SEMA News—August 2013
LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Jim McFarland
Emissions Compliance Made Easy
SEMA Focuses Efforts to Help Members Achieve Regulatory Requirements
SEMA continues its work to untangle a variety of emissions-compliance requirements while identifying and pursuing alternative paths to relieve or clarify concerns about navigating the regulatory landscape. At both the state and federal levels, the association is engaged in facilitating member compliance through a variety of programs and initiatives. This article summarizes issues that are either being addressed or have become more manageable as a result of these efforts.
The obtainment of a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Executive Order (EO) provides “reasonable basis” for meeting the anti-tampering provisions of the Federal Clean Air Act. As a consequence, members who are able to secure an EO for their products may market their products nationwide. Recognizing the value of an EO through the regulatory obstacle course, SEMA continues to seek ways to aid members in achieving EO status.
Perhaps the biggest step a SEMA member can take to initiate the process is to become familiar with SEMA’s guide to emissions certification of specialty automotive aftermarket parts. Known as the Black Book and available only to members, the online guide is designed to expedite the process by which SEMA members can gain parts certification. SEMA has included website links to provide firsthand information from various compliance-related sources, including the CARB website. In addition, SEMA provides simple and easy steps to obtaining a CARB EO, application forms, helpful hints, compliance criteria checklists, retail restrictions information and a list of independent laboratories equipped to carry out required emissions testing protocols.
And now, through the new SEMA Garage-Industry Innovations Center, the association has partnered with the Automobile Club of Southern California to assist members during the iterative process of developing marketable, emissions-related products (see “SEMA Garage-Industry Innovations Center” sidebar). This includes assistance in not only the analysis of test data leading up to actual emissions testing, but also laboratory services embracing the required EO tests.
Now there is a well-defined path to achieve emissions compliance with CARB and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), from start to finish. From experience, we know that it is highly preferential to begin the process ahead of new-product introduction, for multiple reasons. This approach tends to provide additional time to meet certification goals prior to product development conclusion. It sends a favorable message to the regulators as well.
SEMA recently concluded a working arrangement with the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). This relationship will entail a multi-phase, two-year contract that will produce a range of information useful to SEMA members working to bring products into emissions compliance while dealing with new OEM technologies. In particular, these include direct-injection, gasoline-fueled engines in addition to small-displacement, turbo-supercharged, downsized powerplants. The value of this partnership can be viewed in a fashion similar to when onboard diagnostics (especially OBD-II) came onto the scene in 1996 and was initially deemed insurmountable by the specialty automotive aftermarket.
This view was largely the result of aftermarket manufacturers not being able to investigate OBD systems ahead of their introduction and mass use. It is SEMA’s intent to utilize CU-ICAR research to provide members with information earlier than what was experienced with OBD. There will also be opportunities for members to avail themselves of the CU-ICAR test facilities, augmented by consultation with experienced ICAR staff and participating graduate students.
Of course, there are other compliance-related services being offered by SEMA. For example, there has been continuing concern for the potential impact on CO2 emissions following the installation of performance aftermarket parts. SEMA staff has continued to monitor sources for this information, specifically emissions-testing laboratories where clients have requested data on the effects of such products on fuel economy.
The EPA has two methods to evaluate fuel economy. Both approaches utilize the so-called “carbon balance” method to determine fuel mileage. Specifically, a mathematical computation is involved, based on the model year and exhaust emissions of a vehicle. During emissions testing, the carbon content in the fuel is measured and a determination of the CO2 produced is a byproduct of the computation. Using this method of measurement (also a routine procedure used by the EPA in its fuel economy test programs) and based on data collected from independent emissions test facilities, the majority of specialty aftermarket products do not have a major impact on CO2 emissions.
While some of these types of monitoring are ongoing, others pertain to the evolution of certain recent regulatory requirements. A good example is the assistance SEMA has been providing diesel performance parts companies participating in CARB’s Products in Progress program, which requires these members to devise and administer a mandated parts-recall program.
This is a type of program with which affected SEMA members have had virtually no experience, certainly in recent times. Consequently, SEMA has been acting as an intermediary between the agency and these companies, clarifying and assisting in the design and approval of a recall process. It has also become evident that CARB has not directed such programs toward the specialty automotive aftermarket, which requires a procedure that is non-OEM oriented.
SEMA continues to monitor both old and emerging requirements and act as an intermediary between members seeking compliance and the regulatory agency, whether it’s CARB or EPA.
This service is only one among the various benefits derived from membership in the association. It is in the spirit of providing specific compliance and product evolution opportunities to its members that the new SEMA Garage-Industry Innovations Center and investment in the CU-ICAR program have been designed and are being implemented.