SEMA News—October 2015


By Mike Imlay

The All-New SEMA Emissions Laboratory

Getting an E.O. for Your Performance Product Just Got Easier
 SEMA Garage
Located at SEMA headquarters in Diamond Bar, California, the SEMA Garage-Industry Innovations Center features a newly renovated emissions laboratory boasting the latest state-of-the-art equipment. The Garage stands ready to assist SEMA members through every phase of emissions certification—a legal requirement for making and selling street-vehicle products that may affect emissions.

For many automotive specialty-equipment manufacturers, emissions certification is an essential step in developing and bringing new performance or engine-related products to market. In fact, emissions compliance is a legal requirement. It is illegal under both California and federal law to sell products that could impact emissions. However, parts makers can comply with these laws by proving that their products do not increase emissions and have been certified through the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Executive Order (E.O.) process. While this can seem expensive and confusing, especially to small manufacturers and industry newcomers, the SEMA Garage’s cutting-edge Emissions Compliance Center is here to help make the process easy and affordable.

“We’re extremely proud of our all-new, state-of-the-art emissions testing facility,” said Mike Spagnola, SEMA vice president of product development. “The SEMA Garage at our headquarters in Diamond Bar, California, is in a unique position to provide members with a reliable and affordable way to test their products, thereby helping them get those products to market more quickly. With our dyno-equipped Emissions Compliance Center, SEMA is able to help manufacturers test and apply for E.O. certification. Basic dyno services are also available for the purpose of performance and product development as well as iterative testing. While we already offer a comprehensive list of valuable programs and services to SEMA members, we will be expanding the lab’s capacities even further in the near future.”

Addressing a Need

The Emissions Compliance Center is a major component of the 15,000-sq.-ft. SEMA Garage-Industry Innovations Center, which is designed to help members speed products to consumers from concept to marketing. The Garage also includes a full mechanics’ bay, a tech center with laser metrology and 3D printing equipment, a photography studio, and a conference center. Recently, SEMA invested heavily in upgrading the facility with the most sophisticated testing equipment available anywhere in the world. In addition, the SEMA Garage staff has embarked on an awareness campaign to bring association members up-to-date on the facts about emissions certification. Here are some basics:

SEMA Garage Emissions Lab
A Chevrolet Camaro SS stands ready for testing in the lab’s new dyno lane, which can simulate a wide variety of driving conditions for gasoline vehicles ranging from sports cars to pickups.

Emissions compliance applies to almost all performance and engine products. Generally, any product that affects airflow into or out of the engine, impacts the containment or delivery of fuel or affects the functionality of an emissions control system or device requires an E.O. from CARB for that product to be legal. This includes but is not limited to intake systems, exhaust components, tuning products, turbos and superchargers.

The notion of “49-state legal” isn’t really a thing. A common misconception is that a product is 49-state legal as long as you don’t sell it in California. This is not the case. The U.S. Clean Air Act prevents the modification of vehicles with products that impact emissions unless the product is certified, just like California. In order for an engine-related product to be legal anywhere in the United States, it must complete a certification process.

California has a process that allows aftermarket manufacturers to certify their products. CARB will issue an E.O. for products that have gone through an application and testing process. The CARB E.O. is recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as demonstrating emissions compliance and provides coverage for all 50 states.

Both CARB and EPA have the ability to enforce. Both government entities that oversee air quality (CARB and EPA) have the ability to administer fines against manufacturers, sellers and installers of products that do not comply with the clean-air laws.

“In short, emissions compliance should be a priority for manufacturers of engine-related products, and the SEMA Garage is here to help,” said Peter Treydte, SEMA compliance center manager, who added that SEMA’s emissions compliance center involves two primary segments. “The first is assisting members with the paperwork side of the process, from identifying products that require certification, to preparing and submitting applications, and then following through to completion and receipt of a CARB E.O.,” he explained. “The second segment is actual testing. Typically, when you submit an application to CARB, they’re going to follow up with a testing requirement, which is usually performed in an emissions laboratory.”

Precision Equipment

 SEMA Garage Emissions Lab
A technician calibrates the lab’s new emissions measurement and analysis equipment. Among the most sophisticated in the world, it delivers precise readings for tailpipe hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide—all of which are regulated by law.

The approximately 3,500-sq.-ft. lab area currently features a control booth and one emissions test lane outfitted with a two-wheel-drive dynamometer and all of the associated analyzing equipment for tailpipe emissions. According to Treydte, there’s space to expand to two lanes, and future plans include the addition of a four-wheel-drive dyno. Much of the lab equipment was manufactured by AVL, a Germany-based company that is well known in the industry for its global, leading-edge technology.

“The certification process involves a very specific type of testing,” observed Treydte. “It’s been in place for a number of years and has been improved and modified over the course of those years, but it’s regulated very closely. So the equipment required to perform that testing is very specialized and refined, and it must produce highly repeatable results. We selected AVL as our vendor of choice for our equipment and essentially wound up with a state-of-the-art laboratory. We’re capable of performing all levels of certification for gasoline-powered vehicles initially, and we’ll be adding diesel capability at some point.”

The current dyno setup can simulate road and driving conditions for everything from a 2,000-lb. sports car to a 6,000-lb. pickup. Testing includes drive traces for cold starts, city start-and-stop driving, suburban and highway driving, and hill climbs. Meanwhile, the emissions measuring equipment takes precise readings for hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide through each drive trace.

In recent months, upward of 30 companies have already availed themselves of the remodeled and upgraded emissions lab. The SEMA Garage’s help with the E.O. process can include everything from initial paperwork all the way through assisting companies in overcoming any hurdles they may encounter as they work with CARB.

“There are actually a number of steps along the way that can be performed in the SEMA Garage,” Treydte said. “Some members may have a high level of confidence in their product, so they may simply go through the application process, get a test letter from CARB, and then bring that test letter here where we can go straight into certification testing. Other members may need to do some research and development first. We can offer that service as well. We have some unique capabilities that allow test data to be observed in a second-by-second format, so when the emissions test is being conducted, you’ll actually be able to see where certain peaks occur in the emissions output so you can target for that operation and make sure that your product is not having an adverse effect during the drive cycles of the test.”

Treydte said that a big part of SEMA’s service is simply the ability to communicate with CARB, knowing who to talk to and knowing the right questions to ask. “We’ve been able to help members at all levels through the process,” he said. “Key to making it all happen is going through an authorization process for SEMA to speak to CARB on behalf of the member company. Once that’s done, we can work on the project.”

Delivering Results

The lab’s recent success stories include WORKS, a small company with a 12-year history of manufacturing innovative performance parts for the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru vehicles. Based in Sonoma, California, the company gears its products and performance services to both street enthusiasts and dedicated track racers. “We had just finalized our FR-S/BRZ turbo kits and, being in California, we wanted to make the kits CARB-compliant,” said Peter Wang, WORKS president. “We were looking for some guidance and assistance and attended a seminar at the 2014 SEMA Show and found exactly what we needed while the timing also worked out perfectly. We found the E.O. certification process less painful than previous experiences while working at other companies. Working with Peter Treydte made all the difference. He helped us every step of the way, from filling out the application to making sure the E.O. was promptly listed on the CARB website.”

WORKS Engineer Leon Vinokurov added that certifying a turbo kit—and going through it for the very first time—certainly seemed daunting. “Not only did the SEMA Garage help make this happen, but they made sure it happened quickly,” he said. “It was only just over seven months from first contact to getting the CARB E.O., and there was a lot of work done between start and finish. The most challenging and unexpected surprise was when the [product-equipped] car did not pass one of the drive-cycle tests during initial testing. The SEMA Garage advised us as to why it may have failed. We made the correction and passed with flying colors the second time.”

An experienced SEMA-member manufacturer may merely need help with a few questions or sticking points surrounding the E.O. process. A case in point is Derive Systems, based in Sanford, Florida. The company makes powertrain software designed to better customize engine performance.

“Through the SEMA Garage emissions lab, we were able to gain a bit more insight into the CARB E.O. procedures for our SCT-brand Livewire TS and X4 products,” explained Latif Taylor, the company’s calibrations compliance engineer. “We were able to reduce our time to obtain a test letter. Also, I believe the SEMA Garage emissions lab will give us an opportunity to escape the bottleneck of limited reputable test facilities. It proved to be a valuable resource, and I would recommend the Garage to other aftermarket businesses.”

Thankfully, the SEMA Garage emissions lab is designed to ease not only the time involved in E.O. certification but the costs as well. “Depending on the type of testing required and how much R&D work is necessary, costs can range, so you have to plan for some unknowns,” Treydte said. “Fortunately, our prices are extremely competitive, and we are also able to offer certain discounts for first-time users and some ongoing discounts for repeat SEMA-member users.”

In the end, SEMA members will find their R&D dollars well-spent in the expert test facility. “Even our equipment supplier, AVL, has been interested in using our facility as a showpiece to demonstrate the extent and capability of their equipment,” noted Treydte. “When SEMA members come here, they’re going to see not only a place where they can get their emissions testing done but also one that will actually provide them with the latest and greatest in terms of emissions measuring capabilities.”

Accessing the Emissions Lab

To learn more about the SEMA Garage and the emissions certification process, e-mail Peter Treydte at

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