How to make Scooter environmentally friendly?
September 10, 2008 2:49 PM   Subscribe

How can I make my Yamaha Zuma Scooter/Moped more environmentally friendly?

I have a 2005 2 stroke 49cc Yamaha Zuma scooter. I drive this for a variety of reasons, but have really come to appreciate the gas efficiency as of this past year. Many people have told me that scooters/mopeds actually pollute and emit more toxins then an average car. I was unable to find much info about this online, but still want to find out if I can improve on this at all.

I am not an expert in cars, but would using a full synthetic oil help or hurt how environmentally friendly this engine is? What other options would I have, even if I have to modify parts like the exhaust?

Any websites about scooters and the environment, or helpful forum links are appreciated.
posted by dpollitt to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
2 strokes are pretty dirty, no matter what you do and yours particularly so since it doesn't have a catalytic converter. I don't think there's much to be done, but considering you should get somewhere around 100 mpg, I wouldn't worry about it too much. You're doing more than most.
posted by electroboy at 3:07 PM on September 10, 2008

This is about boat engines but the same principles applies to your scooter as well.
posted by uandt at 3:14 PM on September 10, 2008

I don't know about the oil, but I'd say the fuel efficiency alone probably makes it better than most modes of transportation. If it really bothers you, I'd drive it less. I don't suggest dumping it and buying a cleaner model, because A: that's expensive and fuel efficiency gains on something that efficient won't pay off in the life of the thing, and B: that's another one manufactured, meaning chemicals, energy and materials were used to make yet another, straining the environment even more. Just keep your concerns in mind when you're in the market for a new one (preferably because your current one wore out). If you wait long enough, there may be a nice, fast, long range electric one in your price range on the market.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:17 PM on September 10, 2008

I think I spoke too soon. It looks like Envirofit has come up with a way to really clean up two stroke engines.
posted by electroboy at 3:22 PM on September 10, 2008

You could look into adapting your riding style to reduce fuel consumption - accelerating gently, avoiding braking, anticipating traffic, choice of gears, correct tyre pressure and so on. There are plenty of resources online on this subject, although the majority are aimed at car drivers. Still, there may be some mileage in it.

Do you see what I did there?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:22 PM on September 10, 2008

Oh, I think I should clarify what happens in a two-stroke engine. 2 strokes are small, easier to build, and fairly reliable, which is why you see them in small machines, including things like leaf blowers, lawnmowers, and your scooter. They pump in a mixture of air and gas into a chamber while the exaust is also open on the chamber. There could be a valve on the exhaust, like in a 4 stroke engine, but there isn't because it keeps the part count down. This site has a good animation. The problem here is that the gas-air mixture is being used to push out the exhaust, meaning some gas goes out uncombusted, and before gas has been burned, it has more harmful effects on the environment and people.

Diesel machines with 2-strokes are the exception, as diesel engines use fuel injection, so the air and fuel are separate until the last moment before combustion.

Can you tell I'm not an engineer?
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:24 PM on September 10, 2008

You could pull out the gas-guts and replace it with an all electric system. While my recent experience isn't one to model after, I do know of others who've had successful conversions.
posted by nomisxid at 3:43 PM on September 10, 2008

Even if you rode it wide open 24 hours a day you're levels of magnitude greener than most Americans.

Ride it, enjoy it, and more power to you.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:54 PM on September 10, 2008

Man, is it hard to get tailpipe emissions data for 49cc 2-stroke engines from free sources on the net. I think they're exempt from EPA testing or something. The closest I could get was this PDF from the EPA, which gives as a guideline for 2-stroke engines, 9.66 g/mi of THC (total hydrocarbon), 16.1 g/mi of CO, and 0.10 g/mi of NOx. For comparison, the EPA's newest motorcycle regulations dictate 1.5 g/mi of HC and 19.3 g/mi of CO. And, just for fun, a Hummer H2 emits 0.111 g/mi NMHC (non-methane hydrocarbon), 4.03 g/mi of CO, 0.3g/mi of NOx. I'd like to see a NMHC figure for a 49cc 2-stroke engine so we can compare apples to apples here. The CO and NOx levels aren't too bad, but the hydrocarbon level is what you see much more of on a basic 2-stroke engine.

So, without good data, I can't really say yet that riding a 2-stroke scooter makes you "levels of magnitude greener than most Americans" in terms of emissions. The EPA says: In fact, motorcycles produce more harmful emissions per mile than a car, or even a large SUV. The current federal motorcycle standard for hydrocarbon emissions is about 90 times the hydrocarbon standard for today’s passenger cars. Although many of today’s motorcycles will actually meet the current California standards, the California hydrocarbon standard is still 18 to 24 times the current federal passenger car limit, depending on the displacement of the motorcycle engine.

So, in conclusion, I'd look into the solutions pointed out above. They look promising.
posted by zsazsa at 4:45 PM on September 10, 2008

Maintain it religiously. Ill-maintained engines are less efficient and pollute more.
posted by Harald74 at 2:07 AM on September 11, 2008

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