Tuesday, February 9, 2016

US EPA to ban race cars?

This just in from Road & Track, "EPA spokesperson Laura Allen provided this further clarification to R&T: This clarification does not affect EPA's enforcement authority. It is still illegal to tamper with or defeat the emission control systems of motor vehicles. In the course of selecting cases for enforcement, the EPA has and will continue to consider whether the tampered vehicle is used exclusively for competition. The EPA remains primarily concerned with cases where the tampered vehicle is used on public roads, and more specifically with aftermarket manufacturers who sell devices that defeat emission controls on vehicles used on public roads." See the whole Road & Track article at http://www.roadandtrack.com/motorsports/news/a28135/heres-what-the-epas-track-car-proposal-actually-means/.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has created a real shit storm in the racing world. According to the interpretation of regulations released for comment they are trying to ban race cars built from pollution controlled vehicles. Most sites that have reported on this never quote the offending section. Jalopnik, among a very few others, said this is the offending paragraph of a 629 page document:
"Certified motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines and their emission control devices must remain in their certified configuration even if they are used solely for competition or if they become non-road vehicles or engines; anyone modifying a certified motor vehicle of motor vehicle engine for any reason is subject to tampering and defeat device prohibitions of paragraph (a)(3) of this section and 42 U.S.C."
Sounds pretty scary on the face of it. I have no insight into the minds of those at the US EPA who wrote the paragraph. But I'll speculate. Like many of my  readers I am a car guy and I like modified cars. Unlike some out there though I like to restrict my modifications to vehicles exempt from the emission control laws. And I try to keep my cars as clean running as possible.

I suspect the impetuous, at least in part, of this paragraph is the large number of modern (emission controlled), modified vehicles that are only marginally race cars. You've all seen them on the Internet and in magazines - and on the street. When they are offered for sale they are listed as "street legal" because they fit into some race class that demands street legality but not emissions legality.

SEMA and many other organizations are up in arms over the proposal. I would expect many of the auto makers, especially those who sell complete engines that are designed for vehicles with emission controlled vehicles (think of the Ford Coyote 5.0 engine) to argue against the regulations.

Here in California due to a change in the emissions inspection laws new vehicles (6 years old or newer) are exempt from testing. Similar laws exist in other states. I can't be the only person who has seen numerous modified newer cars.

The California Vehicle Code already addresses this issue to a certain extent in Section 27156:
(b) No person shall operate or leave standing upon a highway a motor vehicle that is required to be equipped with a motor vehicle pollution control device under Part 5 (commencing with Section 43000) of Division 26 of the Health and Safety Code or any other certified motor vehicle pollution control device required by any other state law or any rule or regulation adopted pursuant to that law, or required to be equipped with a motor vehicle pollution control device pursuant to the National Emission Standards Act 942 U.S.C. Secs. 7521 to 7550, inclusive) and the standards and regulations adopted pursuant to that federal act, unless the motor vehicle is equipped with the required motor vehicle pollution control device that is correctly installed and in operating condition. No person shall disconnect, modify, or alter any such required device.
and:
(c) No person shall install, sell, offer for sale, or advertise any device, apparatus, or mechanism intended for use with, or a part of, a required motor vehicle pollution control device or system that alters or modifies the original design or performance of the motor vehicle pollution control device or system.
Section 27156 in no way states that such vehicles must be legally registered to be in violation.

What needs to be noted is that for any regulation to work it must be enforced. CVC Section 27156 is rarely enforced. US EPA has very few enforcement officers. In reality I would expect the EPA regulation to end up watered down. So don't get your knickers in a knot.

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