Damn Those Emissions Standards! Oh Wait…

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
damn those emissions standards oh wait 8230

Recently-increased emissions standards (along with CAFE requirements) have received quite a bit of attention from Detroit’s blame-everyone-but-us squad. But bailout-begging agendas aside, just how hard are the new(ish) EPA standards to meet? Not that hard at all, according to an EPA report covered by Green Car Congress. The Office Of Transportation and Air Quality’s Report on Engine and Vehicle Compliance (pdf) for 2007 shows that the overwhelming majority of vehicles on the market actually meet or pass the EPA’s Tier Two Bin Five standard in current form. In fact, most US-market cars and light trucks currently boast a 46 to 90 percent compliance margin, meaning the amount by which they actually exceed EPA requirements. Under the EPA regime, models which “over-comply” with standards earn their makers credits which can be applied to under-conforming models. Of the 40-odd manufacturers on the market, five (Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, and Toyota) had a positive Tier Two emission limit credit balance for 2007, while only Aston Martin carried a net-negative credit balance. The credit-positive firms tended to certify most of their vehicles at Bin Five levels, while adding a few sub-Bin Five (higher standard) vehicles to gain credits. Those which merely met the standard certified at a mix of Bin levels which added up to an average of Bin Five. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

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  • RobertSD RobertSD on Nov 10, 2008

    Wait... so we're criticizing Detroit's "not my fault" complaints and then mention that Ford is one of five manufacturers with positive credit. Is Ford no longer part of Detroit? Wrongly targeted blanket statement? Did Bill Ford actually do something right when he was head of Ford?

  • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Nov 10, 2008
    I have one conceptual grievance with EPA standards. There is a set of standards in Europe and I am sure that Europeans don’t want any more pollution then we do in US. As a matter of fact, with Europe occupying much less space and housing almost twice as many people, I would imagine they are diligent in their antipollution efforts. You would think that, wouldn't you? Except that until very recently, European emissions standards for cars badly lagged EPA/CARB. The reason? Diesel, and the collectively lobbying power of the trucking industry and the diesel automakers, kept emissions regulations lax. Have a look at the damage that diesel has done to classic architecture in Italy. It's kind of sad, really. People bitch about CARB, but it exists out of necessity: if left to their own devices, emissions would be lowest-common-denominator. In low-population surburban areas this isn't as much an issue, but in places "blessed" with city-in-a-bowl geography, the kind of emissions typical of less than T2b2 will kill people, damage buildings and cause all sorts of contamination issues. If you've spent any time in a major German, French or Italian city on a damp summer evening, you'll understand: the diesel haze is awful. If those kinds of emissions were allowed in Los Angeles or Toronto, people would be dying in droves. Why do we need different standards in US? Imagine for a second, that EPA would negotiate common set of standards with Europe, then we could get all European technology at no extra cost. The market would sort out if this technology belongs to US or not. A better solution would be for Europe to adopt US T2B5 or better, which they're currently doing. Euro 4 and 5 are decent standards, but still behind their US equivalents. One incredibly dirty aspect of European standards is that they're much easier to game than their American equivalents. They also tend to ignore, or allow the gaming of, tests for particulate and oxide of nitrogen standards. There's that goddamn Diesel market again.

  • Charly Charly on Nov 10, 2008

    Europe doesn't have that many cities in a bowl geography, and it is much more to the North than the USA so smog is much less of a problem. It is also shocking that govements game the standards for the benefit of their local industry. And so surprising.

  • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Nov 10, 2008

    The UK only got rid of leaded gas about 10 years ago IIRC. I've lived in LA since 1974 and I can tell you: only on those days when there are fires in the hills does the air look like it did in 1974.Think pictures of major city China 2008. It's sort of laughable hearing people talk about how bad LA's air is today.People forget what it used to be like : brown haze just above the ground, burning eyes, nasty grit that would settle on your car with the dew from the night before. Smog alert days [avoid exercising outdoors, etc.] in the 100s some years. Now perhaps there are a dozen a year Sometimes the US gets it right before the rest of the world comes around. And even then the Big Three were dragged kicking and screaming into it. The Japanese just figured out ways to make it work instead of fighting it.