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Show HN: Mission Emission – Calculate the emissions a vehicle produces (missionemission.co)
81 points by ymslavov on Dec 6, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 65 comments

Hi there,

We at BetaPeak (https://betapeak.com) are a small team of dedicated developers with passion for side projects and positive social change. We're located in Bulgaria, which currently has the worst air quality in all of Europe, so this led us to think - we sure as hell are not the only ones with that problem, there must be thousands of cities around the globe that breathe dirty air, we definitely need to raise some awareness.

So in partnership with the awesome guys at Oblik Studio (http://oblik.works/), this led us to build Mission Emission, a tool to help you calculate your car emissions and get tips on how to travel more eco-friendly. Our bet is on simplicity, nice and clean UX and informative and beautiful results page, to help punch in the main idea - we need to ditch petrol/diesel cars!

We'd love to know what you love, what you hate, what you "meh" about the tool, and obviously we're ready to implement any cool ideas you may have on how to make this tool even cooler and more engaging.



Can't speak for all metric users, but I found "mt" for metric tonnes just confusing; the standard abbreviation is just "t".

Yes, that's easily confused with the imperial ton, but I think that's a less important problem.

I agree. I thought this was megatons and thought “oh wow those emissions seems a bit high.” Took me a minute to see my mistake.

I feel like a lot of confusion could be bypassed entirely by using megagrams (Mg) instead.

The only non ambiguous ways to use metric ton are 'metric ton' and 'tonne'. I think its best to evade the use altogether. I propose 1234kg instead of 1.2t.

The other thing is the difference between a metric and US ton is only 10%. So you don't lose any sense of scale if you confuse the two.

The "metric ton" is really just the megagram, with standard abbreviation Mg.

Oh, had no idea that was what mt meant. I feel kg would be a better anyway.

Other than that, neat!

This is probably just me being ignorant, but I had to look up whether or not petrol was standard gasoline.

I don't think it is ignorance, just colloquial terminology coming into play.

I am curious though, is the USA the only place that calls it 'gas'? I've lived and travelled through most places in Oceania, Asia and Europe and almost everywhere else it is called 'petrol' and places that serve it are called 'petrol stations'. To me 'gas' is an entirely separate product, viz LPG gas, which a lot of taxis etc. use at the moment.

Yes, indeed, in Eastern Europe we refer to LPG as gas, and petrol as, well, petrol :)

Apparently it's common in all of North America.

Personally, I think "motor spirit" is a kickass name for it.

I prefer the term "motor scotch".

For the units, do you mean US Customary or do you really mean Imperial? The gallons are very different.

There is even a difference in miles if you want to be picky, with the US using statute miles in some states and international miles in other states. The international mile is 1.609344 km, and the statute mile is about 1.6093472 km. This isn't a huge difference.

Given that's a difference in the sixth significant figure, it's probably not even a rounding error for these calculations.

Just beautiful! Also, hey balkan neighbor :) [greek in CA]

Hey Greece!

Personally I think it's trying to hard to be cool. I'm all for making a calculator look cool - but this presented the data in an unclear/unhelpful way. Would be better if it was simpler/clearer.

Agreed. On a standard 1080px tall monitor, that "Show results" button requires a scroll. I would make the 1,2,3 cards stack so you aren't wasting tons of screen real estate. Also showing the map at the location entry screen invites clicking on the map which doesn't seem supported.

Otherwise, a cool project! Hopefully it motivates someone to think about their travels and its impact on the environment.

That’s Curious. I tested my route from home in East London to my skiing destination in Morzine France.

Diesel, ‘van’ - Seat Alhambra.

Once I had provided my correct MPG (I get about 47MPG on long journeys in France) it suggested my 2016 Diesel produced less carbon than an electric vehicle.

Which doesn’t feel quite right.

Mine too (55mpg average Skoda octavia which being much like a Passat is in their 'luxury' category). I'm guessing they make assumptions about the mix of electricity on the grid. Seeing as we are able to purchase green electricity here they should let us alter that assumption.

Yes, your assumption is correct, we actually account for the means of electricity production, as well as the car production process emissions related to building a single electric vehicle. It's a great idea to be able to switch those overhead emission calculations if you wanted to, we'll get on that!

It's great you're taking these "external" variables into account. To bandwagon on the environmental costs of car production, it would be cool to see motorcycles added to the lineup. A lot of motorcycles are lax on emissions control so it would be very interesting to see how they compare to hybrids and electrics.

We've actually considered adding it to the list, but as the information we found was either very scarce, unverifiable or unofficial, so we had to make the choice to leave it out for the time being. It's on our task list though, that's for the good idea!

> as the car production process emissions related to building a single electric vehicle

Do you likewise take in to account the production process emissions for non-electric vehicles?

I find it a bit scary that I should apparently keep with my diesel rather than look at electric. Should I really?

it really depends on how much you drive and how co2 intensive the power you use is (which depends not only on your locale but also the time when you charge your car typically). However one thing in the overhead costs which is often ignored is that a used car battery which might not be suited for a car anymore because of 20-30% capacity loss after a few years can be reused in stationary battery systems, so over the full lifetime of the battery the overhead costs in most calculations are overexaggerated.

Damn I forgot people did such long road trips, I felt guilty of going to the train station. That said you don't go skiing from London every morning..

I was kind of turned off by the Apple like marketing speak in the post title, but otherwise this seems like a really neat project. Well done!

"This is the emissions index of an electric car, given the average amount of emissions generated by the production of the electricity that powers it."

Does this factor in locale? Because electricity generation in NZ is 80% renewable, and if we take the US generation ratio (I think something like 20% renewable), it paints a very wrong picture.

If it does take into account locale, kudos!

We thought about that exact thing! However, we didn't have enough data to make this work. The numbers we display are averages. We'd love to make it more accurate once we have the resources!

getting even somewhat accurate values for that is a rather big problem, as you can't just take average emission values for a country as a base but rather need to look at the daily and weekly recharge distribution of different types of electric vehicles and then look at what the typical power generation structure is in those hours (which also varies seasonally). Its a huge project in itself and I think maybe you should just mention somewhere what values you use to calculate it.

Even so there's good, better, best on a spectrum, right? :)

Or is my '80% renewable' point naive? I think i get what you're saying, if I recharge during peak demand times, there's a chance nonrenewables are being used in higher proportions to fulfil my charge. Conversely if I charge during low-demand hours, the odds are higher that peak generation methods are not being employed.

But even more complicated than that, is the kind of renewables. NZ has a ton of hydro, and during certain times of the year they are drawn down for peak demand, so kinda ideal. Then again during times of drought, no can do and non-renewables may be the only thing that can meet demand.

If you're getting super fancy, NZ Transpower publishes live stats for the grid, including proportion of renewables in use at any one time! https://www.transpower.co.nz/power-system-live-data

Nice, thanks :)

The gas mileage seems off. I have a small SUV (Mazda CX3), and since there was no category for that (maybe the small SUV market is too USA-centric), I picked a "Medium car" (lke a VW Golf).

But it gave the gas mileage as 18 mpg, while I get a measured 30 - 32mpg on my commute. Even when I had a golf, I was getting around 25 mpg.

The fuel consumption by vehicle category is based on averages. We didn't put too much energy into accurate measurements because you can change the consumption on the results page so that it exactly matches that of your car.

Average for what? Your number for an "SUV" is 13.6MPG. The worst fuel economy for a 2018 model I could find in the EPA database is 11MPG[1].


I was confused by the results then read online: "It seems impossible that a gallon of gasoline, which weighs about 6.3 pounds, could produce 20 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned. However, most of the weight of the CO2 doesn't come from the gasoline itself, but the oxygen in the air."

btw, have O2 levels been dropping over last century? edit: https://weather.com/science/nature/news/earth-atmosphere-los...

The default for a sedan is 18.2 MPG? Isn't this way too low, particularly for modern vehicles? My 1998 gets ~30 MPG, for example…

But also, very cool. I would otherwise have no idea how the various modes compare.

I tried a calculation for an electric car, and was going to adjust the wh/km consumption but was told: "Electric vehicles don't consume fuel." I wish that were true :)

Damn, we've accidentally leaked our super secret plans for a fuel-less car. Oh well, now you know what to expect, make sure to check regularly on our website ;)

More seriously, how do you calculate the Co2 for EVs? It seems like different power sources used at different times would make calculations like yours almost impossible, since you would need to know when the vehicle was charged and the mix of power sources at the time.

I have a friend who works for the local power company. He told me that at off peak times, our power is almost entirely green. However, at peak times, they use dirty natural gas or coal peaker plants. Even though I don't have time-of-use metered power, I make sure to always charge in the middle of the night for this reason.

I recently found out that the fuel efficiency of a prius is comparable to the one of a european city car (meaning a car with a displacement of 1 liter to 1.2 liter.

I really thought that an hybrid car was at least one order of magnitude more fuel efficient, but it's not the case.

I don't understand, because I thought buying a prius was an investment that you could repay in reduced gas bills, but apparently not so much.

Im quite happy to be able to live without a car.

I would like more detail on the calculation for their emissions/km number. In California, they list 148g/km, but the Union of Concerned Scientists has the California electric grid at 93g/km. That's a significant difference, and I wonder if they're taking the production profile of the CA grid into account.

148 g/km seems to be the default number. I got that same number for two different routes that were entirely located within British Columbia and Alberta, respectively. The problem is that British Columbia has an electricity emissions intensity of about 30kg/MWh while Alberta's is about 600kg/MWh. Hence, this website does not use correct electricity emissions data.

Maybe you can partner with the folks over at https://www.electricitymap.org/ to improve the emissions data?

I don't think this works correctly. It claims my medium sized sedan puts out roughly ~125lbs of CO2 on a 100 mile trip. Unless my car somehow generates carbon out of nothing, that's the equivalent of burning nearly 20 gallons of gasoline (at ~6.3lb per gallon) for a regular drive to a customer site.

Carbon from the gas reacts with air so you need to factor the mass of the oxygen the car uses as well to produce CO2 and other emissions. It's been a long time since chemistry class but you could calculate the end mass of the CO2 using teh atomic weights of carbon and oxygen used in the inputs, or there's probably a website that will do the math for you.

Love it because my beloved Honda S2000 is one of the 4 examples under "sports car" :) Very neat project!

LOL, logged in at work just to make this same comment. You never know the love of a car until you've owned one.

They're amazing little cars. Mines 14 years old and I'm still hard pressed to find a car that makes me feel the same way while driving it. Was the first car I purchased entirely on my own (thanks, Dad!) and I can't imagine ever selling it.

so we are averaging the emissions all the way from a 4cylinder engine to a v8(slk 55 amg)

fair point... but I can attest to the fact that the s2000 GUZZLES gas if you're driving it spiritedly (the only way to drive it).

Oddly my "mid-sized" car (eg, VW Golf) supposedly gets 18mpg, but I was driving the 300hp one and still getting 26+mpg :)

Then again, I just replaced it with an electric, so I guess I'm producing half the CO2. And am "100% solar" (for what that's worth), so... 0?

Maybe I'm being overly picky but I've found a bunch of cases where it seems to think you'd be flying out of class D general aviation airports with no commercial routes instead of the obvious class B/C ones nearby when comparing fuel usages to flying.

Do the co2 emissions of petrol, diesel, etc, cars include the co2 emissions of the production and distribution of the fuel? If not then they underestimate the emissions in comparison with electric vehicles.

Why is the SUV icon of a truck rather than an SUV? Or is there more aimed towards non US where perhaps SUV means pickup truck?

I’m not aware of anyone that does that calls a truck an SUV. The opposite is quite common though, even in the USA - people call SUVs, vans, and buses “trucks” when they’re used for commercial purposes.

Very nice interface. Did a right calculation on my route here in Holland.

Not bad for a starting point! a few comments

It's awkward having the MPG and overall CO2 emissions on separate folds of the screen. I shouldn't need to scroll around to access ~10 numbers.

Also the UK is weird, we use MPG for fuel economy but will measure CO2 emission in kg.

Your transit calculator misses the opportunity to suggest a combined bike+rail trip which is the most practical.

Valid points! We thought about these things, but we had limited time and we couldn't get to them. As for the route suggestion - this isn't up to us. It depends on our data source and what results it returns.

Thanks @GrumpyNI, I'm currently in Amsterdam, you guys sure as hell have a lot of Teslas :) Happy we've hit the mark, although our calculations are based on estimations, we've done our best to keep it as relevant as possible.

this is so simple its worthless

I love this.


I am Hristiyan Dodov, Full-Stack Developer at Oblik Studio and developer of Mission Emission.

I wanted to clear a few things out and say my opinion about the project.

First of all, we're not chemists or scientists and we haven't worked with such either. We've done our best to do these calculations correctly, but there are just so many variables and giving more accurate results demands more work, time, and information. Although the calculations are rough estimates, they are based on actual facts and research and are not some numbers we made up in our head. We would love to make things more accurate, but we need more support and data. Given that this is a non-profit project, it's a bit overwhelming.

For me, the goal of this project is to raise awareness about air pollution and make you think. Transportation plays a big role in air pollution, while it's an important part of everyone's life, making it easier for people to relate. We display an average estimate of emissions for your journey and then put the numbers in perspective with facts - for example, how much time is needed for a tree to absorb the generated CO2. The goal is to educate people as best as we can and perhaps even change their minds on transportation and make them think about using a greener transport. I don't think it matters how much exactly the air is getting polluted. The problem is that it's a lot, it's getting worse, and things doesn't seem to change. And that's our goal - to provoke a change.


Electric vehicle emissions: Some people said that the app sometimes shows that electric vehicles produce more emissions than petrol/diesel vehicles. That's correct. Yes, the electricity itself doesn't directly generate emissions, but the way that electricity was created - probably does. Does it sound more eco-friendly to burn 40 kilos of coal to generate X amount of electricity and travel 10 kilometers, or burn 1 liter of petrol for that same distance? I made up those numbers in my head, but I think it illustrates my point nicely. Of course, this greatly varies with how each country or even city generates its electricity. That's also why it's so hard to provide accurate measurements and it's the reason we use average values. Basically, how green an electric car is depends on how the electricity it uses was generated.

Fuel consumption: The vehicle category determines the fuel consumption value. It's not 100% accurate because it's based on averages from various kinds of car makes and models. We didn't focus much on that because you can change the fuel consumption on the results page and make it match that of your own vehicle exactly. That's also the reason why we didn't include the exact make and model, load, speed, etc. All of these things come down to fuel consumption, which is the most important part of emissions after all. Instead of putting a ton of settings, we simply put a vehicle category to give a rough estimate and then gave you the ability to change the fuel consumption however you wish.

This is beautiful!

What a great example of technologists using the tools of the trade to do some good for air quality and on the climate fight.

Thanks, Yasen, Hristiyan and the rest of the crew involved.

FYI - I heard about this from James in the #news-discussion channel of the Slack group for ClimateAction.tech. Feel free to join us and introduce yourselves there (in #introductions) if you'd like to be part of an international network of technologists pushing for climate action.

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