Motorcycles Are More Polluting Than Cars, New Device Shows Page 2

Motorcycle exhaust pipe, courtesy of Discovery Channel Mythbusters

Motorcycle exhaust pipe, courtesy of Discovery Channel Mythbusters

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These regulations helped spur the phase-out of leaded gasoline in the mid-1970s, and the use of emissions-scrubbing catalytic converters on automobiles, as well as other pollution-reducing technologies.

Motorcycles, by contrast, adhere to a less stringent federal standard than cars, because no practical way has been found to downsize a catalytic converter to fit onto a motorcycle. That standard was established in 1978, and remained unchanged from 1980 until around 2006.

In the long term, Global MRV’s Munro hopes that the company’s PEMS technology will become a consumer product that will help any driver fine-tune her or his automobile’s performance and cut emissions—perhaps via a subscription model similar to the OnStar vehicle security and communications service.

For now, the system and related consulting are still rather pricey—“For the testing and analysis we performed for the MythBusters Team, Global MRV typically charges $80,000 - $100,000,” says Munro—and the company continues to aim its services primarily at operators of large vehicle fleets, government agencies in the US and abroad, and researchers.

Beijing Smog by Flickr user michaelhenley

Beijing Smog by Flickr user michaelhenley

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To amplify the scientific validity of the Bike vs. Car experiment, MythBusters turned to Kent Johnson, a University of California, Riverside vehicle emissions expert, to provide an independent analysis of the results.

He confirmed to Discovery News in September that the experiment was scientifically valid.

“It’s the first ever quantification of a true comparison between a car and a motorcycle, driven over identical conditions, using a portable measurement system. And this comparison was done for three decades of technology,” Johnson told reporter Sarah Simpson.

“Our best guess [of what the results would show] was off by a factor of three. That’s why these data could contribute to science.”

This article, written by Emily Gertz, was originally published on TalkingPointsMemo, an editorial partner of GreenCarReports.


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Comments (5)
  1. That is pretty cool. Motorcycles clearly needed to be cleaned up along with my ICE lawn mower. No need to measure if my lawn motor is polluting, that is easy to see.

  2. An electric bike solves the problem. Go Brammo, go!

  3. Wowee, pollutants from riding a bike can be like driving a hundred cars simultaneously?

  4. Just watched the episode. Even with a modern 250 cc bike, they only achieved Prius type 50 mpg efficiency. My guess is that most self-respecting bikers want a bigger engine than that.

  5. Great, now I feel guilty... Last few rides of the season, too. I knew this, to some extent, anyway, but it's still painful. As JB notes, clean them up next along with lawnmowers.
    And yes, go Brammo, MotoCzyz, Zero and all others.

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