Tailpipe Emissions | These are the chemicals produced by a vehicle as it runs

Tailpipe emissions


These are the chemicals produced by a vehicle as it runs (1):

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • Hydrocarbons (HC)
  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
  • Particulate matter (PM10)
  • Ozone (O3)

Carbon dioxide (CO2)


The combustion of fossil fuels (oil, gasoline, coal, etc.); deforestation.

Every litre of gasoline that is burned produces about 2.3 kg of CO2.(2)

Impacts: Responsible for over 60% of the enhanced greenhouse effect, causing climate change.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx)

Sources: Residential and agricultural fertilizers; high temperature combustion of fossil fuels; incinerators.
Impacts: NOx is 200-300 times more effective than CO2 in greenhouse warming, a major compenent of smog, suppresses vegetation growth.

Hydrocarbons (HC)

Sources: Incomplete combustion of fossil fuel.
Impacts: Reacts with NOx and sunlight to form photochemical pollution (smog), mainly ground-level ozone.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2)

Sources: Combustion of fossil fuels, especially in locomotives, large ships, and construction equipment; mineral extraction from ore, gasoline from oil.
Impacts: Forms acid rain; forms atmospheric particles, reducing visibility and aggravafting existing heart and lung diseases.

Particulate matter (PM10)

Sources: Combustion of fossil fuels, forest and stubble fires, mechanical wear of vehicles parts (break lining, tires, etc.).
Impacts: Particles enter deeply into lungs, adhere to tissue; aggravates asthma, causes respiratory illness, causes premature death.

Ozone (O3)

Sources: Ozone is not produced directly by vehicles. Ground-level ozone is produced when nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as xylene, react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. NOx and VOCs are called ozone precursors.
Impacts: Respiratory illness and distress, ozone makes people more sensitive to allergens, which in turn trigger asthma attacks




  1. FYI, NOx is not 200-300 times more potent than CO2 in terms of global warming potential (GWP). Nitrous oxide (N2O) DOES have a GWP of 310 (times CO2), but NOx is only composed of less than 10% N2O.

  2. dave, do you happen to know what the GWp for NOx actually is?

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