Germany has prevailed in the dispute over limits for cars of the Euro 6 emissions standard before the ECJ. The European Court of Justice upheld an appeal against a judgment dealing with limit values for nitrogen oxides after exhaust gas fraud (cases C-177/19, C-178/19, C-179/19). This overturns a 2018 decision by the General Court of the EU in favor of the cities of Paris, Brussels and Madrid. They had hoped to be able to ban cars with excessive pollutant emissions from certain areas.
Labor vs. Praxis
At the time, the court found that the EU Commission had allegedly wrongly interpreted these limit values less strictly when introducing measurements in real driving operations (real drive emissions – RDE). The Brussels authorities wanted to counter inaccuracies in the conversion of the calculation. For example, for a Euro 6 limit of 80 milligrams per kilometer, the limit for RDE tests was temporarily set at 168 and then at 120 milligrams. The laboratory values were significantly lower than those that occur in real driving.
The cities of Paris, Brussels and Madrid resisted, seeing their efforts to clean air impaired. They fear that such cars may also be allowed to enter restricted zones that were not able to comply with the limit values on the road that were valid at the time. They got justice before the EU court. However, Germany, Hungary and the EU Commission appealed against this and went to the ECJ. “Since the cities of Paris, Brussels and Madrid are not directly affected by this regulation, their actions for annulment of the regulation must be dismissed as inadmissible,” the court said in a statement.
RDE mandatory since 2017
The emission limit values have remained almost constant since 2015, although the conditions under which they have to be observed have been tightened again and again. A big step was the introduction of the Euro 6d-Temp emissions standard. With it, proof became mandatory for the first time that the limit values are not only complied with in the laboratory, but also on the road.
However, the transition phase was laid out generously in terms of both time and content. The Euro 6d-Temp emission standard was mandatory for all new homologated vehicles from September 2017, for all cars registered for the first time in the EU only from September 2019. The nitrogen oxide limit of 80 mg/km was only mandatory in the laboratory, in the RDE it was allowed until to 168 mg/km.
The next step is the Euro 7 emissions standard, which poses a challenge for manufacturers less because of the tightened limit values, but rather because of the much narrower conditions under which they have to be observed. Technically, this will be solvable, but the price of Euro 7 cars with combustion engines is likely to rise noticeably.