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Petrol and diesel are the main fuel types used for road transport in New Zealand. Combustion of each fuel type produces different air pollutants for each kilometre travelled, although other factors affecting emissions include:

  • engine size
  • maintenance
  • age

The proportion of heavy diesel vehicles in the fleet is particularly important because they emit disproportionately more PM10 and NOX than light vehicles.

Good quality vehicle fuel is critical because it:

  • reduces emissions from existing vehicles in the fleet
  • enables new vehicles, with lower emissions and improved fuel efficiency, to enter the fleet.

Key milestones in New Zealand vehicle fuel improvements include:

  • 1996 - Banning lead in petrol allowing catalytic converter technology
  • 2004 - Reducing sulphur in diesel to 500ppm and benzene in petrol to 3% to improve existing emissions
  • 2006 - Reducing sulphur in diesel to 50ppm and benzene in petrol to 1% allowing Euro 4/IV diesel and Euro 3/III petrol vehicles
  • 2008 - Reducing sulphur in petrol to 50ppm allowing Euro 4/IV petrol vehicles
  • 2009 - Reducing sulphur in diesel to 10ppm allowing Euro 5/V diesel vehicles
  • 2018 - Reducing sulphur in petrol to 10ppm

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is responsible for administering the Engine Fuel Specifications Regulations 2011(external link) (the Regulations). The Regulations provide comprehensive fuel specifications for petrol, petrol/ethanol blends, diesel, biodiesel, and diesel/biodiesel blends.

For further information contact environment@nzta.govt.nz.