Understanding the Car as a Natural System
Chapter 6: Regulating the car to save our environment; emptying the ashtrays on the Titanic?
Environmental legislation of the car originated in California around 1960, and, until the mid 1990s, California remained the leader in this field. Initiatives and regulations started in this state have usually formed the basis for federal legislation and subsequently regulation in other countries. The history of vehicle emissions legislation starts more from a concern about human health than about the survival of 'the planet'. The concern about the impact of motorized vehicles on our environment centres on five general issues: emissions, energy consumption, noise, congestion and land use. All of these have been subject to regulatory and legislative control somewhere in the second half of the 20th century; however, most of the debate and regulation has focused on toxic emissions of carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), various hydrocarbons (HC) and particulates (PM), with the US, particularly the State of California and its powerful Air Resources Board, leading the way. Over time, these US standards influenced standards in other countries. Some adopted them without modification, while others, such as Japan, developed their own standards and their own test cycle. Test cycles simulate a typical drive and differ in different parts of the world, though they rarely manage to come close to real driving conditions. Manufacturers thus end up designing their cars to look good on the test cycle, rather than in real use. Consumers often fail to match either officially declared fuel consumption or emissions performance of the car they bought.
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