utomotive companies take a lot of heat. After all, aren’t these the companies producing those monster trucks that spew all kinds of smog-causing pollutants into the air? A tempting stereotype, but the facts reveal a different picture. The automotive industry has actually spent billions to reduce harmful emissions since the pre-control era and claims considerable success.
Of the three main pollutants, which are the target of environmentalists, hydrocarbons (HC) have been reduced by 98 per cent, oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by 90 per cent and carbon monoxide (CO) by 96 per cent. In certain areas of the world the air quality of vehicle exhaust is cleaner than the air entering the intake system. Moreover, the industry will be voluntarily introducing low emission vehicles (LEVs), fuel cell vehicles and a number of alternate fuel vehicles over the next few years.These will further lower emissions, including NOx by 95 per cent and HCs by 99 per cent without negatively affecting vehicle performance.
These initiatives have been very beneficial not just for the environment, but also for consumers. Fuel injection, electronic ignition systems and lead-free fuel are responsible for better fuel economy, less maintenance and better vehicle performance — all very beneficial for the consumer.
Canadians are quite responsible with their vehicle purchases when it comes to the environment. On a market share basis, we buy twice as many environmentally friendly mini-vans as Americans and half as many sport utility vehicles.The most popular passenger cars purchased each year are usually environmentally friendly compact vehicles such as the new Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cavalier and Honda Civic.
But more needs to be done on the environmental front. An example is the need to reduce the amount of sulphur in gasoline.Today’s advanced vehicle technologies operate best on low-sulphur fuels that are specifically formulated to improve performance and to reduce smog-causing emissions. Most people do not realize that motor vehicle emissions are a function of BOTH vehicle technology and fuel
technology/formulations. You can drive the most environmentally friendly vehicle available but if you put the wrong fuel into it much of the environmental improvement will be negated. In fact, some fuels can render the emission devices on a vehicle permanently ineffective.
To address this problem, all automotive manufacturers have developed a high quality fuel specification called Auto Makers’ Choice gasoline. Use of the Auto Makers’ Choice is licensed (for $1) by the industry to fuel providers, for use on pumps where gasoline that meets this specification is available.
The problem is that currently very few oil companies offer the fuel at their pumps although all oil companies and independent fuel retailers are being invited to join the program. Irving Oil is the first oil company to embrace the program and will shortly have Auto Makers’ Choice fuel available for all grades of gasoline. Other oil companies are giving the proposal serious consideration. Interestingly, the federal government will require all fuel to meet lower sulphur guidelines in two stages — the first scheduled for 2002 and the final
All gasoline retailers will eventually have to sell lowsulphur gasoline as the federal regulations come into effect. The Auto Makers’ Choice program gives participating oil companies a chance to distinguish their products and meet customer demand by offering low sulphur fuel early, as well as by eliminating metal additives, and enhancing positive deposit control additives.
This national Canadian program has a number of objectives:
To be eligible for the Auto Makers’ Choice program, oil companies must provide fuels that meet a set of requirements today and/or meet the increased stringency of the 2001 requirements. The Auto Makers’ Choice logo will identify pumps selling gasoline that complies with these auto industry fuel specifications. Oil companies must provide documentation to certify compliance with program requirements. Independent audits are planned to protect the integrity of the program.
Auto Makers’ Choice denotes a specific fuel that meets strict specifications, including less sulphur, positive combustion chamber deposit controls, no heavy metal additives, and enhanced driveability characteristics. It is based on existing Canadian General Standards Board guidelines and on the World-Wide Fuel Charter guidelines, which all automotive makers have globally developed and promoted. In addition, the standards developed by these agencies are scheduled to be toughened in 2001. Auto Makers’Choice fuel will then have to meet these higher standards.
According to Maureen Kempston-Darkes, President and General Manager of General Motors of Canada,“If all 17 million light vehicles on the road in Canada could access Auto Makers’Choice gasoline, it would be the equivalent of eliminating the smog-causing emissions from almost two million cars and light trucks.” In addition, using this fuel would help many vehicles pass their annual emission test required in certain provinces.To accomplish this two things will have to happen. First, all oil companies will have to offer the fuel and second, consumers will have to use it.
The automotive industry is working hard to convince oil companies to join the program and consumers should ask their fuel provider when the fuel will be available. Consumers also benefit from a cleaner environment. In addition, vehicles that are properly maintained and operated responsibly typically have better fuel economy. That saves a lot of money, especially with today’s high gasoline prices.