South Korea: Light-duty: Fuel Economy and GHG


South Korea’s first mandatory fuel economy standards took effect in 2006 for domestic vehicles and by 2009 for imported vehicles. Adopted 2020 targets require fuel consumption reductions of 31.1% for cars and 15.2% for light trucks compared to a 2013 baseline. Since 2012, fuel economy is measured using the combined results of the CVS-75 and HWFET test cycles.

Standard type
Fuel economy standards and GHG emission limits
Regulating Body
Ministry of the Environment (ME) sets CO2 standards; fuel economy standards are implemented by the Korea Energy Management Corporation (KEMCO) on behalf of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE)
Passenger cars and SUVs with 10 seats or fewer and with a GVW of 3.5 tonnes or less (MY 2015);
Passenger cars, SUVs, minivans and light trucks with 15 seats or fewer and with a GVW 3.5 tonnes or less (MY 2020)


South Korea (the Republic of Korea) is the fifth-largest automobile manufacturer in the world and the seventh-largest emitter of CO2. Vehicles are the one of the largest sources of emissions and generated approximately 21% of domestic air pollutants and 13% of domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in South Korea.1

South Korea announced its first mandatory fuel economy standards in 2005. The Average Fuel Economy (AFE) program set fuel economy targets of 12.4 km/L (Gasoline equivalent2: 12.1 km/L) for vehicles with an engine displacement of 1500 cubic centimeters (cc) or less, and 9.6 km/L (Gasoline equivalent: 9.4 km/L) for vehicles with an engine displacement over 1500 cc. Automakers were required to comply with the targets by 2006 for domestic vehicles and by 2009 for imported vehicles.3

In 2009, South Korea announced the Five-Year Plan for Green Growth, which requires that all new cars meet a fuel economy/GHG emission target of 17.0 km/L (Gasoline equivalent: 16.7 km/L) or 140 gCO2/km equivalent by model year (MY) 2015. The Five-Year Plan for Green Growth does not mention the standards for light trucks. The legislation was phased in over a four-year period from 2012 to 2015: 30 percent of cars sold by automakers were required to meet the targets by 2012, 60 percent by 2013, 80 percent by 2014, and 100 percent by 2015.4

In 2014, the Ministry of Environment (ME) and Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) announced the Average GHG Emissions and Fuel Economy Standards for Light-Duty Vehicles (MY 2020). The 2020 standards require light-duty vehicles to meet a fuel economy target of 24.3 km/L (Gasoline equivalent: 24.1 km/L) or a GHG target of 97 g/km for passenger cars and a fuel economy target of 15.6 km/L (Gasoline equivalent: 14.1 km/L) or a GHG target of 166 g/km for light trucks. As of 2013, South Korea’s average GHG emission rate for new passenger vehicles was 140.8 g/km; for new light trucks, the average emission rate was 195.7 g/km.5 Compared to these 2013 GHG emission rates, the 2020 targets are equivalent to a 31.1% reduction for passenger cars and a 15.2% reduction for light trucks.

2009-2013 Achieved CO2 Emissions (g/km under 2-cycle test1)
  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Passenger car 158.6 151.6 147.5 140.3 140.8
Light truck 217.2 213.7 212.8 197.3 195.7
Total 166.7 160.5 154.6 148.5 149.4
1 GHG emission values from 2009-2012 were converted by the ICCT from CVS-75 (city test cycle) to 2-cycle (city and highway combined cycle)

Technical Standards

The standards define fuel economy in units of km/L and CO2 emissions in units of g/km. The standards are weight-based and have used the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) combined cycle for testing purposes since 2012. The new standards (MY 2016-2020) will apply to all auto manufacturers that sell light-duty vehicles with gross vehicle weights (GVWs) up to 3,500 kg. Adjustments are made for small manufacturers that sold fewer than 4,500 vehicles in 2009.

2006-2020 Targets
2006-2011 2012-2015 2016-2020
Structure Displacement-based Weight-based Weight-based
Scope Passenger car Passenger car Passenger car and light truck
Phase-In 100% by 2015 100% by 2020
1Fuel Economy
2(GHG Emissions)
≤ 1500 cc:12.1 km/L (193.0 gCO2/km)
> 1500 cc:
9.4 km/L (249.3 gCO2/km)
16.7 km/L(140 gCO2/km) Passenger cars: 24.1 km/L (97 gCO2/km)
Light trucks: 14.1 km/L (166 gCO2/km)
1 Auto manufacturers can choose to meet either the fuel economy or GHG emission standard.
Fuel economy value is converted to gasoline equivalent from gCO2/km.
2 GHG emissions presently include only CO2 emissions.


2015 targets for fuel economy and GHG emission standards are 17.0 km/L (Gasoline equivalent: 16.7 km/L) and 140 g/km, respectively. In 2012, the standards were changed to a weight-based system, and the fuel economy test cycle changed from CVS-75 (Constant Volume Sampler) to a combination of CVS-75 and HWFET (Highway Fuel Economy Test). CVS-75 is identical to the FTP-75 (Federal Test Procedure 75) in the US.


In 2014, South Korea announced standards for MY 2016-2020. These standards broaden applicability to include passenger vehicles and trucks with 15 seats or fewer and with GVW 3.5 tonnes or less. The 2020 standards tightened the GHG emission rate for new passenger cars from 140 g/km for MY 2015 vehicles to 97 g/km for MY 2020 vehicles, equivalent to a 30.7% reduction. Manufacturers can choose one of two compliance options:

  • Sales Ratio: A specified share of the most efficient vehicles sold by a manufacturer is used to evaluate compliance with the 2020 target, and this share of new vehicles subject to the standard increases according to the Phase-in schedule in the following table (increasing from 10% of sales for MY 2016 to 100% for MY 2020).
  • Yearly Target: All of the vehicles sold by a manufacturer are used to evaluate compliance with a yearly target that increases in stringency from MY 2016 to MY 2020.
Phase-In Schedule for 2020 Standards (percentage of new vehicle sales)
2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
10 20 30 60 100

The standards for small volume manufacturers that produced fewer than 4500 vehicles in 2009 will be eased by 19% for MY 2016, 16% for 2017, 13% for 2018, 10% for 2019, and 8% for 2020, compared to the targets for normal manufacturers.6



The regulation (MY 2015) includes credits of up to 10 g/km for implementing tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), low rolling-resistance tires (LRRT), gear shift indicators (GSI) and more efficient air conditioning. An additional 4 g/km credit is available for eco-innovations that are not accounted for in the test cycle (e.g. energy-efficient lights).7
Low emission vehicles can also be credited with a multiplier, meaning they are weighted as more than one new vehicle in the calculation of a manufacturer’s average fuel economy or GHG emissions. Credit multipliers can be awarded to vehicles running on gasoline, diesel, or LPG that emit fewer than 100 gCO2/km.

2012-2015 Credit Multipliers
Multiplier GHG (g/km) FE (km/L)
3 < 50 Gasoline Vehicle > 46.9
Diesel Vehicle > 53.8
LPG Vehicle > 35.3
2 50 ~ 100 Gasoline Vehicle 23.4 ~ 46.9
Diesel Vehicle 26.9 ~ 53.8
LPG Vehicle 17.7 ~ 35.3


The maximum credits of 10 g/km for TPMS, LRRT, GSI, and more efficient air conditioning and the additional 4 g/km for eco-innovations from the MY 2015 standards are combined to a maximum credit of 14 g/km under the MY 2020 standards.

Maximum Credits for Technology
MY Technology Credits
2015 TPMS, LRRT, GSI, more efficient air conditioning 10
1Eco-Innovation 4
2020 TPMS, LRRT, GSI, more efficient air conditioning and eco-innovation 14
1 Eco-innovations include technologies that reduce CO2 emissions or improve fuel economy, but which are not accounted for in the test cycle (e.g. energy efficient lights).
2016-2020 Credit Multipliers
Multiplier Vehicle Type
3 Zero Emission Vehicle
1.3 Manual Transmission
1.2 Mini Vehicle1
Multiplier FE (km/L) GHG (g/km)
2 Gasoline Vehicle > 44.7 < 50
Diesel Vehicle > 51.8
LPG Vehicle > 34.4
1 Mini Vehicle is a South Korea classification for the small vehicles with an engine displacement below 1000 cc,
an overall length of 3.6 m or less, an overall height of 2.0 m or less, and an overall width of 1.6 m or less.


Up until 2011, Korea’s CAFE fuel economy testing was conducted using only the CVS-75 test cycle. Since 2012, fuel economy has been measured using the combined results of the CVS-75 and HWFET test cycles, which are assigned weights of 55% and 45%, respectively.

The testing procedure consists of 3 steps:

  • Test preparation: The vehicle, which has been driven at least 3,000 km prior to the test, is placed on a dynamometer and operated through preconditioning driving. Preconditioning driving, which represents city driving conditions, is conducted to ensure that the engine and emission measurement devices are functioning properly at normal operating temperatures. Afterward, the test vehicle should soak for a period of 12 to 36 hours for gasoline or gaseous vehicles, or at least 12 hours for diesel vehicles.
  • Test procedure: The vehicle is placed on the dynamometer, the engine is started, and the vehicle is run through both test cycles (CVS-75 and HWFET). Exhaust gases are diluted and sample using a constant volume sampler (CVS).
  • Emission analysis: Fuel economy is calculated via an analysis of emission samples. While compliance for the fuel economy standards is evaluated using a weighted average of the CVS-75 and HWFET results, the value for the fuel economy label is determined using a 5-cycle test formula designed to better reflect real-world driving conditions. The 5 cycles include CVS-75, HWFET, US06, SC03, and cold-start CVS-75.

Show 7 footnotes

  1. ECOREA 2013; Environmental Review 2013, Korea. A publicity booklet of Ministry of Environment of Republic of Korea.
  2. Gasoline equivalent converted from gCO2/km using the ICCT’s conversion tool. ICCT (2014). Conversion Tool.
  3. Improving Vehicle Fuel Economy in the ASEAN Region. (July 2010) Global Fuel Economy initiative (GFEI); Bongseok Kang. Economy Report on Specific Energy Efficiency Program/Policy Pledge & Review Reporting Form. Korea Energy Management Corporation (KEMCO).
  4. United Nations Environment Programme. Overview of the Republic of Korea’s National Strategy for Green Growth. April 2010; Korea’s National Green Growth Strategy and Environmental Policy. Korea Environmental Policy Bulletin. Issue 1, Volume VII, 2009.
  5. 2013 Vehicle Fuel Economy and CO2Emissions: Data and Analysis. Korea Energy Management Corporation.
  6. For example, the GHG target for a small volume manufacturer would be 19% higher (less stringent) than for a normal manufacturer with identical average vehicle mass and credits.
  7. Excerpt from ICCT Global PV Update, April 2011.

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