Emissions from car heaters pass under the radar: “Remarkable”

In winter, the car heaters run hot, but when the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation examined the emissions from the fuel-powered heaters, it was found that they are both extensive and completely unregulated.

Being able to sit in a heated car even on a cold January morning is appreciated by most people and also from an environmental point of view, the car heater has certain advantages; both engine wear and fuel consumption during cold starts are reduced.

But what is less known is that the fuel-powered car heaters through their own exhaust pipe also emit large amounts of air pollutants – something that the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation believes has so far passed under the radar.

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– It is remarkable that car heaters have their own exhaust pipe that is not covered by the same rules as exhaust fumes from the car’s engine. If the heater’s emissions of carbon dioxide took place from the ordinary exhaust pipe, it would affect both the EU system for green car classification and the Swedish bonus malus system, says the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation’s chairman Johanna Sandahl.

The unknown exhaust pipe

According to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, the most serious are emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides and particles from the car heaters’ exhaust pipes. Emissions also occur in urban areas and living environments in winter when the air is already at its most dangerous to health.

– Diesel and petrol-powered car heaters also cause large emissions of carbon dioxide, corresponding to 50,000 tonnes per year or about half a percent of passenger cars’ total carbon dioxide emissions. It may not sound that serious, but several car models would not be able to meet the limit for environmental bonuses if the carbon dioxide emissions from the built-in heaters are taken into account. Especially not now when the rules are tightened in April, says Johanna Sandahl.

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As an example, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation mentions that only twelve of 25 Volvo hybrids would be approved. Almost half of Volvo’s bonus hybrids will thus in practice emit more than what the regulations approve.

Passes emission requirements

There is no information on how many fuel-powered car heaters are in use in the country, so to get an idea of ​​the extent of the fuel heaters’ emissions, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has contacted researchers, manufacturers, car testing companies, authorities and other experts.

– The car heaters go through a minor inspection at the EU-regulated new car registration. This control does not measure the number of particles and is performed in an environment that is not comparable to the cold Nordic climate where the heaters are usually used. After the new car registration, there is no follow-up of the emissions from the heaters, says Johanna Sandahl.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation now wants to see stricter rules for emissions from diesel and petrol-powered car heaters, that they are checked and that the manufacturers report which emissions the heater causes.

– We turn to the government with these requirements, which we think are in line with the high goals and ambitions to be a country at the forefront when it comes to the climate issue. The transport sector is a big challenge and a big focus in climate change, and then such a thing should not go under the radar, says Johanna Sandahl.

Fuel-powered car heaters are becoming increasingly popular

There are two main models of car heaters: electric and fuel powered. The electric motors run on electricity from the car’s battery or from an external electrical outlet.

The fuel-powered car heaters are powered by the car’s own fuel, diesel or petrol, and are not tied to a physical charging station. They are more expensive than electric variants, but are perceived as more flexible as they can be used anywhere and anytime.

On many new cars, different types of heaters are installed already at the time of purchase, this is especially true for diesel cars and plug-in hybrids.

Source: Swedish Society for Nature Conservation


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