This paper describes an examination of the origin of the response of a real-time exhaust particle sensor. The sensor works by detecting the net electrical charge carried by diesel exhaust particles emitted during exhaust blow-down. The distribution of charge on these particles has been measured using an electrical mobility analysis system. The results show that the exhaust particles are highly charged and that their charge distributions are nearly symmetrical. The sensor signal results from a slight departure from this symmetry. The results suggest that most of the charge on the exhaust particles results from bipolar charging by flame ions during combustion, but that the net charge detected by the sensor results from surface interactions which some of the larger particles undergo during exhaust blowdown.