One thing that crops up time and time again when talking about fuel consumption, is emission regulations and how they affect the car market, especialy when comparing America to Europe.
So perhaps someone in the know could shed some light and end all the confusion! First of all, whenever I quote cars that do anything between 60 and 100 MPG, im always told "emission regulations" prevent such cars from being sold in the US. It's true to say that most of the economical cars I quote are small diesel engines with low C02 and N0X emissions, but if emission regulations are so tight in the US, then why is the VW Jetta, one of the most common cars on fuelly, available to buy in the US? I should point out that the Jetta actually has 100% higher carbon emissions than the lowest emitting car in the UK.
Another point I make is that in most parts of Europe, the UK especialy, we pay carbon taxes on our cars. The government calls it road tax and generally the bigger the engine, the more you pay. The economical cars pay nothing, but a big 4.0 litre Jeep would cost $1600 a year just to tax!
Talking of which, the C02 and N0X emissions of every car are printed on the registration documents in the UK so almost every car owner know how much pollution thier car is putting out.
I also notice most cars in America tend to be auto transmissions. In the UK, an auto transmission can add 20 to 40% to the emissions, and owners will pay more road tax as a result.
Another thing, every car 3 years old or more has to have an MOT, a test carried out every year by the government to check cars are roadworthy. One of the main things they test are the emissions, if your car fails, it's illigal to drive until its fixed.
I think some people forget that a car that sips fuel and does almost 100 MPG, will emit far less C02 and N0X than a gas guzzling SUV that does 15 MPG, regardless whether its diesel or petrol.
So could someone in the USA tell me the following:
1. Are the N0X and C02 emissions printed on the registration documents?
2. How often are the emissions tested?
3. Do you pay carbon based taxes based on how much pollution your car emits?
4. If emissions are so tight, then why are diesel cars like the Jetta TDI available, when cars that emit 50% less excist?
"... Mind you, there are two distinct factors working in favour of Europeans’ wallets: fuel with a higher cetane rating, which makes it easier to control NOx emissions, and EU emissions standards that are generally comparable to the US’s Tier 2 standards in all areas apart from, yes, NOx. Even our EU 6 standards, due in 2015, do not quite match the States’ strict limits on smog- and acid rain-causing emissions.
Relative to a gasoline-burning engine, it is more difficult to control NOx in a diesel, which is why, to meet those comparatively stricter emissions limits, diesels in the US are required to use expensive, onboard after-treatment systems, which decrease the amount of particulate matter that leaves the tailpipe. Diesel engines are already more expensive to develop than gasoline units, given their turbos and complex injection systems. After-treatment systems make them even pricier.
(You cannot read this from a UK ip address. So you will need to proxy to see it).
The thing that you're missing is that American regulations are much less about the actual tail pipe emissions than they are about political agendas and favors. In California 2 stroke motorcycles were outlawed for "high emissions" for new registrations about 25 years ago inspite of the fact that my Vespa Scooter averaged 80 plus miles per gallon when my full sized Chevrolet Heavy Duty 1 ton Van that I used for hauling tools to worksites got less than 10 mpg, but was exempt from smog rules and checks because it was a Heavy Duty Truck. This had much more to do with bribes, er I mean campaign contributions and the smog check lobby than it did with actual emissions.
The laws vary from state to state, but currently in California a new car is exempt from smog checks for 3 years, then they must be checked prior to registration renewal every 2 years with a system check, a tail pipe emission sniffer, a visual inspection that requires OEM parts on all emission control systems like the catalytic converter, smog pump, pcv valve, O2 sensors, etc. which the manufacturers then charge 2-3 times or more than the going rate because if you buy an identical aftermarket part you'll fail the visual inspection even if the function and tail pipe checks are perfect. It is a racket done more for political gains than for emissions controls but in our crooked system that is what we're left with.
A similar situation occured about 10 years ago with the Hybrid market. In CA the Toyota Prius was allowed to perform their "Highway" cycle at a greatly reduced speed to get the MPG figures that they claimed on the stickers. This was done with the full cooperation and knowledge of the EPA in the previous generation of the test cycles. Toyota was gaming the figures and the EPA not only didn't put a stop to it, they actually facilitated the scam to sell Hybrids to the public. The batteries can't even be manufactured in this hemisphere because the process is so polluting, that is why they are shipped off to China for the battery manufacturing, in stead of waiting for the battery manufacturing process to clean itself up before allowing the sale of Hybrid vehicles. Apparently China has their own atmosphere so it doesn't pollute the rest of the world, I just never got that memo.
As for the VW TDI's along with their technology shares with Audi, Porsche, etc. they are still much more efficient than the vast majority of the gasoline engines available on this side of the pond, unfortunately most of the US auto consumers are turned off by the thought of diesels and they still struggle to gain traction.
A couple of years ago the Department of Transportation was trying to add a tax to highly fuel efficient vehicles based upon their average miles driven so that they could reclaim the "Lost" fuel taxes that drivers of highly fuel efficient vehicles weren't paying them. That is the polar opposite of the supposed goal of the DOT and EPA in pushing for HEV's. But again it all came down to money and bribes, HEV's are great as long as they pay the same share of the road and fuel taxes as gross polluters, the atmosphere be damned.
Bates, you clearly have an axe to grind with hybrid vehicles, and not for the first time. You make a few valid points but mostly your evidence is speculative or propaganda.
Heavy trucks are "exempt" from smog rules? Really? You've never seen catalytic converters underneath a truck or SUV? Smog rules are less stringent for certain older or heavy vehicles, but they are not exempt from regulation or testing by any means, and the smog rules are quickly tightening on them (especially in Kalifornia). What you said is deceptive, misleading, and only part of the story.
CARB also does not require OEM parts on all emissions equipment. They require certified parts yes, but they do allow alternatives to OEM. What's more, it's easy to find a real OEM replacement (i.e. Denso, Bosch, etc) that will pass visual for most sensors and electronics, at a fraction of the cost, without buying from the dealer.
Where the heck did you hear that Toyota "gamed" the EPA tests? That sounds like speculation, and indeed I was not able to find the slightest bit of information out after searching. Even if they did, Priuses today meet their combined EPA of 50mpg in normal driving pretty easily. If they are gaming the ratings, don't you think it would be obvious like Ford and Hyundai? If you are looking for an OEM to crucify for falsifying EPA ratings, why Toyota? They are and have traditionally been one of the most honest OEMs when it comes to EPA.
You know that a Prius uses NiMH battery that weighs only 90lbs, right? One that is only twice the mass and energy capacity of the one in your car. It is made with some nickel, a little neodymium, and no other exotic materials (no cadmium, lithium, etc). It's an old technology that is well proven and optimized. And they last an average of 300,000 miles -- statistically speaking, over 10 years of data -- unless you would rather speculate about something else that is perfectly well known and proven. Prius assembly and battery production will be moving to America next year as well.
Prius battery production accounts for 2 to 5% of total life cycle vehicle emissions, if the car lasts 200k miles. That is a documented fact. Battery production makes a little more pollution than a regular car, but that is more than offset by the lower emissions during consumer use. Every Prius battery is 100% recycled at end of life -- or reused since they often outlast the rest of the car (again, documented fact). Including battery and motor production, a Prius uses 30%+ less energy during the average life cycle (200k) than the average equivalent compact economy car.
And that is still significantly less than the average diesel which relies on expensive turbochargers, direct fuel injection, and fancy pants emissions controls to give average performance, while still getting ~20% less mileage in combined driving.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that hybrids are always 100% better than diesels or regular gas cars. There is no fine line. But you make it out like hybrids are an evil technology formed by evil Toyota lobbyists forcing their corporate will on the rest of us so they can pollute the world by producing batteries instead of gasoline. Not all hybrids are equal, but many of them are legitimate alternatives to normal cars, and some of them do compare favorably to the Holy TDI Grail from any perspective (economical, financial, or lifetime emissions). They may not be your cup of tea but your evidence for damning them is outrageous.
BDC, points taken and you are correct, I definately am not a fan of much of the Hybrid technology and manufacturing processes.
The point I was making with the Heavy Duty Truck was a real world, personal experience that I prefaced by dating as 25 years ago, this was the late 1980's and a 1986 Chevy Heavy Duty 1 ton full sized van came equipped with a smog pump and catalytic converter along with a carburetor and was listed as smog exempt, not subject to smog checks either by tail pipe emissions or visual inspection for the life of the vehicle. The CARB changed the rules mid stream about 10 years ago and now that vehicle is subject to all the same emissions regulations including tail pipe and visual inspections while it lacks the other systems that would make it more effiencent and less polluting.
No, I was not aware that the battery was a mere 90 pounds in a Prius, is that for all generations or the current models? There was a study a few years back and admittedly I can't recall the source but at the time I believed it was reliable, that evaluated the environmental impact of a Toyota Prius and a Chevrolet Tahoe that showed the Tahoe polluted less over the vehicle life cycle, if I recall correctly it was 100,000 miles when the impact of the production of the batteries was considered. The author went into quite a bit of detail about the battery manufacturing process, discussing that the minerals were mined in Canada, shipped to China where they were smelted and impurities were removed, shipped to Europe for battery assembly and then to Japan for installation into the vehicle before the vehicle was shipped back to the US for sale.
It was not my intention to cruicfy Toyota or the Prius, as I reread my post I can see where it came off that way, I appologize to you BDC, the moderators, and the members at large of Fuelly. I'm sorry and didn't mean to rail against any brand or model. My issue is with the EPA and CA regulations which are far from a level playing field, but rather designed and manipulated to profit and benefit a few political allies at a cost that is borne by the consumers and the environment.
Thank you for your well thought out and researched response, again, I'm sorry that you were offended and upset by my previous post, please accept my appology.
There is no offense taken and I'm sure none intended.
You make great points about the state of emissions regulations in the US -- they are largely biased towards enabling the big 3. There is no good solution to the problem of air pollution though -- EPA and CARB regulations cost Americans in every state thousands of extra dollars when buying a new car, even though only a handful of states have any appreciable air quality problems. (I read recently that five of seven of the worst air quality cities in the US are in Kalifornia.)
I was talking to an engineer friend of mine at Toyota recently, who gave a great example. He was called out to Fairbanks, AK last January to find out why their Tundra pickups were all throwing check engine lights when it got real cold out. There is this smog pump that pumps air into the exhaust manifold to help with cat light off. There's a solenoid valve that opens to let the air into the manifold, and at extremely cold temperatures, the moisture in the exhaust will freeze the valve shut when the car turns off. The solution: add a heater to the solenoid valve. Now when you buy a new Toyota Tundra, you pay to have a smog pump solenoid valve heater whether you're in Fairbanks, Houston, or anywhere else in the US. No matter that the problem only occurs when it gets down below negative 40 degrees.
There has to be a line drawn somewhere -- but as usual our politicians have taken the easy path rather than the right path. And yes, our politicians take the easy way at every turn.