Improving air quality, one car at a time

  • September 15, 2020
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  • JoHanna Smrcina

Despite the Twin Cities’ strong public transportation system, our personal vehicles remain a critical way we travel to work, school, medical appointments and religious services. But costly or unexpected car repairs can make it challenging for many Minnesotans to stay on the road.

The Lift Garage – a nonprofit auto repair shop in Minneapolis – was founded in 2013 to provide affordable auto repair service to Minnesotans of limited means. Over the past several years, we have encouraged customers to fix their vehicle’s exhaust systems, which will improve the safety and drivability of their cars. However, many decline the offer because the repairs can be costly, and their cars will still operate without them.

Earlier this year, we partnered with Environmental Initiative to offer Project CAR (Clean Air Repairs), a new program which is helping fix some of the most polluting vehicles on Minnesota roads. Funded by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Flint Hills Resources, the project works with partner auto repair garages to identify vehicles with outdated or broken catalytic converters, Evaporative Emission Control (EVAP) systems, oxygen sensors and exhaust gas recirculation valves and encourages income-eligible drivers to have repairs made at low or no cost.

An estimated 25 percent of passenger vehicles cause 90 percent of air pollution. This is because many older cars have outdated or broken emission controls and exhaust equipment. Poor air quality disproportionately affects people living in poverty. The Lift Garage is in a unique position to help people improve the safety and efficiency of their vehicles and get back on the road in cars that are better for the environment.

After receiving car repairs through Project CAR, a customer told us, “The amount of exhaust leaking from my car was very toxic to me, as well as to the environment and likely contributed to my health problems, which meant I was unable to work. This repair will greatly improve my health and hopefully I will be able to recover and get back to work.”

Thanks to Environmental Initiative, Project CAR is a win-win for our customers and the environment.