved and steer clear of extreme positions.”
But the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) warned that the new Euro 7 framework "still comes with a heavy price tag and at a very critical juncture in the industry's transformation".
Director general of the trade body Sigrid de Vries said: "The fact remains that Euro 7 represents a significant investment for vehicle manufacturers, on top of their huge decarbonisation efforts.
"It also comes in an extraordinarily challenging geopolitical and economic context, marked by soaring energy prices, supply chain shortages, inflationary pressures, and lagging consumer demand. Europe needs a proportionate Euro 7 that balances environmental concerns and industrial competitiveness.”
She highlighted that the automotive industry has "poured extensive resources" into complying with the current Euro 6 rules, with the effect that "exhaust emissions are barely measurable today".
The ACEA welcomed the move to test tyre and brake emissions, given their continued relevance to EVs, but warned that the current testing methods are "entirely new and untried", meaning there is uncertainty as to whether the imposed targets can be feasibly achieved.
Euro 7 (EU7) was planned to be the next round of pollution regulations for new cars sold within the European Union. Although little detail was previously known publicly about the parameters, a number of manufacturers had expressed deep concern about not only being able to meet the new regulations but also the July 2025 target date for their introduction.
A number of them had also predicted that the proposals would kill off smaller and cheaper combustion cars well ahead of the EU’s 2035 cut-off date for the sale of new ICE vehicles.
It was also argued that the huge financial cost in terms of engine development was a demand too far when car makers were investing billions into electrification.
The European industry’s position was backed up by a number of national governments, and so 13 days of ‘working party’ talks were held on the original proposals between November 2022 and September 2023.
In the end, enough EU member states stood against the original EU7 plans for them to be dropped. The ‘compromise text’ recently released by the EU announced: “Several delegations expressed reservations about the proposed provisions, which sought to regulate test conditions and some emission limits in a more stringent way.
“These delegations took the view that the relationship between investment costs and environmental benefits arising from the proposed provisions would be disproportionate.
“To accommodate these concerns, the [EU] presidency compromise text deletes the test conditions and reverts to the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure [WLTP] and Real Driving Emission [RDE] tests as defined in Euro 6e.”
This text now has to wend its way through the various structures of the EU until it becomes law, so there could still be changes ahead – and it won’t start to be implemented until 12 months after becoming law, which could mean 2026 at the earliest.
What was in the original text that worried manufacturers?
One of the original proposals that has been struck out in the compromise text was to set an ‘emissions budget’ for cars on shorter trips of up to 30 minutes or around six miles.
The permitted levels of pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, non-methane organic gases and methane, would have been lower than those demanded by the current RDE drive cycles – something seen by engineers as complex and expensive to achieve.
Another struck-out EU7 chart in the document details the original testing regime, a section of which suggested that the “average maximum wheel power during the first 2km [of a journey] should be limited to 20%”.
Both these proposals were in recognition of the fact that current anti-pollution equipment takes some time to get up to working temperature.
To that end, car makers and suppliers had been working on electrically pre-heated catalysts, which could have helped them reach operating temperature in less than 30 seconds, although it would have also delayed the driver being able to start the car.
Clearly the depth of engineering and development needed to meet the original EU7 proposals would have been exceptionally difficult to execute by July 2025, and many existing vehicles couldn’t have accommodated bigger catalysts as well as the uprated electric architecture needed for pre-heating, to give just one example.
What will the new EU7 regulations look like?
1. Perhaps the most consequential change is the requirement for an EU7 car to have data recording and the ability to send data from the car to the authorities.
Today’s on-board diagnostic systems will be repurposed to “monitor and control the emission behaviour of the vehicles on a continuous basis via an onboard monitoring system”.
The new on-board monitor will also be capable of sending information about exhaust emissions and emissions failures ‘off-board’. The new EU7 laws add that “when exhaust emissions are significantly exceeded, harmonised methods will be used to induce timely repairs within 2000km, without preventing vehicles from completing an ongoing trip to avoid road safety issues”.
Devices communicating off-board vehicle-generated data will be used for the purpose of periodic roadworthiness tests and technical roadside inspection over the air. It is also intended that the charging of electric cars could be controlled by the need to reduce the load on the local grid or allow it to be charged at times of higher levels of renewable power.
2. Pollutants emitted from tyres and brakes will be subject to new limits, with details expected by the end of 2024. Until 2035, the limit for (PM10) brakeparticle emissions will be 7mg/km per vehicle.
3. Vehicles with traction batteries will be fitted with state of range or state of energy monitors. Minimum performance requirements for BEVs and PHEVs will be set at 80% capacity after five years or 62,000 miles and 70% between five and eight years old and 100,000 miles.
4. Vehicles, engines and emissions systems will be expected to have a ‘main lifetime’ of eight years and 100,000 miles and an ‘additional lifetime’ of 10 years and 125,000 miles.
5. New regulations will be introduced to prevent tampering with cars’ anti-pollution systems and odometers.
6. Cars will be equipped with a new device that will store fuel and electricity consumption data to determine their true energy efficiency.
7. From 2035, EU7 will also allow vehicles with a combustion engine that runs on CO2-free synthetic fuels to be type approved – if such a fuel is eventually made legal by the EU.
8. A digital environmental vehicle passport detailing all of a vehicle’s environmental impact data will be required for all models under EU7.
9. Some new vehicle categories will also be introduced. These include ICEV, meaning a vehicle with just an internal combustion engine, powered by petrol, diesel or hydrogen; PEV, meaning a vehicle powered only by batteries; and OVC-HEV, meaning a combustion-electric hybrid vehicle that can be charged from an external source.
10. There will be a new sub-category in EU7, called EU7g, which will be applied to plug-in hybrids that can switch to pure electric power in certain areas, such as city centres, using geofencing. However, manufacturers must install a driver warning system on those vehicles “to inform the user when the traction batteries are nearly empty and to stop the vehicle if not charged within 5km from the first warning while on zero-emission mode”.
What is Euro 7?
Euro 7 (or EU7 as it is also known) is the final stage of EU regulation of pure internal combustion engine (ICE) and ICE hybrid engine emissions before pure-ICE vehicles are banned from sale in 2030–2035.
“The core aim is to make ICE as clean as possible, and to do that, EU7 will bring diesel and petrol engines under identical regulatory emissions limits for the first time,” said engineering firm Mahle Powertrain.
Legal output of carbon monoxide (CO) will be halved, while particle emissions will be reduced up to 30%, by including the smallest (10nm) size. Limits for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) hydrocarbons (HC) and total particulates remain the same as the latest EU6d regs, though, raising questions about the cost-effectiveness of EU7.
“But one of the newest areas for regulation is the concept of an ‘emissions budget’ intended to clean-up cold-start emissions of seven pollutants, including CO, NOx, THC, NH3 and particles,” said Mahle Powertrain.
CO, for example, has a fixed limit of 5000mg, NOx 600mg, THC (Total Hydrocarbons) 1000mg, particles 45mg.
These weights of pollutants can be emitted up to 10km in any RDE test and the increased EU7 boundary conditions drive the requirement for externally heated catalysts.
However, some OEMs possibly will opt for an alternative burner-type heater, though these are noisy in operation and do impact mpg and emissions.
Another first is the regulation of brake dust, which will be rig-tested during a replica of the WLTP fuel economy test, with a limit of 7mg/km from 2025-2035, tightening to 3mg/km in 2035.
But the biggest change is to the on-board diagnostic (OBD) strategy, which will live-monitor key pollutants, illuminating the engine-management light (EML) if emissions go out of limits.
This is a huge upheaval in OBD operation, which today identifies a component causing increased emissions, such as an oxygen sensor, for replacement.
What are electrically heated e-catalysts?
One of the biggest proposal from Euro 7 is new electrically heated e-catalysts.
Due as standard fitment in petrol and hybrid engines from 2025, they will delay the starting procedure of new cars by up to 30sec.
The e-cats will become standard in most new cars so that they comply with the new cold-start regulations in the Euro 7 emissions laws, which introduces a “emissions budget” that a car must comply with over a 10km (6.2-mile) driven route.
An electric heater coupled to a small fan, likened to a hairdryer, will push hot air into the catalyst core and raise it to operating temperature, a procedure that takes between 20sec and 30sec.
“To mitigate any delay, OEM car makers are exploring new starting procedures, for example linking remote key transponder technology or mobile-phone apps to initialise the cat warm-up before a driver enters the car,” said Mahle Powertrain, which helped Autocar Business de-code the coming EU7 regulations for this article.
However, even that technology might leave a driver with a 5sec or 10sec delay while the car warms up before it can be started.
When will Euro 7 happen?
Current proposals say cars put into production from July 2025 will have to be EU7 compatible, two years earlier than expected – an aggressive speeding-up of the introduction that has infuriated many in the industry.
Unusually, engines operating to EU6 standards will have to comply in July 2025. “That's a big change as historically engines already in production have been given a further 12 months to comply, when rules tighten from one EU level to a more stringent one,” said Mahle Powertrain.
What does Euro 7 mean for car makers?
A huge scramble to comply with the new date with rejigged engineering programmes, product plans and increased R&D spend on ICEs comes at the same time as massive resources are being allocated to EV development.
Typically a new ICE takes four years to develop, yet OEMs are being given 2.5 years to design, develop and validate the cleanest ICEs ever manufactured.
Behind the scenes, powertrain programs for 2025 are already in progress and now face being revised with additional work to revalidate hardware and software for the now official limits.
“Even though EU7’s headline pollution limits are finally defined, OEM engine-development teams are working without important data from the EU and vital details that define the deliverables of EU7,” said Mahle Powertrain.
For example, the EU and its technical advice committee Clove last communicated on the key subject of on-board emissions monitoring in April 2021.
The EU has proposed a 12-month consultation with OEMs while these details are fixed yet also expects OEMs to hit the 2025 production target.
Meanwhile, OEM development engineers aren't able to work with production-ready sensors, for example with a known accuracy at a range of boundary conditions or tested for durability, for the key pollutants such as NOx and ammonia.
Hardware is available now from tier-one suppliers including Bosch and BorgWarner (through Delphi), but there are fears of insufficient time to go through a lengthy validation process for EU7-appropriate measurements to satisfy European legal requirements.
Product plans may have to be revised, too, and models pulled from the market early.
What does Euro 7 mean for retailers?
One thought is that there might be new or used car bargains in dealerships from late 2024 or early 2025 as manufacturers clear out unsold cars ahead of the July 2025 deadline.
Once EU7 is in force, however, dealers and repair garages are very likely to be faced with the difficulty of pinpointing the cause of EML faults.
“The validation for this new diagnostic methodology is to be a significant challenge for OEMs and only 3.5 years to complete,” said Mahle Powertrain.
The time and cost in workshops while these problems are investigated and repaired may well increase maintenance costs.
What does Euro 7 mean for motorists?
Buyers of new cars will have the warm-glow feeling of driving the cleanest ICEs ever made, which the start-up delay will remind them of every time they press the ignition button. Although some may see that as a retrograde step.
At the same time, it's highly likely that consumer choice will narrow as we close in on 2024/2025 and some models could be pulled from the market early.
The inevitability of heavier, taller crossover vehicles dominating the market seems highly likely, because e-cats are about 30% bigger and need 48V electrics, so retrofitting them to existing models may well be impractical – especially in city cars, superminis, sports cars and coupés, where under-bonnet space is at a premium.
The added cost per vehicle is around £500, according to EU estimates, but that doesn’t include increased R&D and manufacturing costs and it is unlikely OEMs will absorb all that hit, so expect prices to go up.
An unintended consequence may well be tighter supply of EVs. With fewer models to sell and less income coming in, EU7 may inadvertently reduce investment in EVs.
In use, there is a strong possibility that EU7 cars are more prone to niggly EML illumination and limp-home mode returns to a dealer.
Additional reporting by Felix Page