Diesel vehicles take a lot of flak for their emissions – numerous studies have been done testing health risks of particulate emissions, there are strict emissions limits to keep them cleaner, and filters to keep harmful particles to a minimum are required. All of this adds up to yet another reason to hate big oil – but I’ve got another one for you. Particulate emissions of gas-driven vehicles are just as dangerous.
How Many Of Them Are There and How Much Do They Weigh
Particulate emissions can be measured in two ways – first how much overall mass and second the total number of particles coming out of the tailpipe. For diesel vehicles, both of these numbers are regulated fairly strictly. Gasoline cars are a bit of a different story.
Most of the particles emitted by a gasoline-driven car are superfine – meaning they’re really really tiny – which keeps the total mass easily below the limits imposed even on diesel engines. The number of particles emitted, however, is actually pretty high. This is where we start to run into trouble.
What Do You Mean, Trouble
The superfine particles are the ones that apparently do quite a bit of damage to the cardiovascular system. As fellow Gas2 writer Jo Borras pointed out several months ago, diesel particulates have been linked to heart disease. A more recent study performed by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research found that it’s not just diesel – gasoline puts out dangerous particles, too.
Dr. Ulrich Franck, co-author of the report, said that 1000 of the superfine particles per cubic centimeter (and it takes 16 cubic centimeters to make a cubic inch, if you’re curious) leads to a measurable increase in emergency operations for certain cardiovascular conditions. That’s all well and good, you might think, if you haven’t got that cardiovascular condition. Let me put that into a little more perspective for you – since most vehicles on the road aren’t zero emission, a busy intersection can measure 50,000 particles per cubic centimeter.
Isn’t This Regulated Somehow?
The emissions regulations for diesel and gasoline are different, and a number of automakers are lobbying very hard to ensure that they stay that way. Ford in the United States and Fiat in Europe are on the front lines of that particular debate, pushing to keep the numbers high.
Why would automakers want their cars to have higher levels of harmful emissions? The answer is simple – cost. Making it mandatory to add filters to every engine to catch high numbers of superfine particles wouldn’t be cheap, and that leaves the manufacturer with a problem. Passing the cost onto the customer is always unpopular (what, you want to pay more for your car? I don’t), and bearing the cost themselves is also unpalatable (nobody likes to see their profit margin shrink). It’s kind of a no-win situation as far as they’re concerned, so they’d like to dodge the issue altogether.
Any thoughts on the subject? Let us know in the comments, below.