EU loophole on ‘Chelsea Tractors’ emissions may be plugged

A loophole which allowed heavy 4x4s - dubbed 'Chelsea Tractors' by eco-activists - to avoid emissions targets set for new cars could be closed by new laws from Europe.

Currently cars and other passenger vehicles with a mass of over 2,500kg can use less ambitious standards for light commercial vehicles.

But under the latest Euro 5 limits, launched for consultation this week, they would have to meet the same targets as other private vehicles.

The Euro 5 could replace the current Euro 4 standards, introduced this January, as early as summer 2008.

Under the draft proposals, which will be subject to intensive lobbying from both sides of the debate, particulate emissions for diesel vehicles would be slashed by 80% while nitrogen oxides.

Both nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbon limits for petrol vehicles would be cut by 25%.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen said: “Our ideas are ambitious, but realistic.

“The new emission limits will open the way to cleaner cars.

“This is good for the health of our citizens and the environment. Industry gets a clear perspective and the time to prepare to produce clean, high quality cars without endangering its competitiveness.

“This is the only road to future success. It is now up to stakeholders to have their say.”

The new standards would only apply to cars built after the introduction of the Euro 5 package.

As well as the emissions targets, several other measures are up for discussion.

These include scrapping the rules which allow large 4x4s and people carriers from avoiding targets set for other cars by being classified as vans, a manufacturer’s guarantee of longer life for catalytic converters and other emissions-reducing equipment and the introduction of a particulate emission limit for petrol cars using lean-burn direct injection technology.

Meanwhile vehicle industry has predictably raised concerns that there will not be enough time to implement the changes while environmental lobbyists have said the measures do not go nearly far enough.

The consultation runs for eight weeks and comments can be emailed to [email protected]

By Sam Bond

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