Why Everyone Should Care About NOx

June 18, 2018

By Todd Mouw

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion about NOx — or nitrogen oxides — and the negative impact it has on many levels within our society. The problem was brought to light in 2014 when West Virginia University released its report on Volkswagen diesel engines that significantly exceeded the allowable threshold for NOx.

Since it’s summer and baseball season is in full swing, let’s go back to first base and explain what NOx is all about. NOx is the generic term for a group of highly reactive gases, all of which contain nitrogen and oxygen in varying amounts. They form when fuel is burned at high temperatures. NOx contributes to numerous environmental problems, such as acid rain, climate change, deteriorated water quality and smog. NOx also causes negative health issues. Exposure to these tiny soot particles and toxic gases can cause headaches, fatigue, lung irritation and more.

The primary source of NOx is motor vehicles. Approximately 55 percent of man-made NOx emissions comes from motor vehicles. According to a University of California Riverside study, diesel-fueled medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are the number one source of NOx emissions in almost every single metropolitan region in the U.S. The same study shows that a diesel engine can emit up to four times more NOx than its Environmental Protection Agency emissions standard during a full-duty cycle.

How do we, in both the public and private sectors, help lower these harmful emissions from our fleets? One readily available solution is fueling your fleet vehicles with propane autogas. Propane autogas is naturally much lower in NOx than diesel and gasoline. For heavier-duty engines fueled by propane autogas, NOx is reduced by about 60 percent compared with conventional diesel engines. Propane autogas vehicles emit about 20 percent less nitrogen oxide than gasoline vehicles.

NOx emissions are regulated under EPA standards because they are known to be harmful to human health and to air quality. For example, ROUSH CleanTech has developed an engine to meet even stricter standards set by the California Air Resources Board. The company’s 2017MY and newer 6.8L V10 3V propane engines have the lowest NOx levels of any engine in class 4-7 vehicles and are certified at .05 g/bhp-hr. The engies are 75 percent cleaner than the EPA standard of 0.20 g/bhp-hr.

There is $2.9 billion in funding from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust to pay for transportation projects that reduce NOx emissions. School buses and transit options equipped with low NOx engines qualify for funding under this settlement, depending on how each beneficiary chooses to allocate these funds. Read more about the EMT here.

To learn more about ROUSH CleanTech’s alternative fuel vehicle technology that powers school buses and Ford commercial vehicles, please visit www.roushcleantech.com.

Todd Mouw is president of ROUSH CleanTech, an industry leader of alternative fuel vehicle technology. Mouw has more than two decades of experience in the automotive and high-tech industries. As former president of the NTEA Green Truck Association, Mouw helped set standards in the green trucking industry. To learn more, visit ROUSHcleantech.com.