With car manufacturers and emissions taking the headlines this past week, I asked Parkland Automotive Program Director Jon Ross a few questions related to emissions.
Q: How are emissions created in cars?
A: Emissions are the by-products of combustion from the internal combustion engine, which usually operate on carbon based fuels like gasoline and diesel. Emissions are also created by gasoline evaporation.
Q: Where/how are emissions tested?
A: In central Illinois we do not have government required emission testing, however, if the “Service Engine Soon” light is on in your car or truck, your emission control systems “thinks” it is producing more emission than are allowed by law for the model year of your vehicle. Since 1996 light duty cars and trucks have been required to report/record the operating status of emission monitoring systems–things like your catalytic converter or oxygen sensors. If these monitors detect an error, the service light will be turned on. These errors are based on numerical values in computer code–basically a bunch of “if ___then ___” sequences.
Q: So what are the car companies in question alleged to have done to the cars in more technical terms?
A: Vehicles are allowed to produce a certain amount of emissions based on federal law. Then the vehicle computer system must monitor the emission control system for the life of the vehicle. The asuumption is – if the vehicle monitoring systems are ok – then the vehicle must still be in compliance with the legal amount of emissions allowed. When and how these monitors run is all based on computer code. From the reports I’ve seen, it appears that the details on when (run time, engine tempreature, rpm etc. ) the emissions monitors should run is in question.
Q: Do Parkland students learn about emissions systems?
We study the required emission components of gasoline engines. These emission systems impact how a vehicle performs. Poor performance could be related to an emission system malfunction. Emission components or control systems basically fall into three groups – evaporative emissions (stored fuel evaporation), fuel adaptation (changes to fuel delivery while running), and catalytic converters (after combustion treatment). There are many specific emission componets, but they will always have something to do with the emmissions created by either storing fuel or burning it.
Q: To what diagnostics systems and facilities do Parkland automotive students have access?
A: The automotive lab in our Parkhill Applied Technology Center contains 28,000 square feet of workspace designed to reflect the workflow of a modern dealership. In addition to work benches, tools and equipment from the industry’s to vendors, we have 15 lift work stations (three fitted with Hunter’s HawkEye® alignment systems); flat work stations with room for 10 additional cars; Chassis and Engine Dynos for engine testing and tuning training–the only educational dynos in a 100-mile radius of Champaign–Mustang DM110SE Chassis Dynamometer & Stuska Track Master Water Brake Dynamometer.
Q: The Parkland Motorsports program is quite unique for automotive training. What is it?
A:The Parkland Motorsports program was started to enhance learning, develop additional skills, and provide networking opportunities for students in the Parkland College automotive program. The program offers a unique oppurtunity for students to learn beyond the classroom and take pride in their program and school. Right now, for example, students are preparing for the Champaign County Sports Car Club autocross race on Sunday in Rantoul. Several student drivers will be competing with Parkland’s Civic and Mustang.