Only 10% of new diesel cars meet pollution limits, study finds

Transport & Environment NGO claims car manufacturers across the board produce diesel vehicles which fail to meet EU pollution standards

Only 10% of new diesel cars meet the Euro 6 standard for air pollution emissions, with car manufacturers across the board producing diesel vehicles which exceed the EU limits, according to NGO Transport & Environment.

Diesel cars were the best sellers in 2014

Diesel cars were the best sellers in 2014

A report by the European organisation published yesterday (September 14) states that every major car manufacturer is selling diesel cars which fail to meet EU air pollution standards — Euro 6 standards — that should have been met when they came into force on September 1 2015 (see story).

The ‘Don’t Breathe Here’ report claims that nine out of 10 diesel cars failed to comply with the limit, with EU diesel cars on average producing emissions around five times higher than the allowed limit.

According to T&E, the “worst” car for diesel emissions was an Audi, which emitted 22 times the allowed EU limit.

When tested on the road, it was found that just three out of 23 tested vehicles met the new Euro 6 standard, which T&E claims is due to Europe’s “obsolete” laboratory testing system which is not based on real world driving and allows car makers to use “cheaper, less effective exhaust treatment systems”.

In contrast, the report argues that diesel cars sold by the same manufacturers in the USA “where limits are tighter and tests more rigorous” have better exhaust treatment systems and produce lower emissions.

(Image: Transport & Environment)

(Image: Transport & Environment)

Real world

The EU is currently negotiating over a new testing system for car exhausts which will be for the first time based on real-world, on-the-road emissions measurements rather than in the lab. The Real Driving Emission test procedure is expected to come in to force in September 2017.

According to T&E, the cost to car manufacturers of building a modern diesel exhaust after-treatment system into vehicles is around 300 Euros (£220) per car.

Greg Archer, T&E’s clean vehicles manager, said: “Every new diesel car should now be clean but just one in 10 actually is. This is the main cause of the air pollution crisis affecting cities. Carmakers sell clean diesels in the US, and testing should require manufacturers to sell them in Europe too.”

It follows a seprate report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) last week (September 6), which analysed tests on 32 Euro 6 diesel passenger cars from 10 different manufacturers, concluding that there is a “shadow of doubt over the real-world performance of all current NOx control approaches”.

The ICCT’s findings showed that while some manufacturers are implementing NOx control technologies which deliver emissions reductions, others are “mostly focussed on meeting the limit” while simultaneously “neglecting real-world operating conditions”.

Lib Dems

Catherine Bearder — Lib Dem MEP and lead negotiator for the EU Liberal group on the revision of the National Emission Ceilings Directive — said it was “about time that EU pollution limits were properly enforced and not sidestepped or ignored. The longer we wait the more lives will be tragically cut short.”

She said: “Once seen as a way to tackle climate change, we now know that the switch to diesel has had a disastrous impact on air quality in our cities. This research shows manufacturers are still dragging their heels when it comes to making the transition to cleaner vehicles.”

And, commenting on Defra’s draft air quality plan which was published for consultation at the weekend, she said: “Shocking that Tories are passing buck on air pollution to local authorities. National and European Action also needed.”


However, suggested measures in Defra’s draft air quality plan to reduce diesel driving in urban areas have also met with criticism from the RAC, which said that banning cars from towns and city centres is “potentially damaging for businesses and for individuals especially without any clear guidance on long-term solutions”.

Commenting on Defra’s plan, RAC spokesman Pete Williams said: “At the moment we can see proposals, like the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone, that follow a measured common-sense approach and others that demonise diesel vehicles without regard to the extent to which the vehicles concerned are contributing to the problem.”

Related Links:

Transport & Environment ‘Don’t Breathe Here’ report


Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 years ago

I think we can now say that the situation has changed for the worse.

8 years ago

From the Diesel Technology Forum (Washington, D.C., USA)

Yes, diesels can be clean. US light and heavy duty diesels all include particulate filters as well as selective catalytic reduction systems that reduce oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter to near zero levels. Some new gasoline cars with direct injection technology have higher levels of particulates than a comparable diesel.

This year the American Lung Association highlighted that cleaner diesel fleets contributed to clean air progress in the US, with more than half of all cities attaining our national clean air standards.

Government certification and test procedures aren’t perfect either in the EU or US; that we can all agree on. Here in the US, we know that more people do suburban style driving yet the testing requirements for fuel economy are weighted more toward city driving. This gives hybrid vehicles artificially higher mpg than they actually achieve in real world driving. The diesels typically return higher MPG over all driving conditions than the government certification values.

The diesel is the most energy efficient internal combustion engine. Coupled with using advance renewable biodiesel fuels, it is a technology that will be vital to meeting the Euro CO2 limits as well as US Clean Air Standards well into the future.

Older technology met all the requirements of its time. New technology is being held to more stringent standards and new test procedures; that’s the right path.

more at

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top