The nitrogen itself also has a direct cleaning effect, breaking down carbon deposits that can harden on an engine’s moving parts. But while nitrogen-enriched gasoline may provide a slight bump in engine performance, some worry about adding to cars’ already substantial pollution load, especially nitrogen oxide (NOx), which contributes to smog, acid rain and other environmental problems. André L. Boehman, a Penn State University engineering and fuel science professor, says that the addition of more nitrogen to the fuel mix “generally will increase NOx emissions.” Boehman would like to see more research done so we can know for sure if and how much additional NOx pollution is caused by the use of nitrogen-enriched gasoline. Professor Boehman concedes that “the detergent additive may have such beneficial effects on engine operation, fuel system performance and other related features of engine system operation that they outweigh the adverse effect” of increased NOx emissions. “For instance, if improved detergency helps to increase fuel efficiency so that you burn less fuel, you may slightly increase the NOx emissions rate per gram of fuel burned, but end up with lower NOx because you burned fewer grams of fuel.”
The nitrogen in gasoline cleans “gunk” out of the engine, thereby enhancing performance and slightly improving mileage. The fear is that nitrogen contributes to the NOx emissions, which stay in the atmosphere up to 120 years and contribute to the greenhouse effect. Shell Oil says that the NOx emissions do not come from nitrogen in the gasoline but from nitrogen in the air reacting with gasoline. It is unclear a) whether this is the case and more nitrogen won’t add more NOx, and b) even if nitrogen does create more NOx emissions, if the improved mileage is enough to offset or compensate for that.
So yes, it seems that nitrogen-enriched gas is slightly more efficient but it is still unclear whether the efficiency is worth it.
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