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Mythbusters Claims Motorcycles Produce More Emissions Than Cars

In what is sure to generate controversy, the popular Discovery Channel series Mythbusters is reporting that motorcycles produce more emissions than cars and are not the green vehicles previously thought.


Mythbusters, an Emmy-nominated series, aims to uncover the truth behind popular myths and legends by mixing scientific method "with gleeful curiosity and plain old-fashioned ingenuity to create a signature style of experimentation," according to the Mythbusters website. In tonight's episode co-hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage use that gleeful curiosity to prove that motorcycles produce more emissions than cars.

According to the Mythbusters website, the show, which kicks off its latest season, will have "Adam and Jamie test the myth that a motorcycle is a greener and cleaner machine than a car, while Kari, Tory, and Grant unleash the first RPG in MythBusters history to see if a bullet could take out a bazooka." Hence, the show is titled "Bikes and Bazookas."

Global MRV (Measure, Report, and Verify), a developer of technical solutions for vehicle performance, announced the results of the test that comprehensively debunked the myth that motorcycles are more environmentally friendly than cars. Global MRV, working with the Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) at the University of California at Riverside, provided the patented technology and consultation to deliver test results, showing that motorcycles produce more emissions than cars.

Working with Dr. Kent Johnson, an assistant research engineer at CE-CERT, the Mythbusters team aimed to uncover the truth behind a long-held myth, mixing scientific methodologies with curiosity to deliver their signature style of experimentation.

David Miller, Chief Technology Officer of Global MRV – Clean Air Technologies Division, was contacted by Mythbusters to provide the only portable emissions measurement system (PEMS) technology available for this type of testing. The tests included three cars and three motorcycles, one each from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. The team evaluated vehicle emissions (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and oxides of nitrogen) resulting from the on-road operation of vehicles. Three days of taping on-site in Northern California in June 2011, and two days of test analysis performed by Brian Beckmann of Global MRV, along with third-party analysis provided by Dr. Kent Johnson, delivered the final results.

“I was here to validate the conclusions made based on the measurements,” said Johnson. “Basically, I showed that the process was scientifically sound.”

Global MRV scientists and engineers have measured the emissions profiles of numerous vehicles, vehicle types, engine configurations, and fuel types, as well as testing on-road, off-road, and non-road vehicles: stationary pollution sources, locomotives, port vehicles, harbor craft, and ocean-going vessels.

“We have developed the only technology that makes it possible to determine how a vehicle is actually performing; our EPA-verified, patented technology enables us to determine all aspects of a vehicle’s operations, including emissions,” said David Munro, CEO of Global MRV. “Our techniques and state-of-the-art equipment and instrumentation, with various government-approved methods (Before and After, Concurrent, and Side by Side testing) enable us to verify actual real-world impact, versus manufacturer claims.”

Munro continued, “What we do for vehicle owners, fleet managers and municipalities is provide clear and verifiable information that lets them make informed decisions on how to improve performance and lower emissions. The fact is that Global MRV has the technology to dispel any myth with regard to what does and does not work with any type of combustion engine vehicle.”

It's not that surprising that Mythbusters is able to make this claim in some respects because manufacturers have been producing cars for years that meet strict California Air Resource Board requirements for partial and zero-emission vehicles. Companies like Honda have prided themselves on meeting those requirements. Manufacturers are almost greeted with scorn if they announce a vehicle is only a partial zero-emission vehicle.

Motorcycles because of their high fuel economy, though, have not faced the same pressure for better emissions. It was almost assumed that because they were less fuel dependent they were automatically cleaner. That's the assumption that Mythbusters puts to rest. It will be interesting to see if the motorcycle community revs up its choppers in protest.

Check local listings for your schedule for Mythbusters. "Bikes and Bazookas" airs on Sept. 28. You can find future car-themed episodes on Oct. 5 at 3 p.m. when Jamie and Adam test the stuff of nightmares in Underwater Car. On the same day, just three hours later, Adam and Jamie get down and dirty with the myth that a muddy motorcar gets better gas mileage than its clean cousin.


Adam (not verified)    October 20, 2011 - 11:41PM

What a surprising result! I was leaning in favor of the motorcycle being the most efficient across the board. In the end it does make sense. It is hard to pack a lot of the fuel saving and waste converting technologies into small or simple engines. I really enjoyed the RPG vs bullet myth. There’s nothing like watching a good explosion in HD. Good HD service is important to me. I have HD service from my employer, DISH Network. They have the most HD channels available nationally and my HD service is Free for Life on my qualified package. I kind of saw that result coming from the RPG tests. Still very fun to watch.