Air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and benzene are emitted into the environment by motor vehicles. Air pollutants can contribute to urban air quality problems, for example photochemical smog and adversely affect human health. More information on the impacts and sources of air pollutants is available from the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. National Pollutant Inventory data indicates that in Australia motor vehicles remain a major cause of air pollution in urban areas. However, not all vehicles contribute the same amount of air pollution to the atmosphere.

Air Pollution Rating

On the Green Vehicle Guide, vehicles which have a higher Air Pollution Rating produce lower levels of harmful pollutants. The Air Pollution Rating is based on the level of air pollutant emissions allowable under the standard to which the particular vehicle has been successfully tested.

Under Australia's emission standards, vehicles fuelled by petrol, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or natural gas (NG) are required to meet limits for the emission of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). In addition to these pollutants, diesel vehicles must also meet a limit for the emission of particulate matter (PM). The Air Pollution Ratings also take into account the relative health impact of each of these pollutants.

Under the emission standards, the emission limits applicable to a particular vehicle vary according to the mass of the vehicle, its fuel type and whether it is a passenger or goods carrying vehicle.

The current Australian standard, ADR79/02 Emissions Control for Light Vehicles, adopts the international standard developed by the United Nations commonly referred to as Euro 4 and will be fully implemented by July 2010. Because the Air Pollution Rating for a vehicle is derived from the emission standard to which it has been certified in Australia, the Green Vehicle Guide provides the capacity to identify vehicles with advanced air pollution performance. It should be noted, however, that some vehicle models may be certified to a different emission standard in other countries. The decision to certify a vehicle to the minimum standard only in Australia, or a more stringent standard, is at the discretion of individual vehicle manufacturers.

A standard petrol engined passenger car meeting the current emission standard receives a mid-point air pollution rating (5/10) on the Green Vehicle Guide.

The former air pollution rating scale (Stage 1), which was based on ADR79/00 (Euro 2) being the minimum standard, ceased to apply at the end of 2005. A new rating scale (Stage 2) applied from 1 January 2006 to reflect the application of more stringent minimum standards for light vehicles under ADR79/01 and ADR79/02. It also provides manufacturers with the capacity to gain higher ratings for vehicles meeting later standards not yet adopted in Australia (Euro 5 and Euro 6) and for vehicles with exceptionally low emission levels. The rating scale will be reviewed in 2010 reflecting the full implementation of the Euro 4 standards in July 2010.

A detailed breakdown is provided to show how ratings were applied under Stage 1 Air Pollution Ratings (PDF: 429KB) and now apply under Stage 2 Air Pollution Ratings (PDF: 433KB)

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