Truth About New Technology X
the point of diminishing returns as regards vehicle emissions technology,
probably 20 years ago. Maybe even 30. There was a huge reduction
in smog-forming compounds as a result of widespread adoption of
catalytic converters (mid 1970s) and then fuel injection (mid-1980s).
Since then, further reductions have been incremental and lately,
do not understand this.
when it is announced that New Technology X will cut tailpipe
emissions by 10 percent, which sounds very impressive, the
truth is usually less spectacular. They invariably neglect to mention
that new cars are already 97 percent clean at
the tailpipe and have been, for years. That is, only about
3 percent of the exhaust output of a late-model car is other than
water vapor and C02 neither of which have any bearing on
smog formation or air pollution.
Technology X will actually (if the claim is taken at face value)
reduce that remaining 3 percent of bad stuff
by 10 percent. And three percent of 10 percent is a great deal less
than the implied 10 percent of 100 percent. In fact, it is a fractional
reduction. Almost unmeasurable and more to the point, negligible
as regards the vehicles impact on air quality.
Put another way, the difference in emissions output between say
a 2000 model year car and a 2012 model year car is on the order
of 1 percent or less.
And these literally
fractional improvements often come at great cost relative to whats
gained exactly the opposite of the first-generation emissions
controls, which made huge strides without adding massively to the
cost of the car. A simple catalytic converter, for example, massively
alters the quality of the exhaust output, curbing the harmful emissions
by double digits for about $200-$400 or so. A simple throttle
body fuel-injection system achieves a similar reduction relative
to a carburetor and (again) without adding a massive expense
to the car. Adding an overdrive gear to the transmission dramatically
cuts fuel consumption which also lowers total exhaust emissions
simply as a result of burning less fuel.
All of these
things have been in widespread use since the mid-1980s. This is
the period when the major gains, in terms of reducing vehicle emissions,
were achieved. Put another way, the basic problem has been solved
for more than 20 years. Cars have been clean for decades.
So why do we
why do they continue to tilt at windmills?
Why continue to invest huge sums and impose huge costs
for ever-diminishing returns? Mostly, its because of the lingering
perception that cars are still dirty which they
arent. This, in turn, provides the rationale for increasingly
unreasonable federal regulations regulations that demand
fractional reductions of the remaining fraction of vehicle exhaust
thats not clean. That previously mentioned 3 percent.
cost. To be paid by you.
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[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
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