As long as there are gasoline vehicles, there will be vehicle emissions. Although technology is improving all the time, pollution produced by the incomplete combustion of vehicle engines poses hazards to not only the environment, but to human health as well.
If you’ve ever wondered how car emissions work, here are some important facts about these vapors, particles, and fumes that are released by gasoline and diesel engines into the surrounding environment.
Engine combustion causes the release of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons. These byproducts of engine operation create damaging greenhouse gases. Exhaust emissions are produced in two ways: cold start – the first few minutes after starting the car – because the engine is not at optimal operating temperature, and running exhaust emissions, which exit the tailpipe during driving and idling.
These are VOCs which escape while the vehicle is running, during the cooldown period, in the night when the car is sitting stationary, as well as vapors that escape the gas tank during refueling.
Vehicle Pollutants Affect More Than the Ozone Layer
Vapors and particulates that exit vehicles through the exhaust system come to settle on soil and in bodies of water, affecting not only the people who rely upon that land for food, but also wildlife that lives there.
Cars Are Major Contributors to Air Pollution
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) vehicles are responsible for more than 50% of the air pollution in the United States. Americans travel more than 246 trillion miles each year.
Electric Cars May or May Not Help
As alternative car technology advances, gas usage decreases and with that, vehicle emissions are reduced. However, in locations that depend upon fossil fuels to produce conventional electricity, the benefits of electric and hybrid vehicles are reduced due to the emissions produced by the power plants necessary to provide energy to charge electric car batteries. Some locations utilize cleaner energy sources to produce electricity, which tips the balance, giving electric cars an advantage over traditional engines in terms of emissions.
The combination of cleaner fuels, more efficient engines, and better alternative vehicle technology is effectively reducing the impact of emissions on humans and the environment. In addition, 32 states require emissions testing of vehicles, further helping to keep pollution under control.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as 5 Essential Things to Know About Car Emissions and was authored by Valerie Johnston.