vehicles

Science Wednesday: Riding in Style

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection.Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Katie Lubinsky

Imagine the swooshing sound of air being vacuumed. This is what I heard the second I stepped into the car. As I looked inside, I noticed the jungle of wires, plugs and Back to the Future-like machines. While maybe not as cool as a DeLorean, the vehicle I just stepped into might just be a clean air scientist’s dream ride.

Lucky for me I was riding with one—EPA’s own Gayle Hagler (someone I’ve blogged about previously). Gayle invited me to ride along with her in EPA’s tripped out science vehicle, so I could learn more about the Geospatial Mapping of Air Pollutants (GMAP) project.

Through the project, Gayle and other researchers are designing, developing and utilizing state-of-the-art mobile measurement systems to gain insights into the sources of air pollution and the impacts emissions have on public health.

This isn’t your ordinary car. What started out as an everyday, economy-sized, gasoline-powered vehicle was transformed into an electric-powered, zero emissions, air quality ‘sniffing’ machine that can travel up to 100 miles, give or take depending on the speed. Gayle and her EPA colleagues use it to measure air pollution on and near highways.

From the outside, the car looks normal except for a small sphere-like ‘hat’ on top. This is where the high-tech GPS antenna sits and gives the car’s location by the second. Inside is where you really notice the differences. Here, there are many machines that take in outside air as the car drives, which analyze the amount and types of pollutants being emitted by other vehicles.

I’ve never ridden in an electric car before and especially one with top-of-the-line air pollution monitoring equipment in it. I felt as if I were a character in Back to the Future with all the science going on but relieved to notice Gayle was way more down to earth than crazed “Doc Brown.” As we rolled, she explained some of the data activities going on around us like how she and her colleagues collect measurements on pollutants important to the Agency, including black carbon, carbon monoxide and fine particles.

I felt very privileged to ride in such style—an innovative EPA vehicle that measures air quality as part of our effort to inform policy from a local to national level.

About the author: Katie Lubinsky is a student contractor working with EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Question of the Week: What do you drive, and why?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Got wheels? There are as many reasons you have a car, truck, or whatever you drive, as there are types of vehicles from which to choose. But there are also trade-offs in your vehicle choice that affect the environment and your wallet.

What do you drive, and why?

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

¿Tienes ruedas? Hay muchas razones para escoger su medio de transporte, sea un automóvil, un camión, o lo que usted decida conducir, así como hay una gran variedad de vehículos que puede escoger. Asimismo, se hacen trueques al seleccionar su vehículo que afectan el medio ambiente y su bolsillo.

¿Qué tipo de vehículo conduce y por qué?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.