- Looking to the future:
The new Directive contains not only the new 'Euro 5' standards, to be implemented as of September 2009, but also includes longer-term emission reductions, under a 'Euro 6' stage that would set significantly lower NOx emission limits for diesel cars and would enter into force five years later.
- Petrol versus diesel:
Diesel cars used to be considered as cleaner than gasoline cars because, thanks to their lower fuel consumption, they emit significantly less carbon dioxide.
Standards relating to emissions therefore tended to focus more on petrol vehicles, allowing diesel cars to continue emitting much higher levels of other noxious fumes, such as nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM).
The Euro 5 and 6 standards will force diesel vehicles to catch up, although not completely.
Firstly, the introduction of Euro 5 standards will make it compulsory for all new diesel cars to be fitted with particle filters, as of January 2011, in order to bring the emissions of the highly noxious 'soot' down to the same levels as petrol vehicles – which currently emit five times less.
Euro 5 standards will however remain much more lenient as regards NOx emissions, which currently stand at 250 mg/km – 4 times higher than for petrol cars. The Directive will actually allow diesel vehicles to maintain these emissions at levels 2.5 times higher than for petrol vehicles until 2014, when the Euro 6 standards come into force and diesel NOx emissions will have to be reduced to 80mg/km - still more than the 70mg/km that will be required for petrol cars.
This leniency for diesel vehicles is in contrast with legislation in the United States, which is "fuel-neutral". However, it is worth mentioning that diesel cars represent roughly half of all cars in the EU, whereas they represent less than 5% of those in the US.
- Exceptions for social needs vehicles… and SUVs
Vehicles designed for specific social needs, such as ambulances, vehicles designed to transport disabled persons or to fulfil public services, will be allowed a transition period of three years to comply with the standards.
As will "light commercial vehicles" weighing less than 3,500 kg, which include vans intended for transport, small pick-up trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles, known as SUVs – the bête noire of green groups, because of their high levels of fuel consumption and pollutant emissions.