Green NCAP has developed a star rating and index system that allows cars’ environmental performance to be compared easily.
This is the highest and simplest level at which cars can be compared. It is a single, overall rating that summarises a vehicle’s performance in Clean Air, Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas emissions. The same star rating scheme is applied to vehicles of all types of powertrains. The higher the star rating, the better the car has performed. The star rating indicates the weighted average performance across all three areas of assessment. The star rating for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) takes account of the pollutant emissions, energy efficiency and greenhouse gases in two modes of driving: primarily using the combustion engine (so-called ‘charge sustaining’ mode) and when the battery is fully charged and delivers driving power (called ‘charge-depleting’ mode). These modes are combined in a way that accounts for how the car is expected to be used in practice, based on the electric range it offers: the higher the electric range, the smaller the proportion of time it will use its combustion engine and the greater the environmental benefit.
Currently, all three indexes are rated equally, signifying equal importance to health, which is affected by pollutant emissions; consumer spending, influenced by a vehicle’s energy efficiency; and the Earth’s climate, which is affected by greenhouse gases. Poor performance in one part of the assessment will lower the average and result in a lower star rating. Conversely, a car with a high rating will be clean, cheaper to run and contribute less to the greenhouse effect in comparison to similar sized car with a lower rating.
As of 2022, Green NCAP tests vehicles following a two-stage test approach. Cars, which have performed well in the standard tests of the first stage, qualify for additional robustness testing in the second stage. This testing philosophy allows higher scoring vehicles to prove the stability of their performance under more difficult conditions and prefersbenefits models with a good and balanced overall -performance.
Cars with a high star rating have performed well in all three assessment areas for Clean Air, Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gases.
Green NCAP’s test procedures are constantly evolving so a car rated in one year may have been tested and scored differently to one in another year. The baseline tests remain similar but, as new technologies emerge and in order to continue to challenge the car manufacturers, additional tests may be added or the thresholds for star ratings made tougher. For this reason, the ratings are marked with the year they were issued. For the same star rating, the newer it is the better. For example, a car with a 2022 five-star rating is better than one with a 2020 five-star rating. Care should be taken to ensure that star ratings can be compared across years – check the ‘about the 2022’ rating to see if and how tests have changed significantly between years. As new assessment aspects may be added, ratings from different years are not always directly comparable.
Small differences in engine tuning can have a significant influence on the environmental performance. So, for example, a vehicle may perform very differently in our tests to one with a higher or lower power/torque, even if the main engine block and components are the same. Legislation, which ensures only a minimum level of performance, applies the concept of ‘families’ where the result of the representative vehicle ensures compliance of other, similar propulsion types. However, for consumer information, where specific information is needed, this concept cannot be applied. For this reason, the star rating applies only to the specific vehicle/variant tested.
|5 stars: Overall excellent performance, showing very low fuel or energy consumption and at the same time emitting low pollutants and greenhouse gases. Well-equipped with emission abatement and fuel or energy saving technology|
|4 stars: Overall good environmental performance; equipped with good and robust emission abatement and fuel saving technology.|
|3 stars: Average to good overall performance but equipped with regular emission abatement and fuel or energy saving technology fitted.|
|2 stars: Nominal overall environmental performance lacking some emission abatement and/or fuel or energy saving technology with room for improvement.|
|1 star: Marginal environmental performance showing that pollutant control and/or energy efficiency is compromised. The environmental performance design mix constituted by minimising pollutants, greenhouse gasses and fuel & energy consumption leaves considerable room for system design improvements.|
|0 stars: Overall environmental performance just meeting the minimum regulatory standards, possibly outdated emission abatement and fuel saving technology.|
The star rating indicates how well the car has performed overall. If it has a good star rating, it has performed well for Clean Air, Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gases. Poor performance in any one of the areas of assessment will decrease a car’s star rating and may disqualify the vehicle from additional robustness testing. The three indexes are the second level at which cars can be compared.
For plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), the index in each area of assessment (Clean Air, Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gases) is itself calculated from two sub-indexes, derived from the performance of the vehicle in the two modes of driving that such cars are capable of: charge-sustaining where, in simple terms, the car is being driven by its combustion engine; and charge-depleting, where the battery is fully charged and delivers driving power, although the engine may be used to augment the power or to heat the passenger cabin, for example. The two sub-indexes are combined in a way which takes account of the way car is expected to be used: for cars with a small electric range (25 km or less), the results are biased towards the charge-sustaining mode; for those with a big range (100 km or more), results are biased towards the charge-depleting mode; between these ranges, a sliding scale is used to calculate the weighting towards one mode or the other.
For PHEVs it is essential that the battery is charged as fully and as frequently as possible.
For PHEVs, it is essential that the battery is charged as fully and as frequently as possible so that the car can be driven in electric mode as much as possible. Green NCAP’s rating assumes that this is how the car will be used and the rating is not valid if the battery is not routinely charged. For more information on this, and for other advice on driving in an environmentally friendly way, see our eco driving guide.
This index shows a score out of ten for the performance of a vehicle in mitigating pollutant emissions. These are gases and particulate matter emitted from the tailpipe which are harmful to human health and to the environment.
A high index indicates good performance (i.e. low pollutant emissions).
Read more below.
This index shows a score out of ten for the amount of energy which is needed to operate the vehicle. Naturally, big and heavy vehicles need more energy to drive, and this is reflected by a lower score in this part of the assessment, as high energy demand is disadvantageous for energy resources and the consumer’s wallet.
A high index shows that little energy is needed per unit distance, indicating a low consumption vehicle.
Read more below.
As well as the Clean Air Index and the Energy Efficiency Index, Green NCAP monitors the emissions of so-called greenhouse gases.
A lot of the sun’s energy reaches the ground directly, and a portion is reflected by the ground back into space. Some gases, when present in the atmosphere, trap that reflected energy and redirect it back to Earth as heat, a phenomenon often referred to as the greenhouse gas effect. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the major human activity related contributor to this effect and the impact of other greenhouse gases is often expressed as a CO2 equivalent.
From 2022 onwards, Green NCAP includes greenhouse gas emissions from the vehicle operation phase, determined by the methods of Life Cycle Assessment. Besides the greenhouse gas emissions emitted directly during the vehicle’s operation as constituents in its exhaust gas, this also includes the greenhouse gas emissions from the processes related to supplying the energy, e.g. fuel or electricity, required by the vehicle.
Read more below.
Below are the four emissions which are currently used to calculate the Clean Air Index.
Petrol and diesel fuels are derived from crude oil and contain a wide variety of compounds made up predominantly of carbon and hydrogen atoms, known collectively as hydrocarbons. When fuel is burnt in the engine cylinder some hydrocarbons may not be completely combusted and are emitted from the tailpipe into the atmosphere. Unburnt hydrocarbons may increase occurrences of cancer and respiratory disorders, reduce the photosynthetic ability of plants and are included here as pollutant emissions. Methane (CH4) is not included in the NMHC, its emissions are accounted for in the Greenhouse Gas Index.
Nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are together referred to as Nitrogen Oxides (NOx). Combustion of fuels is the dominant source of NOx emissions.
NOx contributes to acid deposition and eutrophication (over-enrichment of the soil with minerals) which, in turn, can lead to potential changes occurring in soil and water quality. The subsequent impacts of acid deposition can be significant, including adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems in rivers and lakes and damage to forests, crops and other vegetation. Eutrophication can lead to severe reductions in water quality with subsequent impacts including decreased biodiversity, changes in species composition and dominance, and toxicity effects. NOx is linked both directly and indirectly to negative effects on human health.
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen and is formed in the emission control systems of gasoline and diesel vehicles. Ammonia emissions can be a threat to urban air quality as it is considered an environmental pollutant and a toxic compound for human health. Additionally, it is notably associated with the formation of ultra-fine particles and the acidification of rainwater.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced by incomplete combustion of the carbon-containing fuel as a result of a local lack of oxygen, such as during fuel enrichment strategies in petrol engines.
Breathing air with a high concentration of CO reduces the amount of oxygen that can be transported in the blood stream to critical organs like the heart and brain. At very high levels, which are possible indoors or in other enclosed environments, CO can cause dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness and death.
The combustion of heavier hydrocarbon fuels like diesel, and poor combustion under certain load conditions in petrol engines employing gasoline direct injection, results in the formation of particles. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope. Both diesel and nearly all new petrol engine types are now equipped with a particulate filter due to stricter legal requirements.
Diesel particulate filters (DPF) are very effective at trapping the particles that would otherwise be emitted into the surrounding air. However, to work properly, they need to be ‘unblocked’ every so often. This is done by a process called regeneration, and typically happens every few hundred kilometres. Under certain conditions, the engine runs at a sufficiently high temperature to burn the particles in the DPF, leaving only a small amount of ash. If the car senses that the DPF is blocked but conditions are not right to regenerate, it may artificially raise the DPF temperature by injecting additional fuel into the system. This elevates the emissions of certain pollutants but only very temporarily and, averaged over typical use of the vehicle, regeneration contributes only a tiny amount to the overall emissions, and is more than offset by the benefits the filter brings.
If regeneration occurs sporadically during one of Green NCAP’s tests, that test is generally deemed invalid and is not included in the assessment of the vehicle. However, if the vehicle’s strategy activates regeneration procedures frequently, the behaviour will be classified as usual, and the tests will be included in the rating.
The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into the lungs, and some may even get into the bloodstream, heart and brain.
Numerous scientific studies have linked exposure to particle pollution to a variety of problems, including non-fatal heart attacks, aggravated asthma, etc.
People with heart or lung diseases, children, and older adults are most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure.
The Clean Air Index uses the measurement results of Particulate Number with a size down to 23 nm (PN23) as one of the indicators of exhaust aftertreatment performance.
As energy resources are scarce and valuable, it is important that the most efficient use is made of energy, for transportation as well as in other areas.
The energy efficiency of a vehicle does not depend simply on the power unit. Other factors can lead to a loss of efficiency when the car converts its energy source into movement and operation of auxiliaries. For example, powertrain losses (those losses that occur in the gearbox and transmission), aerodynamic drag, tyre friction, cabin-heating (climatization) and, most especially, vehicle mass all lead to additional energy having to be used to operate the car and move forward. So, Green NCAP’s Energy Efficiency Index does not indicate the efficiency of the engine or power unit alone but includes all the measures taken by the manufacturer to minimise the energy needed to propel and operate the vehicle.
For an internal combustion engine, the main fuelling types are petrol or diesel. The fuel has a known energy content so, for these vehicles, energy efficiency is equivalent to fuel consumption. However, to allow comparison with other types of power unit (electric, hybrid), a common measure of energy is needed. Using the known calorific values of petrol and diesel, fuel consumption is converted into kWh, the same unit as is used to measure electric energy. For hybrid vehicles, the total energy consumption is derived by adding the fuel used with the electrical energy used. The efficiency is calculated as the energy (in kWh) that is needed to drive a set distance (100 km).
To allow comparison, fossil fuel consumption is converted into kWh.
Electric vehicles are more efficient in terms of energy use than combustion engine cars. However, this does not mean that they are all equally efficient. The used rating scale allows to encompass different powertrain types, but also to distinguish between good and worse performing electric vehicles. The scores in Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas make the differences clear. In the very long term, Green NCAP will assess the whole life-cycle of the vehicle, including the energy needed to produce the car, the polluting effects of energy production (for example, in the generation of electricity for the grid) and in the destruction and recycling of the vehicle at the end of its life. When this more complete assessment is done, the benefits of electric vehicles may not be so marked.
The electrical energy used is determined by the amount that is needed from the electricity grid, and not solely from what the vehicle uses from the battery. This takes into account charging/discharging losses and more accurately reflects the energy the consumer will have to pay for.
Electric vehicles are efficient in terms of energy use but there can be differences in their energy efficiency.
For hybrid vehicles, the total energy consumption is derived by adding the fuel used with the electrical energy used. The efficiency is calculated as the energy (in kWh) that is needed to drive a set distance (100 km).
CNG (compressed natural gas) vehicles can be either mono-fuel or bi-fuel. Mono-fuel vehicles may have a small petrol tank for use in emergencies, but they run almost exclusively on CNG. Bi-fuel vehicles may typically have a similar range on petrol and CNG and can be switched between the two fuels. Mono-fuel vehicles are tested in CNG mode only and energy consumption is derived from the measured consumption (in kg/100 km) and the known calorific content of the fuel.
For Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles energy consumption is derived by the amount of hydrogen used. The hydrogen consumption is given in kg/100 km and the efficiency is calculated as the energy (in kWh) that is needed to drive a set distance (100 km).
The supply of the energy needed for vehicles to function is related to processes which themselves emit high amounts of greenhouse gases. Examples of such processes are the extraction from raw oil and resources, the construction of refineries and renewable energy power plants, the supply and usage of resources needed for their operation, the appropriation of the necessary filling and charging infrastructure etc. Vehicles are part of a bigger energy system and despite significant recent reductions of the greenhouse gas emissions in energy supply, even if low or no greenhouse gases are emitted at the tailpipe, cars do not move without greenhouse gases being produced upstream. The amount of greenhouse gases produced upstream depends on the type of energy and the resources used to supply it. The higher the usage of non-fossil and renewable energy sources, the lower the greenhouse gases. Consumers should be aware of the overall greenhouse gases emitted from different vehicles and Green NCAP addresses this with an improved rating methodology, started in 2022.
In the 2022 rating system, the upstream greenhouse gas emissions from energy supply are considered in the Greenhouse Gas Index. Their amount is determined by the method of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) based on the average values of the 27 European countries and the United Kingdom. The upstream greenhouse gases of energy supply and the gases emitted at the vehicle’s tailpipe are summed up to a CO2 equivalent as a representative unit for the greenhouse gas emissions.
A holistic Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) also takes into account the vehicle’s production and its recycling. In 2022 Green NCAP introduced full LCA information into its programme and will soon provide consumers with an online tool to experiment with different vehicles and countries. However, the data currently available does not allow the integration of greenhouse gases originating from vehicle production and recycling into the rating system because the values differ from case to case and the information used for the analysis is on a generic statistical level, which does not allow differentiation between the production emissions of different cars.
There are many greenhouse gases but three of the most important are:
Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste and other carbon containing compounds, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g., cement manufacturing). Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere (or “sequestered”) when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle.
Nitrous oxide is a very strong greenhouse gas with a global warming potential (GWP) around 298 times that of CO2 for a 100-year timescale. N2O emitted today remains in the atmosphere for more than 100 years, on average.
Methane is a greenhouse gas with a very high global warming potential. It’s lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide (CO2), but CH4 is more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2. Pound for pound, the comparative global warming impact of CH4 is estimated to be around 34 times greater than that of CO2 over a 100-year period.