South Korea’s first mandatory fuel economy standards took effect in 2006 for domestic vehicles and by 2009 for imported vehicles. Adopted 2030 greenhouse gas emission targets require reductions of 27.8% for cars and 12% for light trucks when compared to a 2020 baseline, while 2030 fuel economy standards are 37.3% more stringent for cars and 22.7% for light trucks. Manufacturers may choose to comply with either greenhouse gas or fuel economy standards. Since 2012, fuel economy has been measured using the combined results of the CVS-75 and HWFET test cycles.
Fuel economy standards and GHG emission limits
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.
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)
In 2021, the ME and MOTIE announced standards for MYs 2021-2030. Under the standards, passenger cars are required to meet a fleet average GHG emissions target of 70g/km or a fuel efficiency target of 33.1 km/L, while light trucks must meet targets of 146 g/km in GHG emissions or 17.3 km/L in fuel efficiency. The more stringent 2030 targets represent emissions reductions of 27.8% and 12% from a 2020 baseline for passenger cars and light trucks respectively.
South Korea’s standards define fuel economy in units of km/L and CO2 emissions in units of g/km. The standards are weight-based and set two separate targets for cars and vans with up to 10 seats, and for vans and trucks with 11-15 seats. South Korea has used the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) combined cycle for testing purposes since 2012. As vehicle weight increases, standard stringency is relaxed, although a minimum compliance value is set each year for ≤10 and 11≤15 seat vehicles heavier than 1,070 and 1,110 kg respectively. The new standards (MY 2020-2030) 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.
|Scope||Passenger car||Passenger car||Passenger car and light truck||Passenger car and light truck|
|Phase-In||–||100% by 2015||100% by 2020||–|
|≤ 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)
Passenger cars: 33.1 km/L (70 gCO2/km)
Light trucks: 17.3 km/L (146 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.
3 Manufacturers are no longer offered a sales ratio compliance option in 2021 onwards, hence the lack of a phase-in target.
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).
- Annual 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.
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
In February 2021, South Korea released fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for MY 2021-2030, further increasing the stringency of requirements for light-duty vehicles. As with previous years, the standards are weight-based, manufacturers only need to choose one of the greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards to comply with. Marking a shift from previous regulations, the MY 2021-2030 standards do not offer a sales ratio compliance method, leaving annual standards as the only option. The table below lists these annual standards. Values assume that a manufacturer’s average vehicle weight does not deviate from the average weight of similar vehicles sold within the country previously, but actual compliance requirements will differ based on this metric.
|Year||Passenger Vehicles||Light Trucks|
|CO2e (g/km)||Fuel Efficiency (km/l)||CO2e (g/km)||Fuel Efficiency (km/l)|
The standards maintain the policy of reducing stringency for small volume manufacturers that produced fewer than 4500 vehicles in 2009. These manufacturers are allowed to reduce their compliance by 8% in 2021, 20% in 2022, 11% in 2023, 14% in 2023, 13% in 2025-2026, 12% in 2027, 11% in 2028, 11% in 2029, and 10% in 2030. Reductions apply to both the greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards.
Credits and Compliance
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.
|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.
|2015||TPMS, LRRT, GSI, more efficient air conditioning||10|
|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).
|3||Zero Emission Vehicle|
|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.
Compliance flexibilities for MY 2021-2030 are like previous standards with a few exceptions. The 2021 regulation now sets separate multipliers for ZEVs and hybrid/plugin hybrid vehicles that decrease over time, and no longer provides a separate, higher multiplier for hydrogen cell vehicles. The regulation maintains flexibilities for LPG and manual transmission vehicles, but instead of applying multipliers, manufacturers may adjust their vehicles’ CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency downwards and upwards respectively. All multipliers and credits listed in the table below apply on a per-vehicle basis.
|Year||Zero emission vehicle1||Hybrid/plug in hybrid1||Manual Transmission2||LPG3|
|Multiplier||Credits||GHG emissions reduction|
|2021||3||2||5.4 g/km and 1.33 km/l||10%|
1 Compact ZEVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids have their multiplier reduced by 0.3.
2 Manual transmission trucks are not eligible for credits.
3 The improvement in greenhouse gas performance for LPG vehicles cannot exceed 15g/km, and the improvement in energy consumption efficiency cannot exceed 3.75km/l.
The 2021 regulation also provides credits on a per-vehicle basis for vehicles with 10 or fewer seats with a large occupancy area as shown in the table below. The credit amount decreases with the size of the occupancy area.
|Vehicle Area||Standard||2021 – 2025||2026 – 2030|
|7-to-10-seater vehicles with an occupancy area of at least 4.8m2||GHG||-15g/km||-10g/km|
|Energy Consumption Efficiency||3.69km/l||2.46km/l|
|7-to-10-seater vehicles with an occupancy area of at least 4.6m2 and less than 4.8m2||GHG||-10g/km||-6g/km|
|Energy Consumption Efficiency||2.46km/l||1.48km/l|
|Up to 10-seater vehicles that is multi-purpose (according to the appendix 1 of the Vehicle Management Rules) and has an occupancy area of at least 4.6m2||GHG||-10g/km||-6g/km|
|Energy Consumption Efficiency||2.46km/l||1.48km/l|
MY 2021-2030 regulations provide greenhouse gas emission and fuel efficiency credits for compact passenger vehicles based on their sales ratio. The size of the credit increases with the sales ratio of these vehicles as seen in the table below. Compact car sales ratio credits are applied to a manufacturer’s fleet-wide average emissions.
|Sales Ratio||CO2 (g/km)||Fuel Efficiency (km/l)|
|30% ≤ X < 40%||-5||1.23|
|40% ≤ X< 50%||-6||1.48|
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.
- ECOREA 2013; Environmental Review 2013, Korea. A publicity booklet of Ministry of Environment of Republic of Korea. ↩
- Gasoline equivalent converted from gCO2/km using the ICCT’s conversion tool. ICCT (2014). Conversion Tool. ↩
- 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). ↩
- 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. ↩
- 2013 Vehicle Fuel Economy and CO2Emissions: Data and Analysis. Korea Energy Management Corporation. ↩
- 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. ↩
- Excerpt from ICCT Global PV Update, April 2011. ↩