DEQ, USU, WSU Research: Vehicle Warm-up Needlessly Creates Air Pollution

Jan 6, 2016

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality has long said the first driving mile is the worst mile for winter automobile air pollution.

New research by Utah State and Weber State Universities in partnership with the DEQ is finding just how bad it is. USU’s Dr. Randy Martin is the principle investigator. He says they found drastic cuts in emissions when the vehicle gets on the road quickly.

“Your cars don’t really, from an emissions standpoint anyway, don’t really need to warm up after a cold start. The cars are optimized anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes,” says Martin, “So you start your car, scrape the windows and your car is good to go.”

Earlier DEQ research has found the 48% of inversion-causing pollution comes from motor vehicle use.  John Thomas is the director of Weber State’s National Center for Automotive Science & Technology and also works for the DEQ. He says manufactures, with pressure from the federal government, have made massive cuts in tailpipe emissions when the car is warmed up.

“However, now we’re going to focus; I think manufacturers are going to come up with, some very innovative ways to reduce cold start emissions,” Thomas says, “I think this is the start because we have to reduce emission for the whole drive cycle.”

Thomas says this new data will help officials at the DEQ with specific messaging to drivers on more ways to cut pollution. The study is in its final stages with a presentation to the DEA expected next month. The Utah Legislature provided funding for this and 13 other related projects.