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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effects of Vehicle Speed and Engine Load on Motor Vehicle Emissions


Laboratory studies have provided a foundation of knowledge regarding vehicle emissions, but questions remain regarding the relationship between on-road vehicle emissions and changes in vehicle speed and engine load that occur as driving conditions change. Light-duty vehicle emissions of CO, NOx, and NMHC were quantified as functions of vehicle speed and engine load in a California highway tunnel for downhill and uphill traffic on a _4% grade. Emissions were measured throughout the day; average speed decreased inside the tunnel as traffic volume increased. Emissions of CO were typically 16-34 g L-1 (i.e., grams of CO emitted per liter of gasoline consumed) during downhill driving and ranged from 27 to 75 g L-1 during uphill driving. Downhill driving and moderate-speed uphill driving resulted in similar CO emission factors. The factor of 2 increase in CO emissions observed during higherspeed uphill driving is likely evidence of enriched engine fuel/ air ratios; this was unexpected because uphill driving observed in this study occurred at moderate engine loads within the range experienced during the city driving cycle of the U.S. emissions certification test. Emissions of NOx (as NO2) were typically 1.1-3.3 g L-1 for downhill driving and varied between 3.8 and 5.3 g L-1 for uphill driving. Unlike observations for CO, all uphill driving conditions resulted in higher NOx emission factors as compared to downhill driving. NOx emissions increased with vehicle speed for uphill driving but not as strongly as CO emissions. Emissions of CO and NOx are functions of both vehicle speed and specific power; neither parameter alone captures all the relevant effects on emissions. In contrast to results for CO and NOx reported here and results for NMHC reported previously by Pierson et al. (Atmos. Environ. 1996,30, 2233- 2256), emissions of NMHC per unit of fuel burned for downhill driving were over 3 times greater than NMHC emissions for uphill driving. Emission rates of CO and NOx varied more with driving conditions when expressed per unit distance traveled rather than per unit fuel burned while NMHC emission rates normalized to distance traveled were approximately constant for uphill versus downhill driving during peak traffic periods.

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