Consumers require greater information on vehicle emissions standards in order to comply with clean air zones in towns and cities, the RAC has warned.
The organisation, which represents motorists, has called for a â€˜comprehensiveâ€™ number plate look-up system, which consumers could use to check a vehicleâ€™s Euro category. Such a service could be run by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), RAC says.
This could be made available online ahead of the potential roll-out of clean air zones in urban areas, so that motorists have enough time to check which category their vehicle falls under and if necessary consider changing it, the organisation has added.
A number of local authorities across the UK are considering whether to introduce clean air zones as part of efforts to tackle air pollution.
Clean air zones â€“ which would limit or potentially charge for the use of some types of vehicles in highly polluted areas â€“ have been identified by government as an effective means of improving air quality, and are among the measures set out in the national air quality plan, published in July, as effective in tackling emissions.
Depending on the measures put in place by councils, in some areas vehicles are likely to be required to meet standards â€“ potentially Euro 4 for petrol and Euro 6 for diesel cars â€“ in order to avoid any clean air zone restriction.
However, RAC has claimed that many motorists will be unaware if their vehicle meets Euro 6 or earlier standards, adding that the information is not easily available to access.
Commenting today, RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: â€œAs councils across the UK develop plans to tackle harmful emissions on a local level, we expect millions of drivers will want to find out the Euro emissions category of their vehicle â€“ and the natural place to look will be on the official GOV.UK website. Weâ€™ve already seen a big increase in traffic to our own website from people trying to find this information and to understand more about what the Euro emissions standard actually means.
â€œIt is simply unacceptable that there is currently no easy-to-use or conclusive online look-up system available â€“ this will no doubt leave drivers confused about whether or not they are likely to be impacted by the introduction of clean air zones. And this is all the more surprising given that the Government stated in its detailed air quality plan published in July that â€˜information enabling customers to understand quickly and easily whether or not a given vehicle would potentially incur a charge is particularly importantâ€™.â€
According to RAC, the only source of detailed vehicle emissions information covering different manufacturers is the Vehicle Certification Agencyâ€™s â€˜car fuel dataâ€™ website.
However, the website asks for a range of information including the carâ€™s exact model and date of registration, and only displays the level of CO2 emissions and not the exact Euro standard that the vehicle conforms to.
The website then claims that users should contact the manufacturer in order to find out the Euro standard for a vehicle.
Mr Dennis added: â€œWe are also concerned that drivers could end up thinking that a car they own, or one they are looking to buy, is Euro 6 compliant when it isnâ€™t. A lot of the current information online advises drivers that any car registered from 1 September 2015 onwards is Euro 6 compliant. Yet a small number of Euro 5 cars continued to be sold for a full 12 months after this date, until 1 September 2016, if a manufacturer applied for an exemption.
â€œMuch greater transparency of Euro emissions information will also help inform drivers as to how polluting their car might be, and assist them when it comes to choosing their next one â€“ as buyers start to select models with particular Euro categories to be more confident of avoiding potential future charges or restrictions. It may even act as a catalyst to encourage drivers to purchase an ultra-low emission vehicle.â€
RAC has welcomed the advent of websites such as Emissions Analyticsâ€™ EQUA Index â€“ which offers independent data on vehicle emissions.