Are You Using New SEMA Tools to Meet Vehicle Technology Challenges?
Those who have attended the SEMA Show are likely aware of SEMA’s collaborative relationship with the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). SEMA’s partnership with CU-ICAR is now in its fifth year. It’s been a great partnership that yields useful tools to help SEMA members cope with vehicle technology and advance their products. Clemson has state-of-the-art equipment and top engineering talent to stay abreast of the newest automotive technologies. By connecting CU-ICAR and its graduate-level students and professors with the aftermarket, SEMA is shaping world-class research into practical tools for our member companies.
One example is the just-released “Ride Guide,” a publication that puts more science into the matter of wheel/tire performance and selection. With support from SEMA and the Wheel & Tire Council (WTC), CU-ICAR recently conducted months of testing to determine the performance differences of varying wheel and tire combinations.
The project looked at sidewall height, tire size and wheel size to quantify how a given combination affects ride and handling characteristics. The research resulted in a technical publication, “Wheel and Tire Customization Influence on Vehicle Dynamics Performance,” by Xianjie Zhu and Dr. Paul Venhovens. The WTC then helped put that information into a digestible form, resulting in the newly available “Ride Guide.” The “Ride Guide” will help tire shops and retailers work with customers to make complex tradeoffs easy to understand so that they can make informed decisions about which wheel and tire combination will best suit a given purpose.
The “Ride Guide” is now available for free download from the WTC webpage (www.sema.org/wtc). Those who enjoy technical reading can also download the source material.
On the powertrain front, SEMA is also working with CU-ICAR to help SEMA members develop performance components for emissions-regulated vehicles and get those products certified by government regulators for sale in California and the remaining 49 states.
Exactly how engine tuning affects emissions is a growing challenge as car makers rapidly deploy technology to meet new emissions and fuel-economy standards. CU-ICAR has the capability to instrument complex engine systems, such as direct-injected, lean-burn, turbocharged engines, and translate that data into information that’s useful for SEMA members developing performance products. The Clemson lab can quickly identify and isolate problem areas that might take a SEMA company, working on its own, months of iterative work and dozens of dyno runs to resolve.
Having a proven tool to evaluate a given new product for emissions is a big deal, and it also allows SEMA to work with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a smoother path to get the emissions certification needed to market and sell the product in the United States. SEMA will be supplying CU-ICAR with popular vehicle models to conduct baseline testing and subsequent testing where a SEMA member is having difficulty pinpointing an emissions problem. This testing will more accurately identify what changes may be necessary to meet emissions requirements and pass the test.
Once a part is able to pass, SEMA’s new Emissions Compliance office will help prepare the member’s application and test data for submission to CARB and guide the application to a smoother and quicker path to an executive order (CARB EO). The CARB EO entitles the product to be legally marketed not only in California but is also required and recognized by the U.S. EPA for marketing and sale of the product in all other states. The CU-ICAR lab’s role in emissions testing and data analysis will help eliminate the vexing blind-alley, trial-and-error aspect to development of new performance parts.
Moving forward, we can expect to get wheel and tire data for more applications so that the “Ride Guide” can be expanded to apply to more makes and models. And SEMA is moving rapidly to supply the necessary vehicles to develop baseline data at Clemson to make sure SEMA members are well positioned to face technical challenges as they unfold.
—Chris Kersting, SEMA President and CEO