The 2010 elections are here, and at no time in recent history has Washington been so divided. Less than two years ago, then-Senator Barack Obama led a movement united by the desire for change. Voters wanted a new era of bipartisan cooperation, openness and an abandonment of "politics as usual."
The realities of backroom politics quickly eroded campaign ideals. Whether President Obama and the Democratic leadership failed to deliver or his opponents refused the invitation, the battle lines were fortified and partisan rancor is now stronger than ever.
It's easy to identify key events that hastened the downfall. We must also acknowledge that circumstances at the beginning of 2009 were dire. The world economy wavered and consumers and businesses alike were gripped in fear. Early decisions made by the Obama Administration and Congress helped bring stability to the markets but also left a sour taste for many. Did we bailout the right people? Did we mortgage our future to jump-start the economy? Will skyrocketing deficits lead to stagflation, inflation or other types of economic grief?
Health care reform underscored the divisions. Early on there was a "debate" on how to address the twin issues of skyrocketing premiums and the millions of Americans without health care insurance. But by last summer, it had devolved into issue ads and angry town-hall gatherings.
We are again at an election crossroads in which many voters are seeking "change." That's what this story is about-an opportunity to consider how actions being taken by federal and state lawmakers impact you, the auto enthusiast. The need for the enthusiast community to stay informed and become involved is greater than ever. From emissions to auto equipment standards, the government is making decisions about your current and future car.
This topic is not limited to Washington. While the federal government issues national rules dictating vehicle safety and emissions equipment, most other issues are handled at the state and local levels. From titling and registration to inspection and maintenance, your car is subject to decisions made by state and local officials.
The future of our hobby depends on you. The ballot box is one venue for making your views known. We also urge you to work collectively with your fellow enthusiasts. How? Join the SEMA Action Network. The SAN is a partnership between enthusiasts, car clubs and members of the specialty auto parts industry in the U.S. and Canada who have pledged to join forces in support of legislative solutions for the auto hobby. It's free to join and the SAN keeps you informed about pending legislation and regulations-both good and bad-that will impact your state or the entire country. It also provides you with action alerts, speaking points, and lawmaker contact information if you want to support or oppose a bill.
Join now at www.semasan.com.
Regulating Hot Rod Emissions
Government regulations continue filtering into the hot-rod community. Our purpose here is to provide a chronology of events helpful to understanding the current regulatory landscape and then look into the future of what enthusiasts can expect. You will become aware of the role enthusiasts can play in this process, in addition to steps that have been and are being taken by the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association on behalf of the users of their products.
It has been approximately 40 years since the government agency that became California's Air Resources Board first met with specialty aftermarket parts manufacturers. The agency had become aware that non-stock, emissions-related aftermarket parts were being installed on California vehicles and wanted to establish guidelines for their use. About a dozen specialty parts manufacturers attended the meeting that was convened by the agency setting "design limits" based on the most robust parts options available from the original equipment manufacturers.
In other words, if an OEM offered any versions of "high-performance" parts as options to stock counterparts, emissions-related specialty aftermarket parts would not be allowed to exceed the design criteria of higher performance OEM components. For example, multiple carburetors, dual exhausts, camshaft specifications and similar limits to other such aftermarket parts would be the rule.
Moving into the '70s and '80s, enthusiasts saw and experienced the impact of OEM emissions controls. Federal emissions standards imposed on the OEM were mandated in shorter time periods and included the downsizing of displacements, reducing vehicle weight, redesigning engine packages and making companion changes requiring years to accomplish. As a result, we entered the emissions "band-aid" era involving short-term modifications the OEMs could make in order to meet required standards. Air pumps, carburetors with limited adjustments, exhaust gas recirculation, catalytic converters, rear gear changes to reduce on-road engine speeds and comparable "quick fixes" were imposed on consumers and enthusiasts, the net effect being both a real and perceived reduction in prior vehicle performance.
At the enthusiast level, emissions controls were perceived as performance-reducing components. It would be another ten years before redesigned engine packages with computer controlled electronic fuel injection and higher overall combustion efficiency would restore "high performance" to the OEM community while meeting even more stringent emissions and fuel economy requirements.
Even during these years, and flying somewhat under the radar, there was the need for specialty aftermarket parts manufacturers to begin adapting to new OEM technologies. Failure to do this impacted two areas in particular. One dealt with attempts to develop products with consumer value in the face of much more daunting engineering tasks. The other was the requirement that certain emissions standards be met, because by this time both the CARB and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were aware that improperly designed emissions-related parts could take an otherwise certified vehicle out of compliance.
At this point, SEMA took a proactive role in working directly with the CARB to create a method by which emissions-related specialty aftermarket parts could be brought into compliance. While the EPA had its own anti-tampering provisions contained in the federal law affecting aftermarket parts, the CARB had taken a more aggressive position in regulating these components. Working directly with CARB staff, SEMA helped establish an emissions testing program whereby emissions-critical parts could be made legal for on-road use in California. Ultimately, EPA would recognize this certification for use elsewhere in the country.
At the time, as now, the so-called CARB Executive Order certification process that was created embodied test procedures required of the OEMs when certifying new vehicles. Today, SEMA continues working with both the CARB and EPA to help enable its membership to achieve emissions compliance for specialty aftermarket parts, all of which has a direct impact on several segments in the performance enthusiast community.
There have also been concerns for owners of specially-built or kit car enthusiasts, pertaining to various titling issues and other state-based challenges in numerous locations across the country. Particularly in California, where a significant number of specially built vehicles were identified by regulators as either improperly or illegally registered (approximately five years ago), a major threat to the street rod industry appeared. Because such violations were considered a felony offense, car owners were targeted for arrests and the probability of confiscated vehicles. It has required a major effort on the part of SEMA, working in conjunction with the California Attorney's Office, CARB, Bureau of Automotive Repair, Department of Motor Vehicles, and state legislators to craft a solution to this critical issue. Whereas five years ago there was no clear path to obtaining legal registration and emissions-compliance for these vehicles, today there is a means for accomplishing it.
Concurrently, SEMA has continued working with states outside California to configure laws and regulations to enable legal registration of street rods and custom cars (including kit cars and replicas). The SEMA model legislation, enacted in 20 states to date, also provides for special license plates for these vehicles. The bill defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. The bill allows kit cars and replica vehicles to be assigned a certificate of title bearing the same model year designation that the body of the vehicle was constructed to resemble.
Most recently, there have been concerns about the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions and how performance parts relate to so-called greenhouse gases. After a review of data gathered during emissions compliance testing of specialty aftermarket products that successfully passed these tests, the levels of CO2 that exceeded baseline emissions were quite low. In fact, although increased air/fuel charge enrichment in and of itself can somewhat increase CO2, if combustion efficiency levels associated with improved fuel economy and acceptable emissions are maintained, little or no unfavorable impact has been observed. So it would appear that performance products, when designed and used in a way that enables fuel economy equal to or better than that obtained with stock components, create a negligible effect on CO2 output.
Looking ahead, it is clear that OEM technology and ways it can be improved by enthusiasts or made compatible with specific performance objectives is a further challenge. The car companies build vehicles with technologies that must be understood and addressed, not only within regulatory requirements that include safety and emissions, but also as the platform on which the aftermarket must operate. This challenge has included increased pressure from regulatory requirements, largely dealing with emissions performance and compliance. Gone are the days when performance parts manufacturers could simply expand on the dimensions or specifications of an OEM part or system to produce more power. Aftermarket parts manufacturers are required to upgrade their own technical capabilities and be prepared to meet new challenges to integrate emissions-related parts to regulatory test methods.
Looking further into the future, it is abundantly clear that Federal and State governmental regulations will continue to affect the performance aftermarket, ranging from parts manufacturers to enthusiasts. Historically, it is not a matter of "if" regulations will impact this industry but "when" and to what extent they will do so. An integral part of working toward the prevention or reduction of such actions is the combined ability of SEMA to identify and confront heavy-handed legislation potentially damaging to the performance enthusiast community while working directly with government regulators to address mutual concerns. By linking and integrating these critical elements, the high-performance industry and enthusiast landscape we know today will be ensured a viable future.
SEMA Action Network
Gridlock and bitter partisan politics continue to persist in Washington, D.C. and in the state capitols around the country, making positive legislative action difficult. Fortunately, the SEMA Action Network has been breaking through the gridlock and promoting legislative solutions for the automotive hobby since 1997.
The SAN is a partnership between enthusiasts, vehicle clubs and members of the specialty automotive parts industry in the United States and Canada who have joined forces to promote hobby-friendly legislation and oppose unfair laws. With nearly 40,000 members, 3 million contacts and an ability to reach 30 million enthusiasts through print and press, the SAN is the premier organization defending the rights of the vehicle hobby. The SAN is free to join with no obligations or commitments.
When it comes to taking the action needed to protect the automotive hobby, only the SAN has the experience, the resources, and the dedicated network of enthusiasts to stop unreasonable bills in their tracks and keep the hobby free from overly restrictive government regulation. No other organization brings such a comprehensive set of tools and resources to bear on this mission:
- A professional government affairs staff in Washington, D.C. that works in all 50 states and at the federal level.
- A full-time research staff that monitors every bill introduced in every state.
- Tailored action alerts sent to enthusiasts with bill information, speaking points, and legislator contact information.
- The SEMA SAN website which features tracked legislation, action alerts, guidance on letter writing, lobbying elected officials, land-use policies, warranty denial and a means by which you can identify your legislators.
- The award-winning monthly legislative newsletter-Driving Force.
- Pro-hobby model legislation crafted by SEMA SAN staff.
- The State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus-a collection of nearly 450 state legislators with a common goal to support the motor vehicle hobby.
- The Congressional Motorsports Caucus-100 U.S. Representatives and Senators who have aligned to pay tribute to America's ever growing love affair with the car and motorsports.
The SAN is an organization dedicated to providing the tools and information necessary for hobbyists to protect their passion. To raise awareness of important issues affecting the hobby around the country, the SAN sponsors the Hot Rod Power Tour bus, travels to car shows and events, raises awareness through automotive media, operates a Facebook group and a Twitter page, and distributes issue brochures to car clubs and businesses. The SAN further supports car clubs by advertising their shows and charitable events in Driving Force.
In its 13-year history, the effect of the SAN on shaping government policy has been enormous. The SAN has successfully:
- Enacted street rod and custom vehicle (including kit cars and replicas) registration and titling laws in 20 states.
- Protected classic vehicles waiting to be restored on private property from confiscation.
- Safeguarded legal off-road nitrous oxide use with SAN model legislation
- Defended enthusiast's right to use more durable aftermarket exhaust systems.
- Junked state-level Cash for Clunkers legislation.
- Enacted legislation to lower taxes and fees for hobbyist vehicles.
- Advocated to ensure public lands remain open to responsible off-road recreation.
The current economic and legislative environment is emboldening governments to become more aggressive with their anti-auto hobby legislation. States are seeking new avenues for generating revenue and new ways of dictating what you can and cannot do with your vehicles. The message government is sending is clear-the hobby needs the SEMA Action Network now more than ever. Enlist now in this fellowship of auto enthusiasts, join the SAN at www.semasan.com
Lobby for the Hobby
"We the people of the United States" are not just words from the first line of an old document. We are the people who love muscle cars, hot rods, street rods, tuners, replicas, off road trucks, and many other varieties of automotive pursuits that are as diverse as the country in which we live. We are also the people who have to work to protect our automotive passions from unnecessary, unfair, or well intentioned but poorly written laws and regulations. Fortunately, we the people live in a country where we can still make a difference in how we are governed.
Our greatest tool in making that difference is our voice. By speaking out on issues that concern the automotive hobby, contacting our representatives, and working constructively with government officials, we have the power to protect our passion and keep it safe for future generations of auto hobbyists and enthusiasts. When legislatures are out of session, representatives are in their home districts and typically have more time to meet casually with their constituents. They are also planning for the next legislative session and deciding which bills to introduce. Contacting them can have a tremendous impact by raising their awareness of issues that could impact our hobby during the next session. That is what makes right now the perfect time to get involved and build relationships with your legislators, so hit the gas and keep your foot down!
To get you started, we have prepared 10 tips you can use when contacting your representatives:
1. Develop and Maintain Relationships with Your Legislators and Their Staff
Make contact and develop productive relationships with individual legislators. It is the most effective form of grassroots lobbying. It's also important to develop a relationship with their staff who monitor ongoing legislative and community initiatives.
2. Educate Legislators About Our Hobby and Our Issues
Educate your legislator about the hobby and emphasize the positive impact it has on the community.
3. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Develop a positive relationship with your legislator. The next time an enthusiast-related issue comes up, that same legislator may be needed to support your cause.
4. Stay Informed
Keep up-to-date on the legislative issues that affect the hobby in your state. Share this information with fellow enthusiasts.
5. Get Involved in the Community
Join with other community groups to build positive exposure. Holding charity runs and fundraisers provide a great opportunity to show local residents and politicians that auto clubs are a positive community force.
6. Build Relationships with the Local Media
Contact local newspapers and radio/TV stations to publicize car shows, charity events, etc.
7. Invite Officials to Participate in Your Events
Give legislators a platform to reach an audience of constituents.
8. Build an Automotive Coalition
Create coalitions to add strength in numbers and ensure that the rights of all vehicle enthusiasts are represented. Actively participating in regional and statewide councils will develop a unified message to lawmakers. These types of pro-hobbyist groups can be an influential political force.
9. Spread the Word
Take this information to your next club meeting, cruise night or post it on your online forums. Share this information with other enthusiasts who are willing to help lobby for the hobby.
10. Register to Vote
Exercise your right to support pro-hobby candidates. Constituents are an elected official's number-one priority. Without you and your vote of support, they would not be in office, so make sure you're registered and get out and vote.
In recent years, state and federal officials have attempted to implement emissions reduction programs that target older vehicles. Most scrappage programs allow "smokestack" industries to avoid reducing their own emissions by buying pollution credits generated through destroying these vehicles. These programs accelerate the normal retirement of vehicles through the purchase of older cars, which are then typically crushed into blocks of scrap metal. Hobbyists suffer from the indiscriminate destruction of older cars, trucks and parts, which anyone undergoing a restoration project can attest. America safeguards its artistic and architectural heritage against indiscriminate destruction, and our automotive and industrial heritage deserves the same protection.
While some legislation designed to spur sales of new and used automobiles is positive, such as vouchers toward the purchase of a new or used cars or tax credits to help upgrade, repair or maintain older vehicles, scrappage provisions are not. Scrappage programs focus on vehicle age rather than actual emissions produced. This approach is based on the erroneous assumption that all "old cars are dirty cars." However, the true culprits are "gross polluters"-vehicles of any model year that are poorly maintained. Scrappage programs ignore better options like vehicle maintenance, repair, and upgrade programs that maximize the emissions systems of existing vehicles. In the past year, scrappage initiatives have been defeated California, North Carolina, and Washington.
Enthusiasts played a vital role in altering federal scrappage legislation in 2009 when an amendment was worked into the "Cash for Clunkers" program to spare vehicles 25-years and older from the scrappage heap and expand parts recycling opportunities. Cash for Clunkers operated through voluntary consumer participation, allowing car owners to receive a voucher to help buy a new car in exchange for scrapping a less fuel-efficient vehicle. Vehicle hobbyists eased the program's effects by convincing lawmakers to include a requirement that the trade-in vehicle be a model year '84-or-newer vehicle. This provision helped safeguard older vehicles, which are irreplaceable to hobbyists as a source of restoration parts.
You come home one afternoon only to find a ticket on your project vehicle that's parked on your property. Sounds like a nightmare scenario, doesn't it? But in some areas of the country, it's all too real. State and local laws-some on the books now, others pending-can or will dictate where you can work to restore or modify your project vehicle. Believe it or not, that project car or truck you've stashed behind your house until the new crate engine arrives or the cherished collectible you've hung onto since high school to pass down to your kids could easily be towed right out of your yard depending on the zoning laws in your area.
Why is the long arm of the law reaching into your backyard? Some zealous government officials are waging war against what they consider "eyesores." To us, of course, these are valuable on-going restoration projects. But to a non-enthusiast lawmaker, your diamond-in-the-rough looks like a junker ready for the salvage yard. If you're not careful, that's exactly where it will wind up.
Hobbyists are becoming increasingly concerned about the many states and localities currently enforcing or attempting to legislate strict property or zoning laws that include restrictions on visible inoperable automobile bodies and parts. Often, removal of these vehicles from private property is enforced through local nuisance laws with minimal or no notice to the owner. Jurisdictions enforce or seek to enact these laws for a variety of reasons, most particularly because they believe: 1) inoperative vehicles are eyesores that adversely affect property values or 2) inoperative vehicles pose a health risk associated with leaking fluids and chemicals. Many such laws are drafted broadly, allowing for the confiscation of vehicles being repaired or restored.
For the purposes of these laws, "inoperable vehicles" are most often defined as those on which the engine, wheels or other parts have been removed, altered, damaged or allowed to deteriorate so that the vehicle cannot be driven. The following are some common conditions that cause vehicles to be in violation of these laws:
- Missing tires
- Vehicle on blocks
- Front windshield missing
- No engine
- Steering wheel missing
- License plate with expired registration date
- No license tag
In the 2009-2010 legislative session, hobbyists defeated bills in Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia that would have established unreasonable restrictions on backyard restoration projects. In response to these and other anti-hobbyist efforts, SEMA has drafted its own inoperable vehicle bill that's fair to restorers, while still considerate of neighbors who don't want a junkyard operating next door.
The SEMA model bill simply states that project vehicles and their parts must be maintained or stored outside of "ordinary public view." States can adopt this model legislation as their own; in 2005, Kentucky did just that. This past session, Vermont also chose to protect hobbyists from a bill that was targeted at salvage yards. The new law increases the regulation of salvage yards and automobile graveyards in the state, but includes a provision stipulating that hobbyists are not to be confused with the owners of automobile graveyards. The new law defines an "automobile hobbyist" as a person not primarily engaged in the sale of vehicles and parts, or dismantling junk vehicles. Further, the definition of "automobile graveyard" does not include an area used by an automobile hobbyist for storage and restoration purposes, provided their activities comply with federal, state and municipal law.
A model inoperative vehicle bill should contain the following elements:
1. An explicit provision prohibiting a local area from adopting or implementing an ordinance or land use regulation that prohibits a person from engaging in the activities of an automobile collector in an area zoned by the municipality.
2. A definition of collector vehicles that includes parts cars.
3. A provision allowing an automobile collector to conduct mechanical repairs and modifications to a vehicle on private property.
4. A provision mandating that government authorities provide actual notice to the vehicle's last registered owner and provide an opportunity for voluntary compliance prior to confiscation.
5. A provision mandating due process of the law (adequate notice, right to hearing, etc.) prior to the removal of a vehicle from private property.
6. Language to permit the outdoor storage of a motor vehicle if the vehicle is maintained in such a manner as not to constitute a health hazard.
7. The condition that parts vehicles be located away from public view, or screened by means of a suitable fence, trees, shrubbery, opaque covering, or other appropriate means.
Experience indicates that it will be helpful to make a few preparations when you are working in your state or locality to modify damaging proposed inoperable vehicle language:
1. Develop a specialty vehicle definition (e.g. vehicle is 25 years old or older; limited-production vehicle; special-interest vehicle, and so on).
2. Build a coalition of interested clubs and organizations.
3. Propose fair alternative language that benefits both the hobbyist and the community (e.g. screened from ordinary public view by means of a suitable fence, trees, shrubbery, etc.).
4. Garner support from local media.
5. Be persistent in your efforts.
Many states operate their own I/M programs in areas that the EPA has designated as a "nonattainment area," meaning that the area has not attained the EPA's required air quality. The EPA checks for carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide when designating these areas and when an area does not meet the standard for any individual pollutant, or any combination of the pollutants, then it is placed on the list of nonattainment areas.
To meet the EPA's emissions reduction requirements, many states are implementing more stringent emission inspection and maintenance programs. An I/M program may be currently operating in your state, or could be soon.
Many states have incorporated the OBD testing method as part of the vehicle emissions inspection for 1996 and newer vehicles. These OBD tests replace tailpipe tests by identifying emissions problems through information stored in the vehicle's onboard computer system. Some states have even proposed only testing vehicles with the OBD test, limiting the vehicles that need to be tested to those manufactured in 1996 and later.
The I/M 240 is an enhanced emissions testing program, with "240" representing the number of seconds that the tailpipe portion of the test lasts. I/M 240 tests require visual inspection of emissions control devices, an evaporative emissions test and a transient drive-cycle exhaust emissions test, performed while the vehicle is running on rollers. Many state programs mistakenly fail vehicles in the visual test based on the presence of aftermarket engine products or force older collector vehicles to undergo some type of testing.
Policy makers must properly focus inspection procedures and not confuse legitimate aftermarket parts with emission defeat devices and tampering violations. The hobby must also pursue proactive legislative initiatives to establish exemptions from inspections for low-mileage vehicles, classic vehicles (defined as 25 years old and older) and newer vehicles.
It is useful to remind legislators that the emissions from this small portion of the vehicle fleet are negligible. This is especially true when you consider the low miles typically driven by hobby vehicles and the excellent condition in which these vehicles are maintained.
New-Car Emissions Exemptions
It is not an effective use of resources to perform emissions tests on newer vehicles. The results of these tests predominately demonstrate no significant threats to air quality from these vehicles. New vehicles are regulated by the EPA, which provides strict emissions standards, which these vehicles have already met.
The idea behind exempting all classes of new vehicles is to reduce costs while not losing appreciable emission reductions. This strategy builds support for emission inspection programs, but also directs finite resources to where they will be most valuable in cleaning the air. Even California, the toughest state on vehicle emissions, recognized the benefits of exempting new vehicles and does not require smog checks to be performed on vehicles six model years old or newer.
Understanding how vehicles and car parts are regulated can be a bit confusing. Here is a quick overview.
The Federal government, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has the right to set, enforce and investigate safety standards for new motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. These Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards are performance-based. They do not dictate design elements. For example, the federal lighting standard prescribes the photometric requirements for a headlamp but does not dictate shape or size.
The FMVSS covers basic types of equipment (e.g. tires, rims, headlamps/tail lamps, brake hoses, etc.) and establishes vehicle crashworthiness requirements (front and side impact, roof crush resistance, fuel system integrity, etc.).
Emissions and emissions-related parts are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and various state agencies, primary of which is the California Air Resources Board. For products sold in California (and states that have adopted the California standards), manufacturers must conform to standards issued by the CARB.
Federal law prohibits states from issuing motor vehicle safety regulations that conflict with federal standards. This is called federal preemption. However, states are free to enact and enforce safety and equipment regulations, which are identical to the FMVSS or, in the absence of a federal rule, establish their own laws and regulations. The most frequent examples of individual state rules cover parts like "optional" or "accessory" lighting equipment, noise levels for exhaust and stereo systems, suspension height and window-tinting. States also establish rules on how a vehicle is titled and registered. State and local jurisdictions have authority to regulate inoperable vehicles or determine whether an enthusiast is engaged in a business vs. private activity. State and local law enforcement officials issue tickets and inspect cars.
State laws have evolved over many generations and they continue to change. Some laws are better than others, and there is a constant need to remind state policy makers not to be biased in favor of the vehicle's original equipment, such as lighting, tires and wheels, suspension components, and bumper/frame height. For example, some state laws allow motorists to be ticketed when an officer has made a subjective noise level determination that the exhaust system is "louder than what came with the car." To cite another example, bills have been introduced in state legislatures to ban spinners even though they are legal at the federal level. Opposing arbitrary and unnecessarily restrictive equipment and inspection laws is a constant challenge.
The hobby must work with legislators to mitigate legislation that would ban the installation of power booster systems, including nitrous oxide systems intended for off-road (track) use. The SEMA model bill aims to do just that with language that provides for the operation of a vehicle equipped for nitrous oxide, so long as the nitrous oxide is disconnected from the engine when the vehicle is anywhere other than the track.
Gas Guzzler laws primarily come out of state legislatures in misguided attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A bill in New York, for example, seeks to establish a progressive purchase or lease surcharge for some new motor vehicles based on calculations of carbon emissions. Depending on the vehicle purchased, this surcharge could require owners to pay up to $2,500 more for a vehicle. Another bill in New York proposes to create a task force that would recommend higher toll and registration fees for vehicles based on the vehicle's weight, emissions and fuel-efficiency ratings.
In California, a similar measure was recently defeated that would have added a surcharge to some vehicles based on state calculations of carbon emissions. If such an effort was successful, the effects on a consumer's ability to purchase their vehicle of choice, not to mention vehicle safety, would be dramatic. These measures would also make popular performance and luxury cars, as well as SUVs, light trucks and minivans, substantially more expensive to own without necessarily curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, since greenhouse gas emissions have more to do with overall basic vehicle maintenance than with owning and operating any particular class of vehicle.
CAFE and CO2 Standards
Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards strive to achieve reduced greenhouse gas emissions through a reduction in the amount of fuel new vehicles burn. Manufacturers are given a fuel economy rating, measured in miles per gallon, that their fleet as a whole must average in a given model year. Congress passed a law in 1973 directing the EPA to set CAFE standards, making these standards a tool exclusively wielded by the federal government. The federal government finalized new fuel-economy standards as well as a national carbon dioxide emissions tailpipe standard in April this past year. The two issues are related since CO2 is released in direct proportion to the amount of carbon-based fuel that is burned. Under the new rules, NHTSA has set CAFE standards for model year '12-'16 vehicles and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established corresponding CO2 emissions standards. The combined action would match CO2 emission standards previously adopted by California and 13 other states.
The average CAFE rating will be 35.5 mpg in 2016 based on a combined 39 mpg rating for passenger cars and 30 mpg for light trucks. The EPA's CO2 emissions standard is 250 grams per mile for vehicles sold in 2016, roughly the equivalent of 35.5 mpg. The automakers support, and participated in formulating, the rules since they provide a reasonable national approach to regulating CO2 emissions rather than a patchwork of state rules.
NHTSA will use an attribute-based system which sets CAFE standards for individual fleets of vehicles based on size, taking into account the differences between cars and light trucks (SUVs, pickups and vans). Individual car companies will have flexibility on how to achieve the rules, whether placing more emphasis on hybrids or reducing vehicle size and weight. Nevertheless, a standard based on each vehicle's footprint should force automakers to increase the efficiency of every vehicle rather than downsizing some vehicles in order to offset the sale of bigger cars. Automakers will likely rely on more fuel-efficient tires, turbochargers, low-friction lubricants, six-speed automatic transmissions and similar technological means to achieve the standards.
While the new CAFE and CO2 standards for 2016 are reasonable, the Obama Administration announced plans to put in place stronger rules for 2017 and beyond. In May, President Obama directed the EPA to also reduce emissions of conventional pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides. The president also instructed regulators to establish fuel economy and CO2 standards for medium-and heavy-duty trucks for the first time beginning in MY 2014. Since the government is to regulate CO2 emissions from automobiles, it should do so through the CAFE standards and not allow any individual state to set overly harsh standards.
The California Air Resources Board is also pursuing CO2 standards for MY '17-'25 cars and trucks. CARB intends to coordinate its action with the EPA and NHTSA, along with the automakers and other stakeholders, with the goal of setting a single national standard. Federal regulators intend to issue a "game plan" for MY '17-'25 light-duty vehicles by September 2010 and adopt a final rule by mid-2012, while CARB officials want to complete action on the CO2 standards by the end of 2010.
Drastically increased CAFE potentially limits consumer choice if manufacturers are forced to make smaller, less powerful and less useful cars and light duty vehicles in order to meet government fuel economy demands. Market-based solutions must be employed which allow the consumer to participate in and respond to national energy policies.
Hobbyists frequently ask us about the rules governing engine switching in project vehicles. First of all, those engaged in engine-switching activities are bound by specific state laws that may vary from state to state. Having said that, there are some general guidelines one may consider. This article will cover the rules for switching the engine in production-type vehicles (but not specially constructed vehicles, street rods, kit cars, and the like). The basic rule of engine switching (as opposed to installing a "replacement" engine) is that the change must do no harm. This means that the engine being installed must theoretically be at least as "clean" as the one taken out. Several requirements may define "clean" for the purposes of engine switching:
Model Year: The engine to be installed must be the same age or newer than the one being replaced. Crate engines can be used if they are configured to resemble an engine that was certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the California Air Resources Board. This essentially means that the required emissions parts must be present on the engine.
Certification Level: The engine to be installed must come from a vehicle certified to meet the same or more stringent emissions standards than the one replaced.
Vehicle Class: An engine from a vehicle class such as a motor home, medium-duty truck or marine application must not be used since these engines were certified to different types of emissions standards, using different tests.
System/Equipment: When swapping in a newer engine from a later-model vehicle, all of the relevant emissions control equipment must be transferred as well. This includes the carbon canister, the catalytic converter(s) and even parts of the on-board diagnostic system. Some states have exceptions to this requirement, but the general rule is that as much of the donor vehicle's emissions system as possible should be transferred. The vehicle will likely run more efficiently with a full transfer of the system and shouldn't cause any undue heartache.
Of course, engine switching can be much more complex than described here, but these are good general rules to follow and should keep engine switchers out of trouble in most cases.
The U.S. EPA and many states have enforceable policies and guidelines on how to perform legal engine changes. For further information, please consult the EPA and California Bureau of Automotive Repair at: www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/policies/civil/caa/mobile/engswitch.pdf www.bar.ca.gov/80_BARResources/07_AutoRepair/Engine_Change_Guidelines.html.
Imagine driving down the road and getting stopped for the modified muffler on your painstakingly restored '66 Mustang. Now imagine sitting on the shoulder, receiving a citation from local law enforcement, while a stock Ferrari overtakes your car and drives on. This is the scene being played on state highways across the country, the result of poorly drafted or ineffective state laws and regulations. The laws on the books in these states frequently cite the manufacturer's specifications or a factory installed muffler as the basis on which vehicle exhaust noise is measured.
On this topic, states can generally be divided into two major categories: States with noise standards and states without noise standards. Of the states with a test standard on the books, many ignore guidelines when handing out citations. Most states that have chosen to go the route of setting specifications choose to measure a vehicle's noise by decibels. States that have quantifiable noise standards on the books are shaded red in the map above. These standards often go unenforced. One reason these regulations are not enforced is that they are based on an in-use standard-exhaust noise is measured while a vehicle is in motion on the highway. The states that employ these operating standards typically divide vehicles into classes and then set separate standards: one for vehicles while driving on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less and a second standard for vehicles driving on roadways with a speed limit greater than 35 mph. The measurements are to be taken while the vehicle is in motion on the road, usually from a distance of 50 feet from the center lane of travel.
Other states choose not to specify a quantifiable noise standard. These states are shown in yellow in the map above. Typical language in these states' statutes includes prohibitions on "excessive or unusual noise" from a vehicle's exhaust system. While most motorists believe that exhaust systems should not be used in a way that causes overly loud or objectionable noise, these vague provisions fail to provide a clear and objective standard for those seeking more durable exhaust systems that enhance a vehicle's appearance and increase performance.
Language that effectively limits the use of aftermarket exhausts can be found amongst both yellow and red states. Such language includes sentences such as "no person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in any manner which will amplify or increase the noise or sound emitted louder than that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle." While such language does not specifically prohibit all modification, it does not provide any means of measuring whether a vehicle has been acceptably modified. Such language also negatively affects the aftermarket industry by placing the noise limit authority in the hands of the OEMs and ignores the fact that aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to make vehicles run more efficiently without increasing emissions.
Green on the map identifies the three states that have enacted SEMA model legislation to provide enthusiasts and law enforcement officials with a fair and enforceable alternative. The model legislation establishes a 95-decibel exhaust noise limit based on an industry standard adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Under this standard (SAE J1169), a sound meter is placed 20 inches from the exhaust outlet at a 45-degree angle and the engine is revved to three quarters of maximum rated horsepower. The highest decibel reading is then recorded.
Previous California law allowed modifications so long as the noise levels did not exceed the 95-decibel limit. However, the roadside enforcement of this limit was chaotic, leading to subjective, selective, and improper enforcement.
Enforcement of the previous law and regulations in California, for example, resulted in many drivers being pulled over by state and local police and cited for improper modified exhaust systems despite having what they believed to be legal aftermarket exhausts. To prove our point (and educate ourselves) about the widespread improper enforcement of the previous California exhaust law, SEMA conducted a series of exhaust noise tests in early April of 2001. First, we contacted California SEMA Action Network members to see how many folks had received citations for excessive or modified exhaust. We were surprised and dismayed to learn how many fit the category! We then invited them to have their cars tested to see if they actually complied with California law. Finally, we hired a board-certified acoustical engineer and did the testing according to the standards set out in California law. Long story short, of the cars we tested only one exceeded the 95db legal level.
To remedy this problem in 2002, SEMA helped enact a new enforcement procedure in California through its model bill. The new law forces compliance with an objectively measured standard in a fair and predictable test. Through this procedure, motorists who drive vehicles legally equipped with modified exhaust systems can confirm that they comply with California's exhaust noise standard. The California Bureau of Automotive Repair began operation of the motor vehicle exhaust noise-testing program in 2003. The law also allows courts to dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued. Under the program, the 40 Smog Check stations statewide that provide referee functions are performing the test. These referee stations are issuing certificates of compliance for vehicles when tests of their exhaust systems demonstrate that they emit no more than 95-decibels, under the SAE test procedure. However, only those vehicles that have received a citation for an exhaust noise violation are permitted to submit their vehicle for the test. A similar standard was enacted in Maine in 2003 and Montana in 2007.
In its efforts to promote and protect the specialty equipment industry and the automotive hobby in the states, SEMA partners with state lawmakers from across the country through the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus. Formed in 2005 to supplement the work of our grassroots hobbyist network, the Caucus is a bi-partisan group of state lawmakers whose common thread is a love and appreciation for automobiles. Supported by SEMA's Government Affairs office in Washington, D.C., the Caucus is serving to raise the motor vehicle hobby's profile in the state legislatures and in the eyes of the public. Working in state capitals, many of these legislators have sought to preserve and protect the hobby by improving existing motor vehicle statutes and creating new programs to safeguard and expand the hobby.
Over the past several years, the work of these lawmakers has brought a series of significant legislative accomplishments for the vehicle enthusiast community and specialty equipment industry on issues ranging from equipment standards to registration and titling classifications, and from emissions test exemptions to the rights of hobbyists to engage in backyard restorations.
"The automobile is part of our culture and history," said New York Assemblyman Bill Reilich, the current Caucus Chairman. "I am extremely pleased at how the membership numbers have increased, however, our work is not done. I will continue to work with the SEMA Government Affairs staff to help educate and encourage participation by our state governmental leaders and work toward our goal of having at least 500 members actively participating in the Caucus."
The work of caucus members has brought a series of significant legislative accomplishments for the vehicle enthusiast community. By joining the Caucus, these legislators have demonstrated their commitment to upholding the rights of vehicle enthusiasts. In addition, hobbyists are able to quickly identify which state legislators have chosen to be recognized for their support of this great American hobby. Approximately 450 state legislators from all 50 states are involved in the Caucus.
Check out our web site, 50mustangandsuperfords.com, for a complete list of hobby-friendly state legislators.
You might be surprised at the number of car guys (and gals) in Washington, D.C. working on behalf of hobbyists like yourself. These are senators and congressional representatives who, as enthusiasts, are interested in protecting and expanding our hobby. The Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus is now nearing 100 members and pays tribute to America's ever growing love affair with the car and motorsports.
In Washington, SEMA works in partnership with Caucus members to amplify the message among national policy-makers that the auto-motive performance industry is a vital engine in today's economy, employing more than a million Americans and generating $32 billion in sales annually.
Check out our web site, 50mustangandsuperfords.com, for a complete list of hobby-friendly senators and congressional representatives.