Press Release

Every major car manufacturer is selling diesel cars that fail to meet EU air pollution limits on the road in Europe, according to data obtained by sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E). All new diesel cars should have met the Euro 6 auto emissions standard from 1 September – but just one in 10 tested complied with the legal limit. (See infographic 1)

This is issue is very relevant to Ireland, where there has been rapid growth in vehicle sales and where EPA reports show that urban air quality is breaching World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended air particle pollution limits.

On average new EU diesel cars produce emissions about five times higher than the allowed limit. The results are compiled in a new report, Don’t Breathe Here, in which T&E analyses the reasons for and solutions to air pollution caused by diesel machines and cars – the worst of which, an Audi, emitted 22 times the allowed EU limit.

In fact just three out of 23 tested vehicles met the new standards when tested on the road. The main reason is Europe’s testing system is obsolete, allowing carmakers to use cheaper, less effective exhaust treatment systems in cars sold in Europe, according to newly released data. In contrast, diesel cars sold by the same manufacturers in the US, where limits are tighter and tests are more rigorous, have better exhaust treatment systems and produce lower emissions. (See infographic 2)

A new on-road test will, for the first time, measure diesels’ ‘real-world’ emissions but it will not apply to all new cars until 2018 at the earliest. Meanwhile, carmakers are continuing to try to delay and weaken the introduction of the tests by demanding further changes to the rules only agreed in July.

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."

The cost to manufacturers of a modern diesel after-treatment system is around €300 per car.

The current testing regime has seen nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits exceeded across Europe, exacerbating asthma in vulnerable people and shortening life expectancy in polluted places. In the UK, where the number of diesel cars has risen from 1.6 million to 12 million since 1994, a government health agency found that thousands of people suffered attacks when smog full of tiny particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas typical of diesel emissions descended last spring. Estimates of the number of premature deaths in London also doubled once nitrogen dioxide effects were incorporated into the analysis.

Greg Archer continued "It really points up the wholesale lack of law enforcement in the EU: carmakers guess that European law won't be enforced so they don't bother fitting clean exhaust technology here. But US law enforcement is robust and so the very same firms don't dare fit third-rate exhausts on the other side of the Atlantic"


For further information, please call:
Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce Tel: +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 2411995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


Transport & Environment’s mission is to promote, at EU and global level, a transport policy based on the principles of sustainable development. Transport policy should minimise harmful impacts on the environment and health, maximise efficiency of resources, including energy and land, and guarantee safety and sufficient access for all.

Infographic 1
Infographic 2