The stringent limit values for nitrogen oxide and particulate matter set in the Euro 5 and 6 proposals affirmed on Wednesday in the European Parliament are extremely challenging for the European automotive industry to comply with, according to its trade association.

"The European car industry will do its utmost to meet the extremely ambitious targets within the set time frame", said Ivan Hodac, secretary-general of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

"What concerns us, is that the proposed limit values will not only be extremely difficult to meet, but will have a significant counter-productive effect on reducing CO2 emissions from passenger cars. They also pose a serious risk for the market of small diesel cars."

Proportionate sales of diesel cars had reached 50.3% in the first nine months of 2006, compared to 14.6% in 1991.

ACEA's communications director Sigrid de Vries told just-auto on Thursday that Euro 5, with a proposed introduction date of 1 September 2009, mandates diesel NOx emissions at 180g per kilometre (currently 250g under Euro 4) and that falls to 80g under Euro 6, likely to come into effect at the beginning of 2014.

She noted that diesel particulate filters would become mandatory with Euro 5 and that the lower NOx levels would be met by after-treatment.

Such technology is already in use or planned for the US where automakers will either using urea injection to meet the stringent 50-state requirement (Mercedes) or have proposed new catlytic converter technology (Honda).

The parliament vote still needs to be confirmed by the EU member states. A political agreement is expected early during the German EU presidency.

ACEA said the European car industry regrets that the new emission standards have not been based on proper and transparent impact assessments.

Amongst other issues, this has led to an underestimation of Euro 5 and 6-related costs by about 33%.

The price of diesel cars will rise by up to EUR900. Furthermore, due to technical requirements and a predicted market shift from diesel to petrol cars, ACEA expects a significant negative impact of 6% on CO2 emissions.

"Vehicle emissions have fallen dramatically; diesel engines now emit 95% less NOx and particulate matter than 25 years ago", said Hodac.

The European Clean Air for Europe Programme predicts that "in the future other sectors, for which there is currently less strict legislation will cause the majority of emissions". This applies for example to shipping, industrial processes and domestic woodstoves.

"An important environmental challenge regarding vehicle emissions is speeding up car parc [fleet] renewal," said Hodac.

ACEA represents the 13 major European car, truck and bus manufacturers.

The European Commission said in a statement that the 80% cut in the emission limit for particulate matters from diesel cars under Euro 5 would make the introduction of particle filters for diesel cars obligatory.

"Euro 6 will set significantly lower emission limits for NOx emissions from diesel cars (68% lower than today's emission limit) and will enter into force five years after Euro 5, ie in 2014, it added. "The European Parliament vote is based on a compromise reached with the Council, which is expected to adopt the package shortly."

Commission vice-president Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: "The Euro 5 and 6 regulation is important for improving the environmental performance of vehicles. At the same time it will not hamper the competitiveness of the EU's car industry. It can count on a reasonable lead time to properly plan for and react to these requirements."

The statement said the Euro 5 and 6 regulation is revising the current emission limits for motor vehicles (the Euro 4 standards, which have applied since 1 January 2005), as technology has improved.

Euro 5 will enter into force in September 2009 and makes the introduction obligatory of a particle filter for all diesel cars of new models. New diesel cars of an existing car model should be fitted with a particle filter as of January 2011. Euro 6 will enter into force in 2014.

The EC added that numerous vehicle types that benefited from the more lenient limit values for vans under Euro 4 will gradually be brought under the tougher limit values for passenger cars under Euro 6. This applies in particular to the heavier cars such as off-road vehicles and people carriers (minivans) with up to seven seats including the driver.

"More specifically, the so-called sports utility vehicles (SUVs) will have to fulfil the tougher limit values for passenger cars from 1 September 2012," the statement noted.

The EC said the new legislation also requires information on vehicle repairs to be easily available to independent repairers.

"The environmental performance of vehicles is not only important when they leave the factory, but must be maintained throughout their lives. Without practical access to repair and maintenance information, this cannot be done. Car producers will have a concomitant responsibility to make sure that cars can be properly driven, repaired, and maintained, wherever they may be throughout the internal market. This is important for protecting independent operators, most of them SMEs, from gradually disappearing from the market due to their inability to service modern cars without access to the relevant information."