Sunday, December 14, 2003

I've been pondering some things about Japanese automobiles. Here's one of them, in the form of an email that I sent to, an air pollution monitoring site sponsored by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a group out of Chicago whom I worked for in 2001 while I was studying there. Overall it's a great organization, it is one of the few non-profits that I've seen where I really felt like they were on their game and they were effecting positive policy change on a local and larger scale. Here's the email:

Hey there,
I recently moved to Japan for the next year or so to teach English and since I've been here I've noticed some interesting things. The one I'm most curious about is if the trajectory of diesel exhaust makes any difference in air pollution.
I ride my bike to work every day and I've noticed that all of the large diesel vehicles such as buses and trucks have their exhaust pipes at the standard automobile level. Consequently, I get a face full of fumes when they pass me. I hate this, but I could see some possible benefits to having a low trajectory for diesel exhaust; namely that particulates could possibly settle out faster and maybe the fumes would not rise quite so high into the atmosphere. So, my question to you is, is there any possible difference as far as immediate human impact and long term atmospheric impact is concerned? Are there any studies on the matter?
Any info would be quite interesting. It's not as though I can really effect any policy change here as I am not skilled in Japanese nor am I able to vote here, but for my own edification it would be nice to know.

Thanks, Aaron Ritz

I'm also really curious about the way they do the licensing here. They have two levels of car plates here. The yellow plates are for cars with displacement of 660cc or less in their engines. These cars are cheaper and also have the benefit of being taxed at a much lower rate as well as cheaper insurance. Something that surprised me was to see that the Toyota Prius, the hybrid car had a white plate, the same as the rest of the license plates in Japan. I suppose this is because the car has a larger displacement than is allowed at 1100 cc (approximately, thanks Toyota website) but the car also gets awesome gas mileage, much better than many of the yellow plate cars here. It seems to me that the car should be gauged more on its mileage than on its displacement. This shouldn't be to difficult to measure since each car here goes in for a checkup and taxation every 2 years.

Please tell me if my ideas make any sense or if I'm just thinking too hard.

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