Improving air quality is a critical goal of most efforts to move advanced technology into the light-duty fleet. For example, California considers its zero emission vehicle (ZEV) requirements critical to its effort to achieve acceptable air quality.
Similarly, reductions in vehicle emissions are one of the key Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles goals; the administration’s original name for the partnership was the Clean Car Initiative. Vehicular emissions are an important source of an ongoing air quality problem-continuing widespread noncompliance with ambient health standards for ozone, primarily in urban areas.
Effective role of Air
Currently, about 50 million 1 people live in counties that exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone. At high concentrations, ozone damages lung tissue, reduces lung function, and sensitizes the lung to other irritants; it also damages crops and natural vegetation.
Ozone is formed by the atmospheric reaction of nitrogen oxides (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight, and motor vehicles nationwide are responsible for about 32 percent of emissions of NOX and 26 percent of VOC.
2 Vehicles-especially diesel-powered vehicles-are also emitters of very small particulate that have been associated with severe adverse health impacts, including premature deaths. Further, NOX emissions, of which vehicles are the major source, also form particles in the atmosphere. Although sulfur emissions from power generation are the single greatest source of particulate, vehicle emissions of particulate and particulate precursors occur closer to affected populations.
Particulate emissions from heavy-duty diesels and gasoline vehicles will likely decline in the future, but the overall decline in small particulate concentrations may be slowed considerably, if diesel engines are used more widely in light-duty vehicles.
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