European Commission aims to reduce air pollution through new vehicle standards

The European Commission has laid out new plans to curb air pollution coming from vehicles, as it looks to meet its carbon reduction targets.

Euro 7 - as the new rules are called - aim to make cars cleaner and improve air quality, reducing nitrous oxide emissions by 35% in cars and vans, and 56% from buses and lorries compared to previous Euro 6 standards.

In a LinkedIn in post on Wednesday, Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, said:

"The subject, today, is not the fight against climate change, but the quality of the air. That same air quality – or rather lack of it – that prematurely kills up to 70,000 people each year in Europe due to road transport.

"I am talking here about emissions both for combustion engine cars which will continue to be put on our market by 2035, and for emissions from heavy goods vehicles and electric vehicles.

"It is therefore in full awareness of this context that we have prepared and that I am presenting Euro 7 today."

Within the regulation, polluting particles coming from brakes will be limited, as well as rules on microplastic pollution from tyres being introduced.

Batteries in electric cars will also be required to be more durable, as the EU looks to boost production and sales of them.

"Sometimes we assume that electric vehicles are totally clean," Breton said during a press conference on Thursday.

"Of course, they're much cleaner when it comes to CO2. That's quite clear. But electric vehicles are about 40% heavier than your average combustion engine vehicle, so they do emit more of these particles.

"Whether that's because of friction of the tyres when they're driving, but also brakes, when an electric vehicle breaks. And to recharge the battery as well it emit particles. And so it's an important subject and it's one that will carry on over and beyond 2035 to be an issue."

According to European Commission estimates, the impact on consumers is expected to be low, between €90 and €150 for cars, and around €2600 for buses and lorries.

But Bas Eickhout, a Dutch Green MEP, said the proposals are weak and risk decades of harm to people's health and the environment.

"After making Europe’s citizens and industries wait with baited breath for almost two years, the European Commission has presented a so-called update to emissions standards, which disregards its own experts and environmental goals. With these lax rules, the Commission risks driving 100 million highly polluting cars onto Europe’s streets," Eickhout said.

"The Commission has clearly bowed to the demands of the automobile industry once again.

"In China and the US, several standards have now been tightened, but the Commission is giving industry a free pass to do virtually nothing about emissions from petrol and diesel vehicles for the next decade. The EU cannot be a global leader if the Commission refuses to seriously improve the rules, made almost a decade ago, on car emissions."