New Jersey may end tailpipe-emission test for older cars

A vehicle inspector conducts a tailpipe emission test. (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)

A vehicle inspector conducts a tailpipe emission test. (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)

Proposed changes for New Jersey’s vehicle inspection program would eliminate emissions tests for older cars.

Instead, the state would rely on diagnostic equipment in vehicles to check emissions in order to end the traditional tailpipe inspections for about 200,000 cars built before 1996.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said that change would hurt the environment and public health.

“These older cars are the biggest polluters out there. A car that’s 15, 20 years old pollutes sometimes 10 times more than a new car,” he said. “And when you compare it to a hybrid like a Prius or something like that, it’s 25 or 30 times.”

Just 15 percent of the older cars haven’t passed emissions inspections, according to the Motor Vehicle Commission, and thousands of the older models are taken off the road every month.

The Commission says the proposed inspection changes would save money, said state officials,    because using the onboard diagnostic equipment is more economical and takes less time than the tailpipe checks.

But Tittel said the savings aren’t worth the risks of increasing pollution.

“I also believe in New Jersey, which has some of the worst air quality in the nation, not one county meets the standard for ground-level ozone, that it has a big impact,” he said. “EPA should step in and not allow this to happen because it violates the state implementation plan under the Clean Air Act.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.