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EPA announces new rules for Propane Autogas and other Alternative Fuel Vehicle Conversions

Posted by Greg Ezzell on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 @ 06:00 PM

With the vast majority of vehicles in the United States designed to operate on gasoline or diesel fuel, there has been a long and growing interest by the public in clean alternative fuel conversion systems. These systems allow gasoline or diesel vehicles to operate on alternative fuels such as natural gas, propane, alcohol, or electricity. Use of alternative fuels opens new fuel supply choices and can help consumers address concerns about fuel costs, energy security, and emissions. EPA supports such innovation and encourages the development of clean aftermarket technologies that enable broader transportation fuel choices. At the same time EPA is responsible for ensuring that all vehicles and engines sold in the United States, including clean alternative fuel conversions, meet emission standards. EPA is adopting a new approach that simplifies and streamlines the process by which manufacturers of clean alternative fuel conversion systems may demonstrate compliance with these vehicle and engine emissions requirements. The new options will reduce some economic and procedural impediments to clean alternative fuel conversions while maintaining environmental safeguards to ensure that acceptable emission levels from converted vehicles and engines are sustained. The final rule covers alternative fuel conversion of light-duty vehicles and heavy-duty highway vehicles and engines.

The new compliance program enables conversion manufacturers to qualify for an exemption from tampering by demonstrating that the converted vehicle or engine satisfies EPA emissions requirements. The specific demonstration and notification requirements differ based on the age of the vehicle or engine being converted. The demonstration and notification requirements for new and relatively new vehicles and engines will continue to involve a certification process that is very similar to previous practice. Once certified, however, annual recertification will no longer be required to maintain the tampering exemption. The notification and demonstration requirements for intermediate age vehicles and engines include testing and submission of data to show that the converted vehicle or engine continues to meet applicable standards.  The notification and demonstration process for outside useful life vehicles and engines involves submission of a description of the conversion system that provides sufficient technical detail to determine that the conversion will not increase emissions.

Age-Based Demonstration and Notification Requirements

All conversion manufacturers will be required to demonstrate to EPA that the conversion satisfies technical criteria, but the demonstration and notification process will differ depending on vehicle or engine age. The demonstration and notification apply to a group of vehicles or engines that share similar technology, known as a test group or engine family and evaporative/refueling family. The test group/engine family criteria will also differ somewhat based on age of the vehicles or engines being converted.

New vehicles and engines

• The new and relatively new category includes vehicles and engines less than about two years old: those of a model year that is greater than or equal to the current calendar year minus one.

• The compliance demonstration requirement remains very similar to the previous certification requirement. Manufacturers must conduct certification tests to demonstrate that the converted vehicle or engine complies with exhaust and evaporative emission standards and with on-board diagnostics (OBD) requirements.  The notification requirement also remains the same as the previous certification application process.

• Converted vehicles and engines that satisfy the demonstration and notification requirements will be issued a certificate of conformity.

• The new regulations introduce some important flexibilities that will be available to most manufacturers of new vehicle/engine conversion systems:

• Manufacturers may apply a single set of test data to a broader set of candidate vehicles and engines.

• A certified conversion system retains its tampering exemption even after the certificate expires such that annual re-certification is no longer required.

Intermediate age vehicles and engines

• The intermediate age category covers vehicles and engines at least two years old (those of a model year less than or equal to the current calendar year minus two) but still within their regulatory useful life.

• The compliance demonstration involves conducting exhaust and evaporative emissions tests to show that the converted vehicle or engine meets applicable standards. The notification requirement includes submitting a full description of the conversion system as well as the test data to EPA.

• In addition, manufacturers must submit an OBD scan tool report to show that the OBD system on the converted vehicle or engine continues to function properly, plus applicable statements of attestation.

• Converters are permitted further flexibilities for expanded test groups.

• No certificate is issued, and annual re-certification is not required.

Outside useful life vehicles and engines

• The outside useful life age category covers vehicles and engines that have exceeded their regulatory useful life.

• Conversion manufacturers must submit a sufficiently detailed description to show that the conversion technology is technically sound and is applied according to principles of good engineering judgment.

• The notification requirement, as for the intermediate age program, involves submitting the required information, data, and/or attestations to EPA.

• In addition, manufacturers must submit an OBD scan tool report to show that the OBD system on the converted vehicle or engine continues to function properly, plus applicable statements of attestation.

• The outside useful life program permits the same expanded test group flexibilities as the intermediate age program.

• No certificate is issued, and annual re-certification is not required.

Tags: EPA Certifications for Propane Autogas Vehicles, Alternative Fuel Vehicle EPA Certs, EPA Certification Rules for Bi-Fuel Propane Vehicl

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