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Controlling Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles

Information on the VW Settlement and how to comment on the development of the Beneficiary Mitigation Plan and Zero Emission Vehicle Investment is available.

Motor vehicles are significant sources of pollution that can damage the environment and pose public health issues. Everyone has a stake in limiting pollution.

How Vehicle Pollution Harms the Environment and Health

Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons are released when fuel is burned in an internal combustion engine and when air/fuel residuals are emitted through the vehicle tailpipe. Gasoline vapors also escape into the atmosphere during refueling and when fuel vaporizes from engines and fuel systems caused by vehicle operation or hot weather.

The pollutants in vehicle emissions are known to damage lung tissue, and can lead to and aggravate respiratory diseases, such as asthma. Motor vehicle pollution also contributes to the formation of acid rain and adds to the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

Pollutants emitted directly from vehicles are not the only cause for concern. On warm, sunny days, hydrocarbons react with oxides of nitrogen to create a secondary pollutant, ozone. In many urban areas, motor vehicles are the single largest contributor to ground-level ozone which is a common component of smog. Ozone causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, and can bring on permanent lung damage, making it a cause of crucial public health problems.

Zero-Emission Vehicles

Zero-emission vehicles include battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel-cell-electric vehicles. These technologies can be used in passenger cars, trucks and transit buses.

New York and seven other states joined together in an initiative to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. A Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) (246 KB, 12 pgs) outlines the steps these states will take to expand consumer awareness and demand for zero-emission vehicles.

Reducing Vehicle Pollution

Proper maintenance of car and truck emission control systems not only limits harmful emissions, but also can improve fuel efficiency and vehicle performance extending the life of the vehicle. Care in storing and handling gasoline and other solvents also reduces evaporative losses to the atmosphere.

New York's motor vehicle Inspection and Maintenance (I/M) programs are administered by the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Motor Vehicles. I/M programs require annual emissions inspections and, when necessary, require repair of faulty emission systems. The New York Vehicle Inspection Program is an important component of New York's State Implementation Plan to meet the national ambient air quality standard for ozone.

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