UC Riverside engineers showcased new portable emissions measurement system that allows researchers, regulators and vehicle designers to obtain real-time data on how much pollution a vehicle emits while on the road. Called PEMS, the technology allows researchers to install an onboard computer to essentially any vehicle, vessel or aircraft and measure how much pollution ends up in the air.

Unlike existing technology that requires vehicles and engines to be tested in laboratory simulations, PEMS make it possible for testers to obtain pollution data that accounts for road grades, weather and other real- world factors such as how aggressive a driver can be while on the road, according to a report in the San Bernardino Sun.

“These are tools that measure performance and the emissions at the same time,” said Kent Johnson, an assistant research engineer for the Center for Environmental Research and Technology at UC Riverside.

Although the concept for PEMS technology goes back to around 2000, the devices have just recently become accurate enough to be useful, Johnson said.

Johnson’s colleagues demonstrated the technology last week at a conference at the Riverside, CA, campus convened to show the technology to engine manufacturers and environmental regulators.

Although PEMS technology isn’t quite as accurate as the tools available in a lab to measure pollution, standard tests do not allow for researchers to study the wide range of applications for heavy-duty engines, such as those used in big rig applications.

“It basically allows you to test more vehicles at a lower cost,” said Tom Durbin, an associate engineer for the Center for Environmental Research and Technology.