The US Environmental Protection Agency has made public data that rank all new-model cars on the basis of their tailpipe emissions. The rankings are the pollution equivalent to the gas mileage ratings that EPA issues annually.
Vehicles account for almost one-third of all smog causing pollution. Nationwide, the number of miles driven each year is up 140 percent since 1970 to 2.8 trillion. In addition, half of new vehicles sold today are sport utility vehicles, which currently are allowed to emit as much as three to five times the pollution as cars. Smog causes millions of cases of respiratory ailments and is responsible for triggering thousands of cases of childhood asthma every year.
EPA’s new Vehicle Emissions Guide web site is http://www.epa.gov/autoemissions. The site lists pollution levels for all model year 2000 and 2001 passenger vehicles sold in the United States, including cars, station wagons, pickup trucks, minivans, vans and sport utility vehicles.
An emissions rank from 0 to 10, with 10 being cleanest, is assigned to each vehicle representing its cleanliness when compared to all other vehicles and ranges. This comparative rank is based on the tailpipe emission standards of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, both of which contribute to the formation of smog. For convenient comparisons, the web site also shows how clean a vehicle is compared to similar vehicles in the same class.
The new web site helps consumers make more environmentally informed choices when purchasing a vehicle. Consumers can select a vehicle model, determine how clean it is relative to other vehicles, comparison shop for similar vehicles, and choose the cleanest vehicle that meets their needs.
The web site includes emission information about more than 2000 individual vehicles for model years 2000 and 2001. For the 2001 model year, only three cars are rated a 10, the cleanest possible. Certain versions, but not all, of the Nissan Sentra, Toyota Prius and Honda Accord models earned a 10 ranking. These versions meet California tailpipe emission standards and are only available for purchase in California and some Northeast states. Designations of 8 and 9 rankings are reserved for vehicles that meet new standards established by the Clinton-Gore Administration last year.
Under the Clinton-Gore Administration’s new rules for putting the cleanest cars in history on the road, pick-up trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles will be 77 to 95 percent cleaner beginning in 2004 than those on the road today and will have to meet the same tailpipe emission standards as passenger cars. Manufacturers can opt to have these cleaner vehicles on the market earlier than required, beginning with the 2001 model year.
Fuel economy is another important environmental factor to consider when buying a vehicle because burning fuel adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere that lead to global warming.
To make a more informed choice about both emissions and fuel economy, the information included in the Vehicle Emissions Guide web site can be used in co-ordination with the annual EPA/Department of Energy Fuel Economy Guide (http://www.fueleconomy.gov ) . It allows users to compare fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions, and estimated annual fuel costs across models.