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What Is A Low Emission Vehicle? 


If you're wondering, “what is a low emission vehicle?” The low emission vehicle or the LEV refers to any car that emits cleaner gases to ensure less air pollution. 

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All vehicles emit certain unburnt hydrocarbons to the atmosphere. All these emissions negatively impact the atmosphere causing higher levels of pollution. 

Governments across the years worked hard on developing standards to tighten and restrict the number of emissions from automobiles to the atmosphere to protect the environment. One of the strictest automobile emission standards is the low emission vehicles or the LEV-II, which originated in California back in 2009.

This article provides you with all you need to know about “what is a low emission vehicle?” First, it highlights the history of air pollution and automotive emission standards that explain how the low emission vehicle was held to the environment. Finally, the article lists good examples of the best low emission cars in the industry. 

What is a low emission vehicle?

Since the 1960s, government agencies have worked very hard on improving air quality by restricting the allowed automobile emission to the atmosphere. Many governments enforced installing the three-way catalytic converter while other governments enforced using the computer-controlled electronic fuel injection.

California was the leading state in creating what's known as the low emission vehicle or the LEV-II. The low emission vehicle strict the allowed emission rate below 1%, which is significantly lower than the allowed standard back in the 1960s of 5%. 

After California, seven more states decided to implement and adopt this low emission vehicle system. These states include Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, and Connecticut.

So, what exactly is the low emission vehicle?

A low emission vehicle refers to the type of vehicle that does not emit many bad gases to the atmosphere. Although this definition is simple enough, it doesn't really cover all the details behind the low emission vehicles. This is because States and automakers created tons of different low emission vehicles that range in the amount of reduced bad gas coming out of the tailpipe. 

In general, California has considered the stricter states regarding low emission vehicles with their CAL LEV or what's known as the California low emission vehicle. However, as we indicated earlier, many other states incorporated and adopted the CAL LEV as well. 

What classes are low emission cars? 

Low emission vehicles are not all the same. They have different classes that depend heavily on reducing the overall emission coming out of the exhaust tailpipe. Here are some of the common terminology that you might come across when reading about the low emission cars:

  • TLEV-Transitional Low-Emission Vehicle

The first type of low emission vehicle is the TLEV or transitional low emission vehicle. This phrase referred to all low emission vehicles back in 2004. 

  • LEV-Low-Emission Vehicle

After 2004, all light vehicles work enforced for the LEV or low emission vehicle 

  • ULEV-Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicle

The ultra-low emission vehicle or the ULEV car refers to any vehicle that emits 50% fewer pollutants stat any other model in the same year. 

  • SULEV-Super Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicle

The Super ultra-low emission vehicle or the SULEV refers to any vehicle that emits 90% fewer pollutants than any other model in the same year. 

  • PZEV-Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle

The partial zero-emission vehicle refers to any car with a warranty of 150,000 miles or 15 years with zero evaporative emissions. 

  • AT PZEV-Advanced Technology

The advanced technology PZEV refers to any vehicle with 150,000 miles or 15 years warranty of zero evaporative emissions along with SULEV standards, and all these vehicles are hybrid. 

  • ZEV-Zero-Emissions Vehicle 

Finally, the zero-emission vehicles referred to an electric car with a hydrogen fuel cell, which claims to emit zero harmful emissions. All these vehicles have 98% less harmful gases than any vehicle for the same model year. 

What are the best low emission cars? 

All modes of experts and automakers work every year to generate cleaner cars that help the environment. Over the years, automakers competed to produce the top low emission cars, and here are some of the best picks: 

  • 2015 BMW i3 

BMW was one of the leading low emission vehicles. The 2015 BMW I3 is a great example featured by the US EPA, indicating it has the lowest emission car in the country. According to EPA, the BMW I3 generates only 40 grams of carbon dioxide for every mile, which is considered an incredibly low emission rate. 

The BMW I3 achieves this low emission rate due to the small 2-cylinder gas engine that does not consume much fuel to generate many byproducts. 

  • 2016 Cadillac ELR 

Who could imagine our luxury vehicle with low emission rates? So Cadillac decided to join the party with its 2016 Cadillac ELR that does not produce any emissions. With only 91 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, 2016 Cadillac ELR is considered one of the impressive low emission vehicles in the nation. 

Therefore, if you're still interested in buying a luxury vehicle, don't worry about harming the environment because, with the 2016 Cadillac ELR, you got what you need! 

  • 2016 Chevrolet Volt

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt was also considered a low emission vehicle since it only produces about 81 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. In addition, this vehicle image a much cleaner exhaust than the previous year, and with the advanced technologies in the engine, drivers were able to achieve up to 41 miles per gallon on the highway. 

  • 2015 Ford C-Max Energi

This special model year of Ford C-Max Energi was featured by the US EPA and received nine points for greenhouse gas score due to the low emission rate of carbon dioxide, which was 225 grams per mile. 

  • 2015 Ford Fusion Energi

Another amazing vehicle by Ford was the 2015 Ford Fusion Energi, which is considered a low emission vehicle. This car produces only 129 grams per mile of carbon dioxide, which is considered a relatively low emission rate for similar cars in the same class. 

  • 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid

The 2015 Honda Accord hybrid was one of the few vehicles that do not have a plug-in powertrain to help reduce the emission rate. However, this vehicle still was featured as one of the lowest emission vehicles with only 188 grams of carbon dioxide per mile in the exhaust. 

  • 2015 Honda Civic Hybrid

The 2015 Honda Civic hybrid was also featured as one of the lowest edition vehicles due to the low carbon dioxide emission rate of only 196 grams per mile. The vehicle also provides great fuel economy of 47 on city roads and 45 on the highways. 

What is the most eco-friendly car in 2021? 

Remember that sometimes you'll hear the term eco-friendly, environmentally friendly, green, or low emission vehicle. All these terms refer to all cars that do not produce any harmful gases and less good atmosphere. So let’s take a closer look at some of the most ecofriendly cars as of 2021:

  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric
  • Mini Cooper SE Hardtop 2 Door
  • Toyota Prius Prime
  • BMW i3s
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Honda Clarity
  • Hyundai Kona Electric
  • Kia Soul Electric
  • Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus
  • Toyota Rav4 Prime AWD
  • Toyota Corolla Hybrid
  • Honda Insight

What are the main benefits of low emission vehicles? 

Low emission vehicles have a lot of benefits not only for the environment but also for the customer's budget. Although it might sound that the low emission vehicles have to improve the air quality only, there are some benefits to the customer's budget directly.

Here are some of the common benefits of low emission vehicles:

  • Clean Air

Air quality is a big concern in many states around the United States. However, when bringing in low emission vehicles and eco-friendly cars, air quality can be improved significantly. With low or zero-emission cars, very little pollution can enter the atmosphere and, therefore, a big improvement in their quality around many of the targeted low air quality regions in the United States. 

  • Healthy climates

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges that faces the environment in the United States and around the globe. When introducing low emission and zero-emission vehicles, we reduce carbon dioxide input to the atmosphere, which reduces the pressure on climate change. 

  • Budget savings

Although low emission vehicles and electric cars are not very cheap, they save a lot in the overall budget down the road. For example, low emission vehicles and electric cars do not need a lot of maintenance. Even if they do,, it is not very expensive compared to gasoline or diesel vehicles. 

Also, customers don't have to worry about paying for gas, which is a big improvement and saving in the customer's yearly budget. Finally, when the air quality and climate change or not as pressing as before, people don't have to worry about paying a lot for healthcare and any other health concern that might cost them a ton on medical bills. But, of course, seeing the improvement in the health care system is not a short-term thing and will take years until we see this impact. 

  • A lot of options

When the low emission vehicles and electric cars were first introduced, there weren't many options for customers to choose from. In addition, they were all limited to small-sized vehicles, which does not satisfy all customers.

Now, automakers compete every year to introduce newer vehicles with more affordable prices along with bigger sizes. They utilize the most advanced technology, especially in the expanded batteries that allow them to drive longer distances than before.

This comes up if you're interested in purchasing a low emission vehicle or an equal friendly car; you don't have to worry about finding your preferred vehicle because there are plenty of options out there. 

  • Clean energy economy expansion 

Electric cars, low emission vehicles, and eco-friendly vehicles are part of a larger economy, the clean energy economy. This economy is not limited to the automobile industry and focuses on improving sustainable alternatives for energy consumption among all sectors of our lives. 

What are the cleanest diesel cars? 

Low emission and clean vehicles are not limited to gasoline vehicles. There are plenty of good options from the diesel category as well. Here's a list of the cleanest diesel cars in the market: 

  • BMW
  • Toyota
  • BMW Mini
  • Ford

These automakers compete every year to produce the cleanest vehicles that produce the least NOx emissions to help improve the environment and attract fans of sustainable, environmentally friendly cars. 


If you're wondering, but the low emission vehicle, the low emission vehicle or what's known as the LEV, refers to any car that does not produce as much pollution as the average vehicle.

The whole idea behind the low emission vehicles is to help the environment by producing less harmful gases through the combustion system. So governments adopted many different standards and restricted the amount of pollution that could go to the atmosphere from many automobiles.

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