Modern cars are vastly cleaner, emission-wise, than they ever have been. I don’t even think they work well for in-garage suicides anymore. There’s still plenty of pollution, though a new study from the University of Toronto has found that 90 percent of automotive pollution is coming from only 25 percent of cars.
The study, published in the March 2015 edition of Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (I believe it was the same one that had their annual swimsuit issue) took real-world measurements of 100,000 vehicles as they drove past air probes on one of Toronto’s major streets.
Here’s some of what they found:
Evans and team found that one-quarter of the vehicles on the road produced:
95% of black carbon (or “soot”), 93% of carbon monoxide, and 76% of volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes, some of which are known-carcinogens.
“The most surprising thing we found was how broad the range of emissions was,” says Evans. “As we looked at the exhaust coming out of individual vehicles, we saw so many variations. How you drive, hard acceleration, age of the vehicle, how the car is maintained—these are things we can influence that can all have an effect on pollution.”
So, it looks like most of the pollution in the air is likely caused by jackasses like me, with a fleet of old, archaic, filthy cars, or other, unknown jackasses who just don’t keep their cars maintained.
Since there’s no way in hell I’d ever want to give up driving a vintage car, I’d like to point out that building new cars causes a huge amount of pollution, and as a result, keeping an old car longer has its own, less obvious, environmental benefits.
That means if you have a newer car in poor tune, you really should get that checked. Because that’s who I’m going to blame here.