July 15, 2005

EU targets sport vehicles in car emissions rules

By Jeff Mason

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Popular sports utility vehicles (SUVs)
in Europe will no longer benefit from a loophole that lets them
escape tough emissions standards under draft proposals
presented by the European Union's executive on Friday.

The European Commission put forward the tougher new limits
on pollution from new cars for comment from industry and other
groups before a formal proposal at the end of this year.

The rules, dubbed "Euro 5," could go into force by mid-2008
and are the latest in a series of regulations designed to
reduce car emissions that pollute the air and damage human
health. The previous Euro 4 rules went into force in January
this year.

"Our ideas are ambitious, but realistic. The new emission
limits will open the way to cleaner cars," Industry
Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said in a statement.

"This is good for the health of our citizens and the
environment. Industry gets a clear perspective and the time to
prepare to produce clean, high quality cars without endangering
its competitiveness," he said.

The proposals seek emissions reductions in new cars with
diesel and petrol or gasoline engines.

Diesel cars would be required to reduce emissions of
particulate matter by 80 percent to 5 mg/km compared to the 25
mg/km set in Euro 4, the current rules. Nitrogen oxide (NOX)
emissions must be dropped by 20 percent.

In petrol-powered cars, a reduction of 25 percent in NOX
and hydrocarbons emissions is foreseen, as well as the
introduction of a particulate emission limit.

Particulates can cause cancer and cardio-vascular problems,
while NOX is blamed for lung disease and contributing to ozone
formation, environmentalists say.

SUVs, which are becoming more popular in Europe, have
previously been exempt under a rule that gave looser standards
to heavy vehicles. The Euro 5 rules stipulate passenger cars
that weigh more than 2500 kg may not use "less ambitious"
standards for light commercial vehicles, the Commission said.

The new standards are applicable to all cars imported into
the EU. That means top producers from the United States and
Asia must join European auto giants from countries like Germany
and Italy in cleaning up new car emissions.

Industry reacted cautiously on Friday. One automobile
industry official, who asked not to be named, said there would
not be enough time to adjust to the rules, which would come
into force between 18 and 36 months -- depending on the car --
after formal adoption by the European Parliament and member

The Commission expects the rules to go into force by mid
2008 at the earliest.

"A lead time of 18 months is definitely not sufficient for
the industry," the official said. He also disputed the need to
clean up gasoline engines, which he said did not harm the
environment. Environmentalists said the proposals did not go
far enough.

"Overall it's a very disappointing package," said Jos
Dings, director of the European Federation for Transport and
Environment. He said the technology was there to make the goals