The latest trend to cool off in the summertime is the “car wash”, in which car parts are stored at a -20 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) or colder for up to six weeks to cool down.
The idea is that it’s cheaper and quicker to have your car’s parts stored at the proper temperature than to spend time trying to get the parts offsite.
But while that might seem like a win-win situation, the reality is not always so rosy.
According to researchers at the University of Queensland, this strategy can actually increase the amount of carbon dioxide emissions produced by a vehicle.
“The research indicates that even though the vehicle may be at a lower temperature, the CO2 emissions from the car wash are significantly higher than from the actual assembly process,” says Dr Andrew Kramar, who led the study.
“This suggests that it is not the quality of the components but rather the temperature of the vehicle that determines the amount and intensity of emissions.”
According to the study, the researchers found that the amount emitted from car parts in the carwash was three to four times greater than that from the manufacturing process.
“While this might be expected given the lower temperature in the process, it suggests that the vehicle assembly process has the potential to increase emissions from all components of the car,” Dr Kramary says.
“Even though it might seem obvious that a low temperature is preferable, the research demonstrates that there is still a large range of temperatures and conditions that can influence the emissions.”
Car wash and car parts research also showed that the use of carbon filters could reduce the emissions.
However, Dr Kromar cautions that the results are just one small part of the story.
“We know that some types of carbon filter are more efficient at absorbing CO2 than others, but we are still learning how much CO2 they actually absorb,” he says.
“The next step is to look at the environmental impact of other carbon filter technologies, like those using oxygen.”
“Carwash and car part research is an important step in understanding how we can reduce emissions and help to minimise the environmental impacts of the manufacture of new cars.”
The researchers say more research is needed to determine whether the process is effective in reducing emissions.