Tailpipe emissions

Car exhaust

On this page, we provide some detailed information about the chemicals produced by a vehicle as it runs (1):

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • Hydrocarbons (HC)
  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
  • Particulate matter (PM10)
  • Ozone (O3)

From a climate perspective, the most important emissions from burning gasoline and diesel are carbon dioxide.

  • Every litre of gasoline that is burned produces about 2.29 kg of CO2
  • Every litre of diesel that is burned produces about 2.66 kg of CO(2)

Carbon dioxide

Sources:The combustion of fossil fuels (oil, gasoline, coal, etc.); deforestation.
Impacts:Responsible for over 60% of the enhanced greenhouse effect, causing climate change.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx)

Sources:Residential and agricultural fertilizers; high temperature combustion of fossil fuels; incinerators.
Impacts:NOx contribute to formation of ground level ozone (smog), impair visibility, and have health consequences.

Hydrocarbons (HC)

Sources:Incomplete combustion of fossil fuel.
Impacts:Reacts with NOx and sunlight to form photochemical pollution (smog), mainly ground-level ozone.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2)

Sources:Combustion of fossil fuels, especially in locomotives, large ships, and construction equipment; mineral extraction from ore, gasoline from oil.
Impacts:Forms acid rain; forms atmospheric particles, reducing visibility and aggravafting existing heart and lung diseases.

Particulate matter (PM10)

Sources:Combustion of fossil fuels, forest and stubble fires, mechanical wear of vehicles parts (brake lining, tires, etc.).
Impacts:Particles enter deeply into lungs, adhere to tissue; aggravates asthma, causes respiratory illness, causes premature death.

Ozone (O3)

Sources:Ozone is not produced directly by vehicles. Ground-level ozone is produced when nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as xylene, react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. NOx and VOCs are called ozone precursors.
Impacts:Respiratory illness and distress, ozone makes people more sensitive to allergens, which in turn trigger asthma attacks

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