When it comes to vehicle emissions, you may wonder if we’re really making progress. Since the 1970s, the United States government, as well as the auto industry, has made a continued effort to make vehicles safer for the environment. Rather than ignoring the issue, many states have made great strides in the effort to reduce vehicle emissions. While we may still have a ways to go, we have made significant progress in the reduction of emissions.
The History of Vehicle Emission Reduction
The earliest attempts at widespread vehicle emission reduction came in 1964. Throughout the United States, most new cars were equipped with a positive crankcase ventilation system. California led the way with this technology which rapidly spread to New York and then the rest of the country. Two years later, California again led the way in emissions reductions by introducing legislation controlling exhaust emissions. By 1968, the rest of the states followed California’s lead and the EPA has been tightening the restrictions since.
In 1975, the catalytic converter was invented. As auto manufacturers attempted to control emissions in new ways, engine efficiency was seriously affected. This led to increased fuel usage by consumers. So much so, in fact, that unleaded fuel was introduced to the public for the first time. Auto makers quickly overcame the challenge of producing cars with lower emissions, thanks in part to unleaded fuel, and we have been making progress since.
Today’s Emission Reduction Technology
Air injection is one of the ways that auto makers control vehicle emissions today. Because starting a vehicle cold requires richer fuel than an engine operating at normal temperature, air injection is used to support the oxidation reaction in the catalytic converter. This process helps reduce emissions produced from a vehicle prior to it reaching its proper operating temperature.
Catalytic converters are still used in vehicles and have been steadily improved since their introduction. Today, there are two types of catalytic converters that can be found in vehicles: the two- and three-way converters. Completely sealed fuel systems have also been introduced, ensuring that carbon vapors are absorbed and burned rather than emitted via the tail pipe.
Over the past several decades, emissions testing has been introduced, much to the chagrin of the general public. Some states require that vehicles be tested prior to the allowance of license plate renewal. Many states are now offering this testing for free rather than forcing people to pay for the requirement. Some cities have adopted laser testing which measures emissions as vehicles pass by on public roads.
While the use of emissions testing is less than appreciated by the general public, it does provide important data. Various environmental groups use the data provided by emissions testing to evaluate vehicles and the affects of emissions on public health. As technology continues to improve, emissions testing is also helping the auto industry create new ways to control emissions and its effect on the environment.
Not only is emissions reduction helping the environment, the reduction of emissions is slowly improving the health of the public. To encourage the purchase and use of low emission vehicles, the government has offered tax cuts and incentives to consumers. Additionally, many auto insurance companies offer discounts to those policy holders who purchase low emission vehicles.
Over the past 50 years, emission reduction has progressed tenfold. The auto industry, once a blight on the environment, has taken great strides in reducing its contribution to air pollution. As a nation, we can expect to see emission reduction to improve in conjunction with new technologies, reducing the health and environmental risks of air pollution.