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Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/8/19 6:14 p.m.

Most people go to SEMA for the booth babes and the giant wheels and the custom cars with the paint still drying. That part's fun. But it's also an industry show, and it's a way for us to address the big issues.

Our industry is coming under scrutiny by the EPA and CARB. This is nothing new, but this summer the EPA specifically called out mobile sources as a priority in their latest National Compliance Initiative - basically, the three year plan. SEMA put together a panel with a couple of CARB members, the head of the SEMA emissions group, an EPA representative and a couple of SEMA board members. It was a good discussion, even if SEMA is suing the EPA who is suing CARB.

The EPA is specifically going after emissions defeat devices, and no surprise it's being driven by coal rollers. But according to their numbers, 13% of diesel trucks sold in the last 10 years are running full defeat devices. They've done emissions testing on trucks with DPF deletes, cat deletes, EGR deletes etc and they're seeing a massive increase in emissions - that 13% of deleted trucks have the same effect on emissions  as doubling truck sales overall. So it's no wonder that this has kicked off enforcement. It also extends to cars, of course. Test pipes, tuners designed to circumvent emissions controls - that sort of thing is a target.

They're going after the source, of course. Dealers and manufacturers. Not only are they looking at websites, but they're watching forums and social media. Organize a group buy to bring a bunch of full delete tuners in from overseas, and you may get a visit.

"But what about race cars???". As you probably know, the EPA considers any modification of emissions components on a motor vehicle (ie, a vehicle built for road use) to be in violation. But the rep stated that they are not enforcing vehicles that have been converted to 100% track vehicles and removed from the road. So you can pull the cat off your Spec Miata that gets trailered everywhere so you don't melt it. However, they are paying attention to what is a legit race part and what is being sold "for off-road use only". If the sales numbers of a part are way too high for realistic race-only use, or if they're advertised to do non-race things (ie, a tuner that claims improved fuel economy), or they're seeing social media that indicates they're being used on the road, that will throw a red flag.

The RPM act was not specifically discussed.

Note to vendors who didn't bother to attend the seminars: simply having customers check a "for race use" box at checkout is not sufficient. It was suggested that race parts should not be freely sold to the public at large, some sort of real verification is required. 

Basically, anything that can affect emissions is considered illegal unless the manufacturer/vendor can prove otherwise. The slam-dunk way to do this is get a CARB EO. This is true nation-wide, not just for CA.

As for CARB, they are looking to streamline the process of getting an EO - mostly making current best practices required to cut down on processing time. A consistent format for emissions test data, full instructions, part numbers, etc. They want more specific EO applications, limited to a specific engine and fuel type, which gets rid of the sprawling universal EO applications they get now. Those chew up a lot of time. They're also creating different types of applications for different types of parts - air intakes require less testing than turbochargers, for example, so they get different applications now. This is good, as the process is pretty clogged up right now. They are asking for feedback from the industry at the moment, which was the purpose of one of the sessions I attended.

Funny note: intercooler upgrades were referred to as "cosmetic only" multiple times :)

CARB is also looking to recoup some of its costs, too. Currently, EOs are free (testing is not) but they spend on average $16,000 worth of staff time on each application. Biggest problem is those sprawling universal ones. The fee structure has not yet been set, but expect EOs (and thus parts with EOs) to get more expensive in a couple of years. 

There was also some discussion (a bit confused) about how to ensure that EO'd products do not get modified. For example, that someone doesn't buy a Flyin' Miata BBR turbo kit and then put in a tune from some random tuner. This is actually a hard technical problem, but expect to see it starting to happen if they can figure out how.

There were a few people in attendance who were actively hostile to this process. They will lose. Most people in the various sessions are the ones who are trying to make it work. Some of the sessions were invitation only, and had folks from all the big names - Edelbrock, Borla, Bully Dog, HPT, FM etc. Most of the aftermarket is a small group of people, really, and those people are trying to work with the EPA and CARB. 

Flyin' Miata is apparently going to be forging some new trails with some of our proposals underway. Like I said, it's a small group and the approach we're looking at hasn't been tried or even suggested by anyone. It won't be easy - converters were referred to as "advanced technology" at one point, which is pretty entertaining to someone who has been neck-deep in CAN work for a couple of years - but if we can make it work it may open some good options for cars that are currently 15-25 years old.

TL:DR - expect to see parts without EOs disappear from the market. Expect to see parts with EOs get a little more expensive. Expect to see some sort of check that EO'd parts are not modified post-sale, specifically software. Expect to see a much more concerted effort from vendors to ensure that race-only parts will only get put on actual full time race cars.

frenchyd
frenchyd UberDork
11/8/19 6:20 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I don't have a problem with any of that.  My only concern is what about the one only, race only type modification?  
If I create something to race will I need to go through that whole process?  

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
11/8/19 6:30 p.m.

Are they looking at shops that sell "off-road use only" items but not really doing their part of stating that this part must be used as such? How does the EPA/CARB expect shops to police how their products are used,  and to make sure they are used correctly as intended? 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/8/19 6:36 p.m.
frenchyd said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I don't have a problem with any of that.  My only concern is what about the one only, race only type modification?  
If I create something to race will I need to go through that whole process?  

If you sell it to the public in such a way that it is being used on street cars, yes. If you build some one-off weird intake manifold for your personal V12-powered trailered unplated race car, no.

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
11/8/19 6:40 p.m.

This kinda sucks for a lot of us, but it also has been a long time coming.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/8/19 6:45 p.m.
Appleseed said:

Are they looking at shops that sell "off-road use only" items but not really doing their part of stating that this part must be used as such? How does the EPA/CARB expect shops to police how their products are used,  and to make sure they are used correctly as intended? 

The distributors are very much responsible for making sure that their non-compliant products are being used specifically on race cars. There's no specified procedure for that at the moment, but having "for off-road use only" on the product description is not sufficient. Nor is having a "race use only" checkbox on checkout. Having race-only parts available to purchase to the general public via a website was specifically mentioned as not being kosher. Emissions defeat devices are the things that really have them excited right now, not so much non-compliant power products.

It's not a black and white thing, the EPA inspectors start by investigating instead of simply handing out violations. If you can show that a part is truly intended for race only and that you're doing something to ensure that it's not being used on the street, you should be okay. If you're manufacturing diesel emission delete tuners by the thousands with an "off road use only" disclaimer, you will get shut down. And that is where the bulk of the enforcement has been so far. So manufacturers, distributors and installers all have some responsibility.

I can think of a few ways to do this. For example, an approval process for builders of real race cars - I can flag certain customers on our site as racers, and give them access to the race-only parts. 

BTW, the EPA does not think "off road use only" is a thing. "Non-road" is their term, and even then it's like putting a "not for hire" tag on your tow rig - meaningless when it comes to actual enforcement.

STM317
STM317 UltraDork
11/8/19 7:07 p.m.

Really interesting insight Kieth!

Furious_E
Furious_E UltraDork
11/8/19 7:49 p.m.

So what does this mean for products like Megasquirt and HPTuners? 

MrJoshua
MrJoshua UltimaDork
11/8/19 7:54 p.m.

The EPA is specifically going after emissions defeat devices, and no surprise it's being driven by coal rollers. But according to their numbers, 13% of diesel trucks sold in the last 10 years are running full defeat devices.

Sounds like a preposterously high number. 

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
11/8/19 8:02 p.m.

In reply to MrJoshua :

From my place in the service field, it sounds LOW.  It's a noteworthy event when a Diesel pickup that has any miles on it comes in that HASN'T been modified with delete devices.

Snrub
Snrub HalfDork
11/8/19 9:26 p.m.

Interesting stuff.

The EPA attempted to allow as many "glider" heavy duty trucks as the market would bare. (basically semis which do not need to comply with any emissions standards) NHTSA is attempting to end CARB. ...I'm honestly surprised they're bothering with this stuff.

I have absolutely no issue with the EPA going after the the rolling coal style trucks and the people making money off them. With other vehicles, I think far more people who modify their cars run catalytic converters and semi-reasonable tunes today than 15 years ago. I think there's a viable way to permit modifications while keeping emissions reasonable.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/8/19 9:42 p.m.

The increased enforcement is why you're seeing more people run semi-reasonable tunes, honestly. Both the industry and the regulators are trying to find a way to permit the modifications, and the larger suppliers of non-compliant tunes are shut down.

Furious_E said:

So what does this mean for products like Megasquirt and HPTuners? 

Nothing good at all. HP Tuners can be a tool for installing legal, approved tunes like Hondata can. They're really just the interface. That's where one of the questions about "how can we tell if the legal tune has been replaced?" comes from.

Megasquirt, well, there's a reason that Flyin' Miata no longer sells programmable ECUs. Unless they're locked out, they're race use only for anything built after 1975. I expect our friends at DIY Autotune is paying close attention to what's going on.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/8/19 9:43 p.m.

BTW, I was really tempted to put my hand up and say I'd come up with a power tune for a Tesla and how do I get an EO, but I refrained.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
11/8/19 11:20 p.m.

I am I'm no way sticking up for coal roll tunes and cat delete shops. Because berk those guys. I'm just wondering how a drag only set up (for sake of argument ) doesn't get bought and used by Johnny Street Race and somehow get the shop in trouble?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/8/19 11:34 p.m.

Well, the shop selling it has some responsibility there. That's why making race only parts freely available to the general public is a red flag. If you're making your living doing that, then you'll need to do something to show that you're at least trying to ensure they're going on real race cars. A checkbox on a website is not sufficient, and the EPA know that there really aren't very many dedicated race cars out there. Nobody is selling many thousands of something that's only being used on race cars.

Or you make it legal with an EO.

If Johnny Street Race has a dedicated race car, then it's pretty hard for the supplier or manufacturer to determine that he's going to put his non-compliant parts on his street car. But I don't think the EPA is looking for that one guy who's managed to skirt the rules. They're looking at patterns, shops that sell or manufacturers that make an implausible number of "race" parts that are all going on street cars. "Race" parts that are clearly being marketed to street cars or that are clearly being installed on a large number of street cars. It's simply a matter of efficiency, they'll go after the source and the biggest targets first.

If a shop installs race parts on a street car and gets caught by an inspector strolling through the shop, it may be as simple as a $1-2k fine plus "take that off". That was an example given. But if the shop is doing hundreds of installs and marketing themselves as a street performance shop, that's going to be different.

BTW, from what I've been able to see, the EPA fines are designed to teach a hard lesson but not sink a company. 

Rodan
Rodan Dork
11/9/19 8:05 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:

 

Furious_E said:

So what does this mean for products like Megasquirt and HPTuners? 

Nothing good at all. HP Tuners can be a tool for installing legal, approved tunes like Hondata can. They're really just the interface. That's where one of the questions about "how can we tell if the legal tune has been replaced?" comes from.

 

This is a very interesting point.  I had some issues with our '18 ZL1 at our last track event, and of course the dealer couldn't duplicate the problem on the street (unsafe, illegal, etc.), which is completely understandable.  No codes were set.  The tech recommended I buy HP Tuners' MPVI2 to datalog the car at the track so we could see what was going on.  

In this case, the MPVI2 would have been a tool to diagnose, not modify, and a pretty useful one at that.  Hell, I bought a ZL1 so I wouldn' t have to modify it for track use.  I would hate to see something like the MPVI2 to go away, when it could be a very useful tool.

MTechnically
MTechnically Reader
11/9/19 8:05 a.m.

I totally understand cracking down on the major offenders, but I'm wondering what considerations were made to the age of the vehicles when it comes to restrictions. I saw a short mention of pre-75 cars, but is there any consideration for a rolling 25 year exemption? There are a lot of enthusiast cars, the whole Radwood era for example, that aren't being driven many miles. It seems like they might be particularly hard hit by these new rules. 

Is it time to panic buy an S52, ITB's and a megasquirt for the project I've been planning for the last 5 years?

sleepyhead the buffalo
sleepyhead the buffalo Mod Squad
11/9/19 8:21 a.m.

In reply to MTechnically :

Yes, this.  Especially when old ECUs starting becoming NLA, and dieing the death that happens to electronics.

I think DIYAutotune potentially has an avenue to an "educational" exemption.

I also wonder if some of this "lock the tune so it can't be modified" runs up against the "right to repair" FTC ruling?

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
11/9/19 8:21 a.m.

In reply to Snrub :

FWIW, NHTSA isn't trying to ned CARB- they are trying to get the last official and final answer of who owns CO2 emissions rules.  Other than that, CARB will always remain- it's stood up in court for 50 years now and isn't going anywhere.  And one must remember that CARB isn't just California- right now, I think a majority of US citizens are in states that use CARB rules instead of the EPA.

Paul_VR6
Paul_VR6 Dork
11/9/19 8:25 a.m.

Mtechnicaly, yes, just agree to my terms and conditons that states the ms is on a dedicated race car ;)

I can see cracking down on the deletes as it seems to be a large number of vehicles and a large change in emissions. What about limited use? There could be reasonable provisions made there. 
 

Strange this is all happening while we are pulling out of the Paris agreement, and trying to not regulate important things with big impact like coal emissions and coal ash pollution. But rolling coal is visible and annoying...

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
11/9/19 8:29 a.m.
Furious_E said:

So what does this mean for products like Megasquirt and HPTuners? 

WRT programs that re-calibrate modules, it's not that hard to detect someone who does that if you take it to a dealer.  So an easy enforcement for the rules is that the agencies require that any detection of the base tune immediately ends all of the vehicle warrantee.  Which is something OEM's have been trying to do for decades, but have no real oomf behind it.  Having a rule would be that oomf. 

To me, the MS part is interesting- first I know that post OBDII can't happen, as nobody is actually interested in putting OBDII into their aftermarket programmer.  But given the progress in the knowledge of how to accomplish emissions, if a shop decided to install an entire package- including a catalyst- I, personally, can see a path where a company called Floating Mitia (wink) could certify that the new system is easily better than the old one.  Requirements, Pre-96, are pretty straightforward, and if you are already doing emissions testing, then it's not a stretch at all to EO an entire package that is better than the previous one- let alone one that meets the EO requirements.  Thinking about it, just one simple piece of control needs to be added to MS, and that is for purge/evap control.

 

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
11/9/19 8:31 a.m.
sleepyhead the buffalo said:

In reply to MTechnically :

Yes, this.  Especially when old ECUs starting becoming NLA, and dieing the death that happens to electronics.

I think DIYAutotune potentially has an avenue to an "educational" exemption.

I also wonder if some of this "lock the tune so it can't be modified" runs up against the "right to repair" FTC ruling?

Why?  The code does not break, so there's nothing to fix in the calibration unless hte OEM identifies and and does it themselves.  There's nothing to fix in the vehicle calibration.

TheRX7Project
TheRX7Project HalfDork
11/9/19 8:31 a.m.

I don't get the interest the government has for modified vehicles. For every modified vehicle on the road there are hundreds if not thousands of factory stock vehicles putting out minimal emissions, compound that with the amount of modified vehicles that still run emissions equipment and you're essentially looking for ghosts. Tom from the mailroom isn't gutting the cats on his '13 Camry to try and get to work faster.

If they want to go after someone, go after the guys who are knowingly modifying their vehicles illegally. Pretty easy to prove with a quick inspection, if someone doesn't have a catalytic converter or is spotted "rolling coal". Make a portable emissions testing kit- like a breathalyzer for cars- that can be utilized on site when a violation is suspected. Set a measurable limit on emissions, and if the vehicle does not pass, issue a 30-day repair order.

Or better yet, just leave us alone. I believe if the government could regulate sex into being unenjoyable, they would.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
11/9/19 8:32 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

So for all of the companies that want to comply with the proper EO rules, they will all need experienced emissions calibrators, right?  

smileyyes

Good jobs there.

docwyte
docwyte UberDork
11/9/19 8:37 a.m.

The issue that I see with HP Tuners is that it has the capability of fooling smog people.  You can use it to make all the readiness monitors read set and ready and not be reporting.  So basically they're not checking anything but are always set read that everything is ok...

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