By Glade Sowards
I work in the Mobile Sources section at DEQ—we’re the folks who look at emissions from vehicles.
A few weeks back, a couple of us from the Mobile section bumped into DEQ director Amanda Smith as we were coming back from a meeting. She told us she was glad to run into us because her family is considering trading in their older car, and she wanted to get our advice on the best options for purchasing a clean vehicle.
Vehicle emission standards are a complicated mix of two programs—one managed by EPA and the other by California—and a mind-numbing alphabet soup of tiers and bin levels (e.g., Tier 2 Bin 5, LEV II, SULEV II, PZEV). It can be pretty confusing.
We hear variations on Amanda’s question a lot in Mobile, but her request made us think about all the other people who want to make a green choice when they buy a car and want clear information. So we decided to put together a Clean Car Fact Sheet to help folks know what to look for when they purchase a vehicle.
The first thing you want to look for is the Smog Rating that’s included on the window stickers of all new cars. The dirtiest vehicles have a Smog Rating of one, while the cleanest vehicles get a rating of 10. The average new car has a rating of around 5. So if you’re in the market for a new car, simply look at the Smog Rating on the window sticker and select the highest rating for the vehicle type that meets your needs. Ideally, we recommend trying to get a clean vehicle with a score of 8, 9, or 10.
Shopping around online before you buy? Interested in a used vehicle? No problem. You can compare cars by make, model and year on the Department of Energy’s fuel economy website. You might be surprised and find a minivan that has lower emissions than a compact car. If you want to look for the most environmentally-friendly vehicles, check out EPA-certified SmartWay vehicles. The website lets you search for cars by state so you can see what your options are here in Utah.
Once you know the ropes, you can become a savvy car buyer and find just the right vehicle to meet your needs and help the environment at the same time. Check it out!
I am an environmental scientist in the Division of Air Quality Mobile Source and Transportation Section. I have a B.A. in Economics and Environmental Studies from Grinnell College and an M.S. in Forestry from Michigan Technological University. I worked at the Utah Energy Office for seven years before coming to work at DAQ. I enjoy playing music, road trips, camping, packrafting and hiking with my girlfriend Elizabeth and our dog, Whiskey.