Real-World emissions ratings will allow economy to rebuild after COVID-19 while retaining air quality and lowering CO2

  • Cleaner vehicles readily available, but must be distinguished from dirty ones
  • Real-world emissions ratings provide route to economic recovery for car industry
  • Data reveals the cleanest vehicles so policy makers can make the right decisions
  • Guidance is based on real-world testing to a legal standard method
  • Official figures not detailed enough to identify the cleanest and most efficient cars
  • AIR Index adds new CO2 rating to existing urban NOX data
  • Available now free of charge at

Embargo 00:01 BST 22 April 2020New real-world data on vehicle emissions will allow revitalisation of an automotive industry and global economy devastated by the COVID-19 outbreak but with cleaner air and reduced impact on climate change.

The AIR Index at identifies the cleanest cars to give buyers confidence to switch to cleaner vehicles and restore the automotive industry badly impacted by the pandemic.

The freely available ratings database is the result of rigorous on-road testing according to the legal standard method, CWA17379. It details real-world nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – important pollutants that are measured to assess air quality and climate change.

It shows that clean and efficient vehicles, which have low NOx and low CO2 emissions already exist, without having to wait for new technology at scale.

As the world marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day* today, the AIR Index data can allow the revitalisation the industry but also lock in the improved air quality that has been a result of the global lockdown.

Published by the AIR Alliance (AIR), the AIR Index demonstrates the risk of selecting vehicles based only on the official emissions figures that are not detailed enough to identify the cleanest cars. A Euro 6 vehicle may be clean, or it may be dirty, but the official data do not give enough clarity to differentiate.

AIR says: let’s never allow the dirty vehicles back in our cities

Existing hybrid technology can deliver significant reductions in CO2, while some carefully selected internal combustion engines now achieve extremely low levels of harmful emissions.

Both products are already widely available, do not force buyers to change behaviour and do not require government subsidy at a time of extreme fiscal challenge.

Nick Molden, co-founder of AIR said:

As the world emerges from the impact of COVID-19, legislators, manufacturers and buyers have an opportunity to focus on the cars that will limit the rise in pollution generated by economic recovery.

Freely available to everyone, including car makers and policy makers, we want to put valuable information in the hands of those who can effect real change.

It’s fitting that on Earth Day, where millions of people would have physically joined together to celebrate 50 years of campaigning for a cleaner climate, we have a trusted online database that can lead to lower emissions right across the globe.

Covering hundreds of vehicles, the AIR Index details vehicle emissions information and rates each from A (the best) to E (the worst) following multiple on-road tests.

As a not-for-profit organisation, the AIR Alliance is independent from the car industry and, with the largest database of test results, it shows how vehicles perform consistently in real-world use.

Currently, European cities are experiencing a drop in harmful emissions, including NOx, as well as CO2, as lockdowns have massively reduced vehicle numbers on the road.

The challenge, and opportunity, is to enable the return to mass mobility without returning to the high levels of pollution prior to the pandemic.

With evidence that poor air quality is linked to a faster spread of coronavirus, the AIR Alliance is calling on national governments, regions and cites, as well as the automotive industry to take a pragmatic approach and use this to speed up their route to reduce emissions.

The automotive industry need not become dependent on subsidies

Already there are calls for ways of stimulating the recovery of the automotive industry including the revival of scrappage schemes that offered incentives to new car buyers who wanted to trade in old, high emission vehicles.

Nick Molden added:

Of course, there are plenty of ways to try to address the issue of reducing emissions, but incentivised schemes would be immensely expensive at a time when governments and consumers are facing unprecedented challenges. The AIR Index provides data to allow a much more targeted approach, and it is a free and quick solution. We know official emissions ratings are not good enough, but our real-world testing and results allow the right choices to be made.

It’s clear from the data that the Euro 6 standard, for example, is not sufficient if governments, vehicle manufacturers and legislators are serious about addressing the problem of climate change. The free-to-use AIR index data provides a robust framework on which to base any air quality or climate change strategy.

Good air quality should not be a luxury, it is something that, from a public health point of view, we should require and, if nothing else, the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the benefits of cleaner air. We should be taking positive steps now.

The data will allow the automotive industry to concentrate on the cars that make a real difference today and, ultimately, create an environment that will lead to its recovery in a world where clean vehicles will be the norm rather than the exception.

While the adoption of battery-electric vehicles (BEV) continues, the AIR Index shows that hybrid vehicles do offer a short-term solution to reducing emissions while other technologies gather pace, including the latest clean and efficient Euro 6 gasoline and diesels. They also reveal that some older Euro 6 compliant ‘clean diesels’ remain part of the problem.

AIR was created to cut through the politics, the controversy and commercial conflict surrounding vehicle emissions and its mission is to provide unsullied information based on the collective scientific experience and knowledge of the world’s leading experts in vehicle emissions, air quality and healthcare.

Join AIR and make a difference to air quality and climate change.

AIR is an open alliance of like-minded members. Any organisation, public or private, that shares its values and manifesto is encouraged to join.

Leading scientists have recognised the importance of the AIR Index and are urging car makers to utilise the figures in order to build cleaner vehicles.

Dan Carder, a member of AIR’s Scientific Advisory Committee and, Director of the Centre for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions at the West Virginia University, led the team that published the earliest evidence that Volkswagen was cheating on US emissions tests uncovering the scandal which became known as Dieselgate, said:

The AIR Index provides objective, independent, and publicly available assessment of vehicles’ actual NOx and CO2 emissions during real driving in urban environments.

It has the power to inform and shape how vehicles are used, in order to limit the environmental impact of economic recovery.


Media contact

Tim Bowdler
Telephone:       +44 (0)7434 940162

Here are some examples of popular vehicles rated on the AIR Index:

Model NOx emissions (mg/km) Air Index NOx Rating CO2 emissions (g/km) Air Index CO2 Comment
2019 Peugeot Partner 1.6-litre diesel 0-80 130-180 Best-selling light van
2019 Renault Clio 1.0- litre petrol 0-80 130-180 Popular Supermini – latest petrol variant
2018 Renault Clio 1.5-litre diesel 80-168 95-130 Popular Supermini – diesel variant
2020 Kia Sportage 1.6-litre diesel hybrid (MHEV) 0-80 130-180 Best-selling SUV model -mild hybrid variant
2020 Kia Sportage 1.6-litre petrol 0-80 130-180 Best-selling SUV model -petrol variant
2019 Kia Sportage 1.6-litre diesel 0-80 130-180 Best-selling SUV model – diesel variant
2018 VW Passat 2.0-litre diesel 80-168 95-130 Popular family saloon – diesel variant

Notes to editors:

AIR carries out an ongoing programme of vehicle testing, and more results will be added to the AIR Index periodically.

Inspiration for the AIR Index has been NCAP, the independent vehicle-safety rating system developed in the US in the 1970s that became the industry standard in the EU and around the world. The programme held car makers accountable for their safety performance, resulting in a voluntary adoption of technologies that led to safer vehicles.

AIR tests at least two different cars or vans of each model, sold and on the road, sourced independently from the vehicle makers in a scientifically robust programme of on-road trips which lead to an emissions rating in the AIR Index.

The rating of each vehicle uses the latest methodology CWA 17379 developed at European level to fairly compare the emissions performance of different vehicles using portable emissions monitoring systems (PEMS) to ensure that the technology provides trusted data on emissions that is transparent and available to everyone.

* The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970 where 20 million Americans took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest about an oil spillage that had blighted the Santa Barbara coastline. The first Earth Day is credited as creating a launchpad for the campaign for the environment and is now recognised as the planet’s largest civic event.

Would you donate £10 to support the work of the AIR Alliance?

We provide practical solutions, including the AIR Index vehicle ratings, to ensure that independent, scientifically robust data are available to inform discussions and policy decisions which can help reduce the impact of harmful vehicle emissions. We are guided by a committee of the world's leading emissions and air quality experts who give their time and expertise to support our common goal of improving air quality and tackling the climate crisis. The AIR Index ratings and our expertise are used by public authorities and organisations across Europe to inform policy decisions. The AIR Alliance is a not-for-profit organisation and we fund our own testing and scientific programmes to provide AIR Index ratings free of charge. Please would you consider making a donation to support our work?

A small donation can make a big difference and takes moments to send. If you can. please consider supporting us with a regular amount each month.

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