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What Is BMW SULEV?

by Christopher Jackson

In a world where automobiles are constantly evolving and rapidly improving, maybe it's inevitable that we wind up with sprawling acronyms built from superlative bricks. The "SULEV" designation, bestowed not by any company, but by the EPA, is one of the latest clogging up the neurons of potential new-vehicle buyers -- but it is an important one.

SULEV Definition

SULEV stands for "Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle," and is a classification that's given to a vehicle by the federal Environmental Protection Agency rather than a manufacturer's marketing department. BMW produces cars that meet federal SULEV standards, as do Toyota, Ford, Honda and several other manufacturers.

SULEV Classification

To be considered a SULEV, a car or truck must produce emissions that are at least 90 percent lower than standard gasoline-powered cars. A SULEV is a step up from an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle, or "ULEV." An even stricter standard is the Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle -- PZEV -- standard. SULEV-rated BMW products include the 1- and 3-Series cars, and they have no special internal designation. The 1- and 3-Series BMWs that are sold in the 17 states that currently adhere to the California Air Resource Board -- CARB -- emissions standards feature the additional equipment that makes them SULEV vehicles.

Cleaner Exhaust -- It Pays

SULEVs are designed to reduce the production of carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, formaldehyde and other dangerous gases. They also help to clear particulate matter out of the car's exhaust. They're not just a big deal in America, either; European countries impose heavy yearly taxes on vehicles that produce excess carbon emissions, and individual cities can double down on that at will. London, as of 2014, charges a whopping $20 a day "congestion charge" for heavy polluters; that's $600 a month, which might be double the monthly payment for an entry-level BMW.

About the Author

Christopher "Emmy" Jackson has been an automotive writer since 1999. His self-syndicated auto column appears weekly in print and online, and his work has appeared in "Grassroots Motorsports," "AutoWeek" and "African-Americans on Wheels." He is a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, with degrees in English and creative writing, and spends most of his free time reviewing new cars and working on new automotive projects.

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