March 18, 2019 at 1:15 PM
Euro 6 is the latest set of standards introduced by the European Commission to reduce harmful pollutants from vehicle exhausts, particularly nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and particulate matter (PM). Although emission regulations date back to 1970, the first EU-wide standard (Euro 1) was released in 1992.
Introduced in September 2016 for light commercial vehicles, Euro 6 specifically targets the reduction in NOx from diesel engines. This is a direct result from studies linking nitrogen oxide emissions to respiratory problems.
The legislation has since been updated to include the new WLTP (World harmonised Light vehicle Testing Protocol) and RDE (Real Driving Emissions) tests that are designed to better represent actual driving conditions and situations. The updates were introduced for all newly launched models in September 2017 and made mandatory for all new registrations from September 2018.
These updates are sometimes referred to as 'Euro 6.2', but can also be subdivided into 'Euro 6c' (to indicate a vehicle that complies with WLTP testing) and 'Euro 6d' (relating to RDE testing).
Euro 5 emission standards were first introduced in September 2009 - with full implementation by 2011 - and largely focused on carbon dioxide emissions. They also made it compulsory for all diesel vehicles to have a particular filter (DPF) fitted by January 2013.
Euro 6 has taken a much stricter stance on NOx from diesel vehicles forcing manufacturers to reduce emissions by 55%. The NOx limit for Euro 5 diesel vehicles was 180mg/km which has been reduced to just 80mg/km for Euro 6 equivalents.
Petrol and diesel engines produce different types of emissions - for example, diesels produce more particulate matter (soot) - so they are subjected to different standards. Because the Euro 5 NOx level was already so low for petrol vehicles (60mg/km), it remains the same in the Euro 6 standards.
To put this into perspective, the Euro 1 emissions standards were 780mg/km for diesel vehicles and 490mg/km for petrol vehicles.
To meet the stricter Euro 6 NOx emission limits for diesel vehicles, extra technology has been developed. Van manufacturers are employing one of three methods to ensure their diesel engines are compliant.
Made compulsory by Euro 5 emissions standards, a simple diesel particulate filter is able to trap particulates and burn them off when the exhaust gases reach high temperatures (e.g. motorway speeds). This option is more likely to be used in smaller vans.
Using this system, a liquid reductant agent - typically a fluid called AdBlue - is injected through a catalyst into a diesel vehicle's exhaust. A chemical reaction then converts the harmful NOx into harmless water and nitrogen which are then expelled through the exhaust pipe.
Selective Catalytic Reduction is employed by majority of medium size vans and above, including pick-up trucks.
This method is favoured by Fiat in their Ducato large van whereby a portion of the exhaust gas is mixed with intake air to lower the burning temperature. The more harmful compounds are eliminated by re-burning exhaust gases in the engine.
The van's engine control unit (ECU) moderates the EGR in accordance with the engine load or speed.
The only one of these methods to make changes to any other aspect of the van, aside from engine technology, is Selective Catalytic Reduction because it introduces a diesel exhaust fluid (AdBlue) as a reductant.
Vans using SCR to meet Euro 6 emissions standards require an extra tank to store the AdBlue solution. Typically, the tank is between 10 and 20 litres in volume which can reduce payload anywhere from 30kg up to 80kg.
Topping up AdBlue is similar to adding windscreen washer fluid. It is your responsibility to buy the solution and ensure there's always an adequate amount in the tank. Prices do vary, but it normally costs around £8 - £20 per litre and can be purchased from service stations, motor retail outlets (e.g. Halfords) and dealerships.
The consumption of the reductant varies on a wide scale between different light commercial vehicles. Small vans such as the Volkswagen Caddy and Ford Transit Connect can get about 700 miles for every litre of AdBlue; however, larger vans like the Mercedes Sprinter achieve an average of 250 miles per litre.
As of September 2016, every new van on the market is compliant with Euro 6 emissions standards. Manufacturers have spents millions of pounds refining their engine technology to meet the new NOx and other harmful emissions levels to produce the cleanest vans ever which come with a range of additional benefits.
As of April 2019, London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be in force, charging £12.50 per day for any diesel vehicle older than Euro 6 and any petrol vehicle older than Euro 4. Travelling into central London every day during the business week without a Euro 6 compliant van will cost an extra £62.50 per week - that's £3,250 per year.
Although London is the only area with this type of scheme currently in action, other councils are taking actions to cut emissions. Indeed, Birmingham, Derby and Newcastle are planning their own low emission zones to target older, more polluting vehicles. Since 2015, more than 60 local authorities have been ordered to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.
Despite the primary aim of the Euro 6 emissions standards focusing on reducing NOx levels, the new technologies developed also help to reduce carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions.
In May 2018, the government published a consultation on reforming the road tax system for vans to move it from the current flat rate to one based on the vehicle's emissions. This is likely to come into effect in 2021 to help incentivise more environmentally friendly commercial vehicles.
Having spent millions to produce refined engine technology, manufacturers have also been able to improve fuel economy which means less frequent trips to the pumps and more money in your business bank account. In addition, Euro 6 engines are typically more powerful than their Euro 5 counterparts.
After leaving the European Union, the UK government will be free to implement its own rules and regulations for vehicle emissions requirements. However, it is widely expected that this will not happen.
Changing emissions requirements specifically for the UK would force vehicle manufacturers to adapt their products to a different set of rules, resulting in an inevitable increase in costs that no one will want to pay.