Emission Control Milestones In Auto History

1894 Svante August Arrhenius begins calculations that lead to the conclusion that doubling of C02 would lead to average temperature increase of 5 to 6ºC, and that increasing use of fossil fuels could create this problem. According to Arrhenius, "It would allow all our descendants, even if they only be those of a distant future, to live under a warmer sky and a less harsh environment than we were granted."

1945 Los Angeles County residents referred to the city's pollution haze as "smog," (combination of smoke and fog)

1945 The City of Los Angeles begins its air pollution control program, establishing the Bureau of Smoke Control in its health department.

1947 California Governor Earl Warren signs into law the Air Pollution Control Act, authorizing the creation of an Air Pollution Control District in every county of the state.

1948 Arie J. Haagen-Smit, a chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, started research into the causes of smog

1948 The Los Angeles County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) is established. It is the first of its kind in the nation.

1950s Ozone caused eye irritation, respiratory problems and damage to materials.

1950 President Harry Truman says government and industry should join forces in a battle against smog

1952 Dr. Arie Haagen-Smit (“Father of Pollution Control”) discovers the nature and causes of photochemical smog. He determines that nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons in the presence of ultraviolet radiation from the sun forms smog (a key component of which is ozone).

1955 The Federal Air Pollution Control Act was implemented. providing federally allocated funds for research into causal analysis and control of car-emission pollution

1955 Federal Air Pollution Control Act (forerunner of the 1963 Clean Air Act) authorizes the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to work towards a better understanding of the causes and effects of air pollution.

1956 Eugene Houdry receives a patent for his catalytic converter.

1956 Texas' first air quality initiative is established when the State Department of Health begins air sampling in the state.

1959 California enacts legislation requiring the state Department of Public Health to establish air quality standards and necessary controls for motor vehicle emissions

1959 California becomes the first state to impose automotive emissions standards. In addition, the state indicates that it will require a "blow-by" valve to recycle crankcase emissions.

1959 The Automobile Manufacturers Association announced that PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) devices would be featured on 1961 model year American cars sold in California.

1960 California Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board, formed.

1960 Federal Motor Vehicle Act of 1960 calls for further research and development into the control of car emissions.

1960 Dr. Haagen-Smit, became the ARB’s first chairman

1961 Meeting the 1959 mandate, California requires the first automotive emissions control technology--positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) be installed on all new vehicles sold in the state.

1962 Eugene Houdry’s catalytic converter was patented

1963 First Federal Clean Air Act was passed. The act empowered the Secretary of the federal Health, Education, and Welfare to define air quality criteria based on scientific studies. In addition, the act provided grants to state and local air pollution control agencies.

1965 Reliable measurements of ozone concentrations begin to be recorded in California. The maximum one-hour ozone concentration for this year in the South Coast Air Basin (LA area) is 0.58 parts per million (nearly five times greater than the health-based national standard of < 0.12 ppm that will be adopted in California in 1971).

1965 The Texas Clean Air Act establishes the Texas Air Control Board, in the Department of Health, to monitor and regulate air pollution in the state.

1965 Federal Clean Air Act of 1963 is amended by the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965. Direct regulation of air pollution by the federal government is provided for, and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare is directed to establish auto emission standards. According to the Act, the first federal emission standards will be with the 1968 models (which were the same standards California had set for their 1966 models. These standards were reductions from the 1963 emissions: 72% reduction for hydrocarbons (HC), 56% reduction for carbon monoxide (CO), and 100% reduction for crankcase hydrocarbons.

1966 Auto tailpipe emission standards for hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide are adopted by the California Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board. They are the first of their kind in the nation. California Highway Patrol begins random roadside inspections of vehicle smog control devices.

1967 Federal Air Quality Act of 1967 is enacted. Establishes framework for defining "air quality control regions" based on meteorological and topographical factors of air pollution.

1968 Passage of the federal "Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act," requires the other 49 states to adhere to the same emission control standards as California.

1968 Air injection systems are installed

1968 & 1969 Tests showed that more than half of the cars for these model years failed to meet the emission standards.

1969 A presidential order creates the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

1969 First state Ambient Air Quality Standards are promulgated by California for total suspended particulates, photochemical oxidants, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide

1970 The first Earth Day held April 22, 1970.

1970 Federal Clean Air Act Amendments enacted. They serve as the principal source of statutory authority for controlling air pollution. The Act establishes a basic U.S. program for controlling air pollution. States are required to develop implementation plans. Further, the act limited HC and CO emissions 90% from what they emitted in 1970 to be effective by the 1975 models. They also limited nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions 90% from what they emitted in 1971 to go into effect by the 1976 model year. In order to enforce these standards, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was required to perform compliance tests, enforce performance warranties from manufacturers, and impose a $10,000 per vehicle fine for those that violated the standards.

1971 President Richard Nixon signed the National Air Quality Control Act, which called for a 90 percent reduction in automobile emissions by 1975. The act also tightened air-pollution controls and fines in other industries.

1971 Evaporative emission control (EVAP) systems become mandatory on all newly manufactured cars.

1972 Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) becomes a standard emissions control device

1973 The Clean Air Act was passed, mandating that positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) emission control devices be installed on new automobiles.

1973 EPA granted a one year extension for HC, CO, and NOx standards to be met.

1974 EPA granted another one year extension for HC, CO, and NOx standards to allow motor vehicle manufacturers more time to improve fuel economy.

1975 Catalytic converter was adopted for most 1975 American and import cars.

1975 New “two-way” (hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide) catalytic converters are developed

1975 EPA granted another one year extension for HC and CO emissions which set the deadline at 1978 for both compounds.

1975 U.S. domestic cars install catalytic converters to cut emissions.

1975 Catalytic converters are universally installed on new automobiles. The reduce hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions by 96 percent and nitrogen oxides by 75 percent.

1975 As part of the EPA's overall automotive emission control program, unleaded gasoline was introduced for automobiles equipped with catalytic control devices.

1976 California limits lead in gasoline.

1977 The ARB laboratory in El Monte, California was dedicated to Arie Haagen-Smit.

1977 Arie Haagen-Smit, Former Caltech researcher and known as the “Father of Pollution Control” died of lung cancer two months after the El Monte lab dedication.

1977 The Federal Clean Air Act was amended to grant another extension on the deadline for HC, CO, emissions to meet their standards. The NOx standard was increased from .4 grams per mile (g/mi.) to 1.0 g/mi., and the deadline was extended to 1981 or later. EPA also set standards for lead, allowing refiners to add, at the most, .8 grams of lead per gallon of gasoline (g/gal). Small refiners, as the exception, could add up to 2.65 g/gal until October 1, 1982, when they needed to comply with the .8 g/gal standard.

1980 New “three-way”(hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide) catalytic converters are developed

1980 In an effort to monitor emissions, onboard diagnostics and oxygen sensors are installed on automobiles

1980 EPA lowered the lead standard to .5 g/gal. Diesel particulate emissions are established for the 1982-1984 model years. EPA also required a 90% reduction in CO emissions for heavy-duty trucks to be effective for the 1984 model year.

1985 LA begins using air modeling studies as the basis of developing air quality policies.

1990 FCAA amendments authorized the EPA to designate geographic areas according to air pollution severity. The South Coast area (LA) was the only area nationwide to be designated as "extreme." The FCAA amendments include sanctions of losing federal funding for highways to those areas that do not comply with the federal guidelines within the specified time frame.

1990 California approves standards for Cleaner Burning Fuels and Low and Zero Emission Vehicles

1996 Big seven automakers commit to manufacture and sell Zero Emission Vehicles.

1997 A report from EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards noted that the air quality has improved for all of the six "criteria" pollutants. All years in the 1990s were better than any year in the 1980s showing steady improvement. However actual emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) between 1970 and 1997 increased 11 percent.

1998 California adopted its LEVII emission standards for most mini vans, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) up to 8500 pounds gross vehicle weight to reduce emissions to passenger car levels by 2007.

1999 The California Fuel Cell Partnership, a public-private venture to demonstrate fuel cell vehicles in California, formally began. The Partnership includes auto manufactures, energy providers, fuel cell manufacturers, and the State of California.

1999 In California consumer products rules were adopted to cut smog-forming emissions and volatile organic compounds (VOC) from an estimated 2,500 common household products ranging from nail polish remover to glass cleaners. The Board approved a new set of gasoline rules that will ban the additive MTBE while preserving all the air-quality benefits obtained from the state's cleaner-burning gasoline program.

*Since 1968 automobile exhaust emissions have been reduced nationally by more than 90 percent.


More Emission Control Information:

Emission Control System Overview
Emission Control System Glossary

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