Vehicle emissions target aims too low

Many vehicles adhering to the proposed Euro 5 benchmark - the EU's toughest ever emissions standard - would be considered too dirty for American roads.

While it may be easy to dismiss the US as a global eco-villain, Europeans may have something to learn from their gas-guzzling cousins across The Pond when it comes to clean cars.

Pressure group the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E) has condemned the Euro 5 proposals, which would see further reductions in emissions of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

The new standards, while an improvement, are unambitious and fall short of what is already possible, says the group.

“The standards they’re proposing are far from forcing technology,” said Aat Peterse, a policy officer for T&E.

They also lag behind their American equivalent, the Tier 2 requirements proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In their current form the Euro 5 proposals, expected to become law in 2008, would see the maximum NOx emissions from diesel vehicles cut by 20%, to 200mg/km.

Their American counterpart will require diesel engines to emit no more than 70mg/US mile.

Current particulate emissions from Euro diesels will be slashed by the new standards, on the other hand, with an 80% reduction expected.

Smaller reductions are demanded of petrol engines, with cuts of 25% of NOx and hydrocarbon emissions expected.

The EC has acknowledged the NOx cuts from diesel emissions are lower than those in the US, and that it is already possible to reduce them further, but has insisted the technology to do so ‘is not yet mature’.

Defenders of the European policy might accuse the EPA of tokenism, however, as less than 1% of passenger vehicles in the US are diesel powered, compared to a European average of over 40%.

Ensuring America’s relatively small fleet of diesels is super-clean, they will say, will be a simpler task than achieving modest reductions across the EU.

By Sam Bond

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