Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do Emission Standards Equal Horsepower?

Amazing how, at times, a simple article can start a massive discussion on several other, tangentially related, topics.

Take this post over at The Truth About Cars. Starts off with a rant from a used auto dealer about the deals he has missed because his county still has emission control checks.

Then it sways into the difficulty of diagnosing a glowing Check Engine Light, and the various ways to defeat, where it is legal to, the emissions systems.

And then swings off into the Constitutionality of Emissions checks as opposed to emissions systems, with a swing back to whether the checks and the systems themselves serve a public purpose, and should be a legitimate function of government.

Wow; that's a lot of territory.

Ya wanna know what I think?

Of course you do; you've read this far, haven't you?

Back in the day of the big block engine with points and a carb we re getting about 10% of the power of the gasoline to the road. The rest didn't burn, and washed into the oil or trickled out the exhaust pipe.

Yep; we was polluting. Part of the advances in emissions have lead to less gasoline being a pollutant, and more of it being turned into horsepower. That's how you can have a Ford Focus with 420 horsepower. These systems have also become more reliable. Fuel injection is not new. Automakers experimented with it in the 1930's. Chevrolet had a production FI unit in 1957.

But they were about as reliable as $3.00 watch. So the idea was shelved until it had to be revived.

Not that I think the current state of automotive technology is solely the result of emissions standards. Physically engines could only get so big in an automobile; 500 cubic inches was about all there was. New ideas had to be developed to squeeze more horsepower out of a drop of gasoline. The technology that was developed would have been developed where there were emissions standards or not. Maybe not as quickly, but it still would have been developed.

Things would have worked just like all the others advances had; high end manufacturers would experiment and develop; the mid-level would  produce thousands of units, and the consumers would do the road testing for a few years until the bugs were worked out.

Without emissions standards would we have street legal cars pushing 600 horsepower? Oh yeah.

The market would have demanded it, and the automakers would have made it happen.

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