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Engine Emissions

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 22 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Engine Emissions Diesel Engine Vehicle

Over the last few years the UK Government has been heavily committed to reducing harmful emissions from cars in particular carbon. Transport has continued to grow over the last few years as a significant user of UK fuel and shows no signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future.

Clampdown on Idle Drivers

Some local councils are so hot on the idea of lowering engine emissions that they have introduced on-the-spot fines for people who are found with their engines ‘idling’ (running while stationery). If a driver is approached by a police officer they will be asked to turn off their engine. If they refuse they will be issued with the fine – usually around £20 (though this varies from council to council and is a whopping £80 in Manchester!), and have the reasons for the fine explained to them. The driver must then give the issuing officer their personal information, and pay up or be taken to court.

Increase in Harmful Emissions

By 2003 there had been a 60% increase in the amount of fuel used by transport since 1970. Oil is the main energy source but electricity and LPG make up a percentage too, albeit a small one. During this period of growth, carbon emissions have risen by almost half. More and more people are using cars now, and where in 1970 it was usual for average families to have no car, or one at the most, it is now the norm for every family member who can drive to own one.When you also consider the fact that there are now more high-performance cars being produced with higher engine sizes, and that congestion is hitting ever increasing levels in and around our towns and cities, the reasons why this growth has been so rapid become more evident.

Reducing Emissions

There have been numerous efforts made to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates from diesel vehicles that have actually resulted in higher levels of fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. There have also been many different types of solutions touted over the last few years including bio fuels, and electric cars, but in many ways these have yet to prove their worth.

Over the coming years there will be lots of time and money spent on producing technology that should allow further reductions in emissions without an increase in fuel consumption – leading to less fuel consumed and less C02 emissions. Vehicles will become cleaner and more efficient in line with strict European guidelines.

Vehicle Excise Duty and Emissions

In an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, Vehicle Excise Duty (VED or Road Tax) was changed so that any cars registered on or after 1 March 2001 would be taxed in accordance with their carbon dioxide emissions. Since this was introduced, there has been a 21% increase in the ownership of cars that run on diesel engines, lowering C02 emissions but increasing particulates. Petrol engines do produce more carbon monoxide but far less soot than diesel engines.

The level of emissions that your car produces can be the difference between a pass or fail at its MOT. To test petrol engine cars for acceptable emissions levels, the garage performing the test will use specialised equipment and the date that the car was first used on the road to determine what the details of the check will entail.

Diesel Engine Emissions

Diesel engine exhaust emission, commonly known as diesel fumes contain harmful elements including:

  • Carbon (soot);
  • Nitrogen;
  • Water;
  • Carbon monoxide;
  • Baldheads;
  • Nitrogen dioxide;
  • Sulphur dioxide;
The soot content can vary from 60% to 80% and depends on the fuel used and the type of engine. When it comes to a diesel MOT, a smoke test is used to determine whether or not the emissions are at an acceptable and roadworthy level.

Don’t Panic if you see Smoke!

It is important to realise that if your car starts pumping out blue, grey or black smoke it needs to be seen immediately - but remember that it might just be in need of a small adjustment and such defects can usually be fixed at little cost to the owner - but do make sure get it seen straight away to avoid being spotted by a police officer, pulled over and fined.

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