Project Clean Air Repairs

Through Project Clean Air Repair (or Project CAR), Environmental Initiative is partnering with car repair shops to reduce emissions from older passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks. Project CAR reimburses garages for identifying and fixing vehicle exhaust systems in cars of lower-income residents.

Currently, it is estimated that 25% of passenger vehicles cause 90% of vehicle air pollution. This is mostly because older cars have outdated or broken emission controls and exhaust equipment. Environmental Initiative is partnering with garages to provide repairs to broken emission systems, cleaning up some of the highest polluting cars on the road while reducing barriers to reliable transportation.

Partner garages provide low- or no-cost repairs to four priority components of emission control systems: catalytic converters, evaporative emission control systems, oxygen sensors, and exhaust gas recirculation valves.

Testing the model

In 2017, Environmental Initiative conducted a pilot project based on this same model, partnering with The Lift Garage and Cars for Neighbors. During the pilot, partner garages repaired 51 vehicles. Due to the success of the pilot, Environmental Initiative secured additional funding to continue the program and broaden its impact.

How it Works

Are you a garage serving lower-income residents in your community? Project CAR is still looking for partner garages to increase the reach of the program. As a garage, you would identify and repair problems in vehicle’s emission control systems and receive reimbursement for those repairs. Reach out to Gillian Greenberg at 612-334-3388 x8127 to learn more.

Air Quality & Equity

Poor air quality isn’t evenly dispersed across the landscape, meaning that depending on where you live and work, you might be exposed to more or less pollution than others. In 2015, the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency published a report about these air quality disparities. It found that negative health impacts fall disproportionately on the sick, the elderly, children with asthma and disadvantaged communities that tend to be predisposed to respiratory and cardiac illness. Project CAR repairs vehicles in communities most affected by poor air quality.

In the News

Project CAR and a number of partnering auto body garages throughout the metro area have gained press and TV news coverage for repairing the emission systems on older, high-polluting vehicles at low – or no-cost, reducing air emissions in some of our communities impacted by poor air quality. View the recent news coverage, including two news videos and a newspaper article from the Star Tribune.

North Metro TV news story:  Cars for Neighbors in Anoka County, Minn.


Video: The Lift Garage in Minneapolis, Minn.


Star Tribune: How Businesses, Government Agencies Work Together to Update Pollution-Spewing Older Cars

Emission Reduction Technologies

There are many different ways to reduce air pollution from passenger vehicles. In order to efficiently address emissions, Environmental Initiative and partner garages identified three types of equipment repairs that could have meaningful effects on health and emissions reductions: catalytic converters, Evaporative Emission Control (EVAP) systems and oxygen sensors.


Catalytic converters are devices that convert harmful gases and pollutants normally found in exhaust gas into harmless compounds by triggering chemical reactions that break down carbon monoxide and the precursors to smog. They can be installed ahead of the existing muffler or as a unit combined with a muffler.


A functioning Evaporative Emission Control (EVAP) system prevents fuel vapors from exiting the fuel tank and other fuel system components, blocking harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from entering the air. The major components of an EVAP system include the fuel tank, gas cap, EVAP canister and liquid-vapor separator.


Oxygen sensors are devices that measure the oxygen to fuel ratio, controlling how much fuel is injected into the engine. Oxygen sensors are mounted inside the exhaust system, where they track how much oxygen is in the exhaust being emitted. Repairing the oxygen sensors can improve fuel efficiency, minimize exhaust emissions and extend the life of the catalytic converter.

Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valves

Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valves allow small amounts of exhaust back into the combustion chambers of a car’s engine where it is mixed with intake air to cool down the combustion process. When working correctly, an EGR valve reduces the nitrogen oxide emission from the combustion process and improves engine efficiency.

Partner Garages

The Lift Garage: Based out of South Minneapolis, The Lift Garage aims to move people out of poverty and homelessness by providing low-cost car repair, free pre-purchase car inspections, and honest advice that supports community members and more secure lives. Repairs are completed at the organization’s on-site garage by The Lift’s staff, with the work provided at deeply subsidized labor rates and parts provided at cost. The Lift’s threshold for income eligibility is 150% of federal poverty guidelines.

Cars for Neighbors: Based out of Blaine and providing services throughout Anoka County, Cars for Neighbors has a mission of fostering independence by providing car care. The organization contracts with two local Meineke garages to complete repairs for its clients at a discounted rate. Staff oversee all income verification and payment processing, but all repairs are completed at off-site garages.

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Small Vehicle Garage: Based in Cass Lake, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Small Vehicle Garage provides labor services to Leech Lake Band members at no cost and asks customers to provide their own parts. They prioritize elderly and handicapped Leech Lake Band members.

Newgate School: Based in Minneapolis, Newgate School provides auto body and auto mechanic training to unemployed or underemployed adults. Newgate School mechanic instructors and students completes emission repairs as part of their work on donated cars that are then sold to fund the school’s operations or donated to single working mothers.

Nghia’s Auto Service: Nghia’s Auto Service is a full service repair garage serving North Minneapolis.