Vehicle emission standards

Noxious emissions

Noxious emissions from vehicle exhausts, such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen and particulates can cause smog, heart and lung disease and cancer. To minimise these impacts, Australia has had noxious emission standards since the early 1970s. These standards set maximum limits for noxious emissions from vehicle exhausts for new road vehicles supplied to Australia, and have been progressively tightened over the past 40 years.

An increasing proportion of vehicles meeting tighter noxious emission standards has played a major part in improving and maintaining good air quality in Australia. Our commitment to harmonise with international vehicle standards developed by the United Nations, wherever possible and ensure we are focused on improving health outcomes for all Australians is reflected in the current noxious emission standards.

The current minimum noxious emission standard for new light vehicles in Australia is ADR 79/04, which is based on an international standard known as Euro 5. The current minimum noxious emission standard for new heavy vehicles is ADR 80/03, which is based on an international standard known as Euro V, with vehicles meeting equivalent US or Japanese standards also accepted.

On 13 October 2022, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon Catherine King MP, announced a new ADR 80/04 based on the Euro VI (Stage C) requirements will be phased in for newly approved heavy vehicle models supplied from 1 November 2024 and existing heavy vehicle models still being supplied to the Australian market on or after 1 November 2025.  The text of ADR 80/04 is being settled in consultation with stakeholders most directly affected by the change. As with ADR 80/03, vehicles meeting equivalent US or Japanese standards will also be accepted.

During previous consultation, stakeholders informed the Government that improved fuel quality standards are needed before Euro 6 standards can be implemented for light vehicles, as fuel quality can affect the operability of advanced petrol and diesel engines. To support the introduction of Euro 6, the Government recently implemented amendments to reduce the maximum sulfur levels permitted in petrol sold in Australia. The Department of Infrastructure, Transport Regional Development, Communications and the Arts is working closely with the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water, which regulates fuel quality standards to consider whether further improvements to aromatics in petrol are needed to enable the introduction of Euro 6 for light vehicles.

The tables listed below summarise the noxious emission limits that apply to light and heavy vehicles in the Australian Design Rules (ADRs), depending on when the vehicle was manufactured. The ADRs are performance standards that specify the maximum levels of noxious emissions permitted under a specified test. If and when new noxious emission standards are adopted, these will be adopted as new ADRs and these tables will be updated to reflect this.

Fuel efficiency standards

Australia does not currently have fuel efficiency standards, which regulate average carbon dioxide (CO2) emission levels from new vehicles supplied annually by a manufacturer, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Australian Government has recently announced it will consult on the possible introduction of fuel efficiency standards to increase the supply of more affordable, electric, hybrid and other fuel efficient vehicles that are already available in other markets, as part of the development of Australia’s first National Electric Vehicle Strategy.

Over 80 per cent of all vehicles sold in the world are already covered by a fuel efficiency standard, including the European Union, United States, United Kingdom, China, Japan, Brazil, India, Canada, South Korea, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

In other countries with fuel efficiency standards, the target for each manufacturer is tied to the average weight of the vehicles they sell. This means that manufacturers that sell larger or heavier vehicles have a target that is proportional to their vehicle range. Fuel efficiency standards only apply to new vehicles, they do not affect the vehicles already on the roads.

In-Service Emissions

The regulation of emissions from vehicles once they are on the road (in-service) is the responsibility of the state and territory governments. However, the Australian Government undertaken a number of studies to improve the understanding of emissions performance of the in-service passenger car fleet.

The National In-Service Emission Study (NISE1), published in 1996, is the most comprehensive study of emissions from cars ever undertaken in Australia. It tested over 600 vehicles manufactured between 1980 and 1993 and demonstrated that considerable exhaust emissions benefits could be obtained from regular tuning and maintenance. An update and expansion of this study, NISE 2, covering later model vehicles, was completed in March 2009.

The NISE 1 study also indicated that evaporative emissions from vehicles were, on average, well above the limits mandated in the then applicable standard, Australian Design Rule 37(ADR37). The subsequent Petrol Volatility Project (1997) examined this in more detail and concluded that reducing the volatility of commercial petrol was the most cost-effective means to address this problem. States have since set limits on the volatility of summertime petrol supplies.

Vehicle emission reports and RISs

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