What is Vehicle Type Approval?

This page was last updated on 25th February 2022

Vehicle Type Approval is the confirmation that production samples of a type of vehicle, vehicle system, component or separate technical unit will meet specified performance standards. It can be demonstrated through type approval markings (‘e’ or ‘E’ marks) applied to products by the manufacturer, and in the case of vehicles approved under the EU Whole Vehicle Type Approval scheme (WVTA), by a Certificate of Conformity (CoC) issued by the manufacturer. In the case of UN International Whole Vehicle Type Approval (IWVTA) a Declaration of Conformity (DoC).

The process involves the oversight of the selection and testing of samples, the documentation of the specification and the evaluation of the measures in place by the manufacturer to ensure Conformity of Production (CoP). A prerequisite of type approval is that the manufacturer has appropriate measures in place to ensure that production samples will continue to meet the performance requirements as the products originally examined, this is known as Conformity of Production (CoP).

CoP is a fundamental cornerstone of type approval, a type approval cannot be issued without CoP. Learn can more about Conformity of Production

The legislative instruments which govern automotive type approval schemes require third party approval – testing, certification and production conformity assessment by an independent body. A country may appoint an Approval Authority to issue the approvals and a Technical Service to carry out the testing to the relevant legislative instruments.

In the UK, the Vehicle Certification Agency is the designated UK Type Approval Authority for automotive products and also a designated Technical Service for type approval testing in the United Nations (UN) scheme.

As the UK Type Approval Authority, Vehicle Certification Agency has responsibility to issue UK type approvals on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport under the UN and the UK type approval schemes.

Vehicle Certification Agency has its own in house Technical Service which can undertake type approval testing for all UN regulations.

If you would like to find out more about type approval and the services VCA can offer, please visit our contact us page

Type approval is available for different kinds of vehicles, systems, components and STUs;

Vehicle Type Category
Motorcycles Category L
Passenger Vehicles Category M
Goods Vehicles Category N
Trailers Category O
Tractors Category T

These categories are further subdivided into subcategories generally defined by the size or weight of the vehicle. However, there are exceptions, for example, vehicles of Category M are subdivided by the number of seating positions.

Here are the Vehicle category definitions.

There are a number of routes to approval available and depending on your chosen market, you will need to ensure that you select the right option.

As applied within the UK and Northern Ireland, four systems of type approval exist:

Approval Type Details
UK(NI) Type Approval for categories L, M, N, O, T
Provisional GB Type Approval for categories L, M, N, T
GB Type Approval ‘g11’ for categories L, M, N, O, T
United Nations Type Approval primarily for systems, components and separate technical units

You can find out more about the first three options here.

United Nations Type Approval

United Nations (UN) Regulations (formerly known as UNECE Regulations) provide primarily for the type approval of vehicle systems, components and separate technical units. These are sometimes known as ‘big E’ approvals. This is derived from the fact that products marked in accordance with the UN requirements may bear an international approval marking, characterised by having an upper case ‘E’ followed by a number corresponding to the issuing Contracting Party surrounded by a circle. A country may accede to UN Regulations and when they do so they become a Contracting Party, the country may appoint an Approval Authority and UN type approvals may be granted by the Approval Authority.

Since the adoption of Regulation 0 an International Whole Vehicle Type Approval (IWVTA) is available for vehicles of M1 category (only). This kind of approval cannot be used directly for registering category M1 vehicles in the UK or EU.

European Union Type Approval

European Union (EU) instruments provide for the type approval of whole vehicles, vehicle systems, components and separate technical units. This harmonises the standards for vehicles which are to be placed on the market, sold, registered or entered into service in the EU.

As there are two systems of type approval used in Europe, to distinguish between them these are sometimes known as ‘little e’ approvals. This is derived from the fact that products marked in accordance with the EU requirements may bear an EU approval mark characterised by having a lower case ‘e’ followed by a number in a rectangle;

The type approval numbers written on the type approval certificates themselves and on CoCs and other associated documents have a lower case ‘e’ as part of the type approval numbering system.