Vehicle exhaust emissions are dependent on fuel quality because some components (eg sulphur in diesel and lead in petrol) can 'poison' emissions control technology or exacerbate existing emissions. Fuel quality regulations and vehicle exhaust emissions standards are therefore typically developed and implemented in tandem.
The limits in emissions standards have historically differed depending on the fuel type. Diesel vehicles tend to emit more particulate matter (PM) and oxides of nitrogen (NOX) whereas petrol vehicles emit more carbon monoxide (CO). Over time, the limits have converged to now be essentially independent of fuel type.
The European or 'Euro' standards are among the most common standards specified, although the United States, Japan and Australia also have their own standards. For the Euro standards, higher numbers mean better (more strict) limits. In addition, the standards use Arabic numerals (eg Euro 3 or Euro 5) to indicate they apply to light duty (less than 3.5 tonnes) vehicles and Roman numerals (eg Euro III or Euro V) to indicate they apply to heavy duty vehicles.
New Zealand has entry and in service regulations for vehicle exhaust emissions.
Prior to 2003, New Zealand did not regulate emissions standards for vehicles entering the fleet. However, this changed with the introduction of the first Vehicle Exhaust Emissions rule in 2004, which has since been regularly amended to incorporate improved standards as they have become available. The rule specifies minimum emissions standard requirements for used and new vehicles entering the fleet, further broken down by fuel type and vehicle weight. The entry regulations are specified by the Ministry of Transport but administered by the Transport Agency.
In service emissions in New Zealand are also governed by land transport rules as follows:
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