'Mythbusters:' Motorcycles more fuel efficient, but pollute more than cars

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Motorcycles have long been appreciated for their fuel efficiency, but they may not be as environmentally friendly as some people believe.

Cars actually produce lower emissions, according to a segment on the Discovery Channel series “MythBusters” that premiered Wednesday.

Kent Johnson, an assistant research engineer at the University of California, Riverside, oversaw the analysis of the data that showed harmful pollutants from the tested motorcycles exceeded those from the cars tested.

On the show, the MythBusters tested three cars and three motorcycles, one each from 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. They measured fuel efficiency as well as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitric oxide emissions.

They found the motorcycles were more fuel efficient and produced less carbon dioxide that the cars. However, the motorcycles emitted more carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitric oxide emissions, all of which pollute the air.

They also outfitted the motorcycles with an aerodynamic bubble they built. Even with that, the cars outperformed the motorcycles in terms of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitric oxide emissions.

Post-show analysis of the show is online at: http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/mythbusters-bikes-and-bullets/.

Johnson, an assistant research engineer at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology at the Bourns College of Engineering, took part in the segment because he and his colleagues at the are among the leaders in advancing the science of vehicle emissions testing from the laboratory, to in-use evaluation, to portable emissions measurement systems.

The researchers have measured the pollution profiles of hundreds of models of cars using dozens of fuel formulations, as well as testing many off-road vehicles, stationary pollution sources, locomotives, port vehicles, harbor craft, and ocean-going vessels.

Johnson was on the set during three days of filming in June in Oakland. He then spent another two days analyzing the results from the portable emission measurement systems. The results were gathered by Global MRV - Clean Air Technologies Division, a Medford, N.Y.-based company that also provided its exclusive emissions measurement technologies for the segment.

Posted by Holly Wagner

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