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Which pollutant classes does the Euro norm define and what do they mean? You will also find out how to determine the emission class of your car and what penalties threaten when driving in urban environmental zones with the wrong emission class.

Depending on how many pollutants a car emits, it is classified in a pollutant class. Here you can find out everything you need to know about the pollutant classes of the Euro norm:

  • What does emission class mean?
  • Which pollutant classes are there?
  • Why is the emission class important?
  • How can I determine the emission class of my car?
  • Wrong emission class: what penalties are there?

What does emission class mean?

Car exhaust included particulate matter and Nitrogen dioxide. The substances endanger health and damage the environment. Every vehicle emits a certain amount of pollutants through the exhaust gas. This depends on the vehicle type and age.

When it comes to pollutants, one also speaks of the Exhaust emission. The pollutants include, among others Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbon and soot particles. Depending on how many pollutants your car emits, it is classified in one of the various pollutant classes. This determines whether a car is low in pollutants or not.

Which car is in which emission class based on its emission value Europe-wide in the EU emissions standard set.

The EU emissions standard

The EU emissions standard is also known as Euro emissions standard or Euronorm designated. There it is specified which car belongs to which emission class. It also regulates how many pollutants a car may emit in the form of carbon monoxides (CO), nitrogen oxides (NO x), hydrocarbons (HC), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), fine dust and particles. The emission limit values ​​for the various pollutants are also specified here.

In 1970 the first emissions standard was introduced in Europe. Since then, the emission limit value for cars and other vehicles has been tightened again and again. That means: Cars are allowed to emit fewer and fewer pollutants so that they can drive at all.

Since September 2015, the Emission standard Euro 6. There are currently six different emission classes for low-emission cars. There are also cars without an emission class (Euro 00).

As of September 1, 2017, this regulation was adjusted again (Euro 6c / 6d standard): Since then, new measurement methods have been used to determine the emission values ​​in the exhaust gas. Overall, stricter criteria apply to exhaust gas measurement. The limit values ​​have remained the same since 2015.

The D norms

Before there was a Europe-wide regulation (Euronorm) for exhaust emissions, there were also some D standards in Germany. However, the D standards were measured differently than the current standard. Today only the Euro emissions standard is binding.

Which pollutant classes are there?

The EU emissions standard defines six different classes of pollutants. They classify how low-emission a car is.

The pollutant classes of the EU emissions standard

Low-emission vehicles are divided into emission classes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. Level Euro 6 has the lowest harmful emissions.The cars with the highest pollutant emissions come in Euro 1.

Vehicles that are not low in emissions are classified in Euro 00. Their use is prohibited in the event of an ozone alarm. The ozone alarm is a warning and is issued if there is an increased ozone content in the air you breathe. Especially hot weather causes the ozone levels to rise sharply. Then drivers should generally drive as little as possible.

Here are all pollution classes Listed according to the level of pollutant emissions and their validity date:

  • Emission class Euro 6 (least pollutant emissions, since September 1st, 2014/2017)
  • Emission class Euro 5 (since September 01, 2009/2011)
  • Emission class Euro 4 (since January 01, 2005)
  • Emission class Euro 3 (since January 01, 2000)
  • Emission class Euro 2 (since January 01, 1996)
  • Emission class Euro 1 (highest pollutant emissions, since July 01, 1992)
  • Emission class Euro 00: non-polluting cars (not allowed to drive in case of ozone alarm)

There are also pollution classes with Roman numerals from class Euro I to Euro VI. These are the pollutant classes of trucks and buses over 3.5 tons. The class with the lowest emissions is the Euro VI class. Trucks and buses with the highest pollutant emissions are in Euro I. For new registrations, the Euro VI emission class is currently a prerequisite for these vehicles.

There are no emission classes for electric cars. Because: They do not emit any relevant pollutants such as carbon monoxide. The Euro emissions standard does not apply to them. This is different for vehicles with hybrid drive: they too have to meet the Euro emissions standard. Almost all hybrid cars are in emission class Euro 5 or 6. They usually have very low emissions.

Difference between pollutant classes and pollutant groups

In the major German cities, the environmental pollution caused by road traffic is to be reduced. The result: environmental zones have existed in the centers of 55 German cities since 2008. You can only drive on with a valid environmental sticker or fine dust sticker. Only cars that emit few pollutants are allowed to drive there.

The environmental sticker is divided into four pollutant groups: no badge, red, yellow and green badge. Only if the sticker proves that a vehicle does not emit too many pollutants is it allowed to enter the zone. The particulate matter sticker is also compulsory for electric cars. You can buy the environmental badge from TÜV, DEKRA, citizens' offices, registration authorities and most petrol stations.

The emission class decides whether a vehicle gets a red, yellow, green or no environmental badge at all.

  • Vehicles with the emission class Euro 4 (or better) receive a green sticker. You are allowed to drive in all environmental zones.
  • Diesel vehicles with the emission class Euro 3 receive the yellow sticker. This environmental badge is also given to vehicles that, according to the European Economic Community (EEC), have been retrofitted with a particle filter in accordance with particle reduction level 1. With her there is no driving ban in the environmental zones. Exceptions are the cities of Berlin and Hanover.
  • Only diesel vehicles belong to the Euro 2 emission class. You get the red badge. In almost all environmental zones there is a driving ban for cars with a red sticker.
  • Cars with gasoline engines without a catalytic converter or gasoline engines with an unregulated catalytic converter do not get an environmental badge. Diesel vehicles with particle emissions according to Euro standard 1 or worse do not receive an environmental badge either. The cars are not allowed to enter any of the environmental zones.

Why is the emission class important?

The classification of the emission class of a vehicle is a crucial point for the amount of the vehicle tax. The pollutant class is also relevant for driving into so-called environmental zones at home and abroad. The more pollutants your car emits, the more it pollutes the environment.

Influence on the road tax

The respective emission class also has an impact on how high your vehicle tax will be. Based on the determined class, it can be calculated very clearly which costs are applied for the respective vehicle.

You can find out exactly what amount of tax you have to pay for the respective emission class in our guide to vehicle tax.

Maximum limits for CO2

Car exhaust fumes and the pollutants they contain are harmful to the environment and affect the climate. The air pollution sometimes leads to the warming of the earth's atmosphere, the so-called Greenhouse effect. This is the name given to the process of increasing warming of the earth's atmosphere, which is driven by environmental pollution. As a result, the climate of the entire earth changes. This can be seen, for example, in the melting of glaciers and in the death of forest areas.

The additional carbon dioxide generated by the harmful car emissions reinforce this effect. The European Union has introduced the CO2 limit values ​​to counteract environmental pollution.

In 2015, new limit values ​​were set for CO2 emissions that car manufacturers must adhere to. From 2021, cars should then be allowed to emit even fewer pollutants.

CO2 limit from 2015 to 2020

From 2015 to 2020, the maximum CO2 value for new cars is 130 grams per kilometer. By 2020, the carbon dioxide emissions of cars are to be reduced to 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer. This corresponds to a consumption of 4.1 liters per hundred kilometers for gasoline vehicles and 3.6 liters for diesel vehicles.

By then, the CO2 emissions from new cars should be reduced by around 15 percent. The value applies to the average of all new cars sold in the EU.

CO2 limit from 2021

From 2021, CO2 emissions from vehicles are expected to decrease even further. The exact limit has yet to be determined. The automotive industry then has to adapt to the requirements when developing new models.

The Environment Committee of the EU Parliament speaks of limit values ​​between 68 and 78 grams of CO2 emissions per kilometer.

Discussion on the 2018 diesel ban

German cities want to keep their air clean. Often, however, limit values ​​for nitrogen oxides are significantly exceeded in cities. The danger: The gases can be toxic in high concentrations. They can irritate the airways, but also cause lung problems and cardiovascular diseases.

The result: Since 2018, some cities have been calling for a diesel ban in order to implement their air pollution control plans and to comply with the limit values ​​again as quickly as possible. The background: diesel vehicles are generally more harmful to the environment than other vehicles. Your engines also emit soot particles.

The introduction of a “blue badge” is also being discussed. The new badge is to be given to modern diesel cars with the Euro 6 emissions standard. You would be exempted from the driving ban. So far, however, no judgment has been made.

How is the emission class checked?

Compliance with EU standards is checked in Germany by the emissions test (AU). It is usually part of the general inspection that you have to do every two years at the TÜV.

With a new car, you have to have an examination for the first time in three years. You must then have the environmental sticker (fine dust sticker) buy it yourself and attach it to your windshield. When buying, you have to show your vehicle registration. Then you will get the right particulate matter sticker.

Important: The license plate of your car must be on the sticker. Your license plate will be entered in the workshop, at the registration office or where you bought the sticker. Without the registration of the license plate, the environmental badge will not be issued to you.

New vehicles are classified in the Euro 6 emission class. They must comply with the Euro 6 standard.

How can I determine the emission class of my car?

You can determine the emission class of your vehicle using the so-called emission key number. It also determines which pollutant group a vehicle is classified into and thus which environmental badge your car receives.

How to find your emission class

The emission key number is in your vehicle registration document: In the old vehicle registration document in field 1 (point "Key number - to 1") and for newer models in the Registration Certificate Part I in the middle of the document in Box 14.1.

The are important for determining the pollutant class last two digits of the emission key number. For new vehicles, the last two numbers followed by two letters are relevant.

Because: You can find out your emission class using the last digits of the key number in the vehicle registration document.

Additional hint: You can also enter your pollutant group online and find out. Enter the emission key number in the DEKRA sticker test, for example.

Can I improve the emission class of my car?

In order to improve your emission class, you can make modifications to your vehicle.

The advantage: You can then save taxes. You may also be able to come into a better pollutant group and then drive in the city centers with an environmental zone.

The disadvantage: The retrofitting itself can cause some costs. You should therefore weigh up whether the conversion is really worthwhile.

Ways to Conversion for diesel vehicles:

  • Particulate filter: A soot particle filter can reduce soot emissions by around 40 percent. However, retrofitting is not possible with all diesel vehicles. The costs: between around 650 and 1,500 euros. You can apply for state funding: funding of up to around 260 euros is possible.
  • Upgrade catalyst: Only possible for vehicles with Oxy-Kat. Improvement from Euro 1 to Euro 2. The costs: from around 400 Euro.
  • Retrofitting a catalytic converter (Oxy-Kat): For vehicles that do not have a catalytic converter. Improvement from emission class Euro 00 to Euro 1, partly also possible to Euro 2. The costs: from around 400 euros.

Ways to Conversion for gasoline vehicles:

  • Catalytic converter system: It ensures that the catalytic converter is activated more quickly in the event of a cold start. The catalytic converter is used to convert harmful exhaust gas components from the internal combustion engine into harmless gases. Improvements from Euro 1 to Euro 2 are possible in this way. The costs: from around 200 euros.
  • Upgrade catalyst: Only for vehicles that already have a working catalytic converter. Improvement from Euro 1 to Euro 2 possible. The costs: from around 400 euros.
  • Catalytic converter retrofitting (G-Kat): For older vehicles that previously had no or an unregulated catalytic converter. Improvement from emission class 00 to Euro 1, sometimes also to Euro 2 possible. The costs: from around 700 euros.

Wrong emission class: what penalties are there?

If you drive into one of the environmental zones in Germany, you need a valid environmental badge. That is controlled by the police.

If you drive into an environmental zone without or with the wrong sticker, you have to expect a fine: The Fine amounts 80 euro. A driving ban, driving license withdrawal or points in Flensburg are not threatened.

You can read about the exceptions to the regulation on environmental badges in our guide to environmental badges.

Pay attention to your emission class: since 2015 there have been six different emission classes for low-emission cars in Europe. They are divided into Euro 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or the lowest-polluting class Euro 6. New registrations must comply with the Euro 6 standard. Cars that are not low in emissions are classified in Euro 00.

The emission class is important: it influences which environmental badge your car gets and how much Road tax you have to pay. You can easily find out which pollutant class you have. It can be determined using the emission key number in the vehicle registration document (registration certificate part I).

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