California Moves Closer, But Not Quite, to U.S. EPA on Gaseous Fuels,
Agency Board to Vote on Proposal in Sacramento at End of the Month
As expected, the California Air Resources Board has moved to update its certification requirements for gaseous fuel vehicles. If approved, CARB’s requirements would be closer to those of the U.S. EPA, but still considerably stricter, especially with respect to OBD – onboard diagnostics.
CARB issued a preview of the proposed changes this past spring (F&F, May 7). The agency board is to meet September 26-27 to consider formal implementation.
Washington, D.C.-based NGVAmerica says it supports CARB’s effort to update the certification procedures. “The current regulations for such systems have been in place since 1995, are cumbersome, and are now antiquated,” the organization says.
“The existing regulation, now over 18 years old, is quite dated and requires extensive, very costly and time consuming testing protocols, and a voluminous application, for approval of the vehicle for sale, and for eligibility for California vehicle purchase incentives,” agrees Peter Ward of Rocklin, Calif.-based Alternative Fuels Advocates.
“This regulation,” Ward says in a just-published summary, “has had the effect of reducing the number of alternative fuels vehicle choices available to fleets and consumers [and] ‘bottlenecking’ the potential for alternative fuels to enter the market, at a time when natural gas and propane autogas fuels are now much more affordable than petroleum- based conventional fuels.”
CARB is trying, says NGVAmerica, “to streamline certification requirements and, thereby, provide additional flexibility for companies certifying natural gas conversion systems for nearly-new vehicles as well as older vehicles.”
The changes, if finalized, will apply to propane autogas upfits as well.
Highlights, according to an NGVAmerica summary, include
- permitting conversion systems that are approved for new vehicles to be sold for used or in-use vehicle conversions;
- reducing the number and type of OBD demonstrations required (demonstration of the catalyst system, the fuel system at rich and lean limits and the exhaust gas sensors of the emission control system would still be required);
waiving evaporative emission testing requirements for sealed fuel systems;
- allowing the use of assigned deterioration factors to determine compliance with useful life emissions testing in lieu of high mileage emissions testing;
- allowing the use of commercially available fuel instead of requiring more expensive test fuel;
- allowing manufacturers use of a multiplier of 1.5 to convert NMHC emissions to NMOG emissions as currently allowed by U.S. EPA regulations;
- waiving additional testing requirements relating to gasoline emissions in vehicles that can operate on natural gas or gasoline so long as no changes to the gasoline operation have been made;
- allowing manufacturers to use alternative testing measures in the case of heavy duty engines and vehicles that originally were certified using an engine dynamometer; and
- providing additional flexibility for manufacturers who opt to certify a vehicle to a more stringent standard than the level certified to by the vehicle’s original manufacturer.
“Most of the proposed rule changes would only be in place for an interim period encompassing model years 2014-2017,” NGVAmerica adds. “CARB will assess how the changes are working and determine at a later time whether it is appropriate to extend them or allow them to lapse.”
Not Quite Twice as Costly
The association also breaks out CARB’s estimate for the cost of certifying an alternative fuel system: $93,600 as compared with $49,700 under the U.S. EPA regime. AFA’s Peter Ward notes that 11 states in addition to California “have subscribed to the California protocol for certification.”
CARB points out that “a manufacturer can use the CARB demonstration and approval when applying for an EPA certificate so the costs are not duplicative,” NGVAmerica notes.
Comments on the proposal may be submitted to CARB by September 25.
Contact information is only available to premium subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
Alternative Fuels Advocates, Peter Ward, 916-261-3779; [email protected]; www.cleancitiessacramento.org (direct link to PDF summary)
CARB, Dean Bloudoff, 916-322-8987; [email protected]
Source: NGVAmerica and Alternative Fuels Advocates with Fleets & Fuels follow-up