Controlling Emissions in Automobiles
The gas we put in our vehicles contains over 150 chemicals, including benzene, toluene and sometimes even lead so Controlling Emissions in Automobiles can be hard. These can cause dizziness, breathing problems, and headaches when they’re inhaled. Inhaling a lot of gasoline fumes can even cause death. Also, gasoline evaporation is one of the leading causes of air pollution.
This is why carmakers are required to put in systems on their vehicles that help reduce gasoline evaporations. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that environmental regulation in the United States began in earnest, and since then, cars have had evaporative emission control (EVAP) systems. These systems are made to capture and reuse fuel vapors before they escape into the atmosphere.
Most systems contain valves, hoses, vents in the fuel lines, a canister full of charcoal, and a sealed fuel tank cap. When gas fumes form in the tank, the excess vapors are transferred to the charcoal canister. They can be stored in the canister until they’re sent back to the engine to be used with the typical air-fuel mixture.
The valve is what creates a vacuum that pulls the gas vapors into the engine. For better combustion, fresh air is also drawn in with it. These systems are often controlled mechanically or (in newer automobiles) electronically by the car’s computer. The computer directs the valves to release the canister of vapors, usually when the car is moving (not idle). This is just one of many behind-the-scenes technologies that you probably won’t ever see or feel but are essential to your vehicle’s operation.
As you may expect, things can go wrong with the EVAP system, too. If the canister fails to purge the fuel vapors, it can mess up your vehicle’s performance and emissions. This could mean that the entire system needs to be replaced.
Keeping Gas Evaporation Down
Obviously, gasoline is volatile. It has to be, to combust. But this means it evaporates quickly, too. In fact, your car’s fuel can turn from a liquid into a gas very quickly — particularly when the weather is warmer. This is bad for the environment because up to 20 percent of all hydrocarbon emissions from vehicles is caused by fuel evaporation.
This is bad for your wallet, too. Unless you’re an executive at an oil company, you probably aren’t thrilled to see gas prices rise over the past few years. It’s bad enough that your car burns up gasoline and you have to keep filling it up — why do we have to lose even more to evaporation?
There is good news. There are ways you can help prevent your gas from evaporating (or at least slow the process down some). First, screw that fuel cap securely and tightly. If you don’t have a fuel cap, please go get one! Fuel can escape right out of your tank if it’s not an airtight seal.
Second, try to park in shady areas during the summer months. Even though many cars have advanced EVAP systems that reduce evaporation, gas can still evaporate from the tank — parking in the sun will make it happen faster. This is even worse when it’s extremely hot outside. Parking in the shade helps keep the entire car cooler and reduces fuel and fluid loss and controlling emissions.
One more thing: Buy your gas in the early morning or in the late evening. It’s hotter in the afternoon and early evening, which means extra evaporation going on. This is why you can really smell gasoline while at filling stations during the heat of the daytime.
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