US EPA Amends Regulations for Clean Alternative Fuel Vehicle and Engine Conversions


“… this action by EPA could not be more welcome” – Richard Kolodziej, president NGV America.

“A milestone for the alternative fuel industry” – Werner Funk, CEO, Omnitek Engineering Corporation

Hot on the heels of the President Obama’s endorsement of natural gas vehicles in his energy blueprint speech, the US natural gas vehicle (NGV) industry is celebrating another win, this time with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcing amended regulations that make it easier to convert cars and trucks to run on natural gas.  The EPA is adopting changes to the regulations found in 40 CFR part 85 subpart F for clean alternative fuel conversion manufacturers, thereby opening up new fuel supply choices for consumers. This action affects regulations applicable to manufacturers of light-duty vehicle and heavy-duty highway vehicle and engine clean alternative fuel conversion systems. The revisions will streamline the compliance process while maintaining environmentally protective controls and is expected to result in cost savings for many converters. The ruling will take effect upon publication in the Federal Register.

The national NGV association, NGVAmerica, welcomed the move. “At a time when oil prices are once again steeply rising and businesses and consumers are looking for real solutions to ease their pain at the pump, this action by EPA could not be more welcome,” said Richard Kolodziej, president of the trade group.

“EPA’s decision is particularly important in the case of heavy-duty fleets, since currently, because of cost, there are no EPA approved conversion systems for diesel vehicles,” says Kolodziej.  “Because heavy-duty fleet vehicles are the biggest consumers of fuel, they have the greatest potential for reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil in the near term.”

California based Omnitek Engineering Corporation described the EPA amendment as a milestone for the alternative fuel industry and a significant advancement in lessening dependence on foreign oil. Werner Funk, president and chief executive officer of Omnitek, reiterated EPA’s intentions with the rule change. “Converting diesel engines to operate on either liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas provides an economical and environmental solution to new engine replacement. This EPA amendment will now enable our company to certify and convert diesel engines in a cost-effective manner and introduce the technology to the U.S. market,” he said.

The new rules will continue to require that manufacturers demonstrate that their conversion systems maintain emissions performance of the vehicle.  In most cases, natural gas will produce less emission because of its clean-burning properties.

EPA is responsible for ensuring that all vehicles and engines sold in the United States, including clean alternative fuel conversions, meet emission standards. It has summarised the changes in a fact sheet, from which the following information is extracted.

Previous EPA regulations required vehicle and engine conversion systems to be covered by a certificate of conformity to gain a regulatory exemption from potential tampering charges. EPA evaluated the requirement and determined that it is appropriate to introduce new flexibilities for all clean alternative fuel converters and to expand the compliance options for certain categories of conversions. EPA is amending the regulatory procedures in 40 CFR part 85 subpart F and part 86 to establish these new compliance options.

The new approach builds upon the concept that it is appropriate to treat conversions differently based on the age of the vehicle or engine being converted. Under the new regulations, testing and compliance procedures differ based on the age category of the vehicle or engine that is converted: new and relatively new, intermediate age, or outside useful life (OUL). All conversion manufacturers seeking an exemption must demonstrate compliance, but the requirements differ among age categories.

The Clean Air Act prohibits altering a vehicle or engine from its certified configuration. The revised regulations provide compliance options that allow conversion manufacturers to make the necessary changes without violating the law.

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 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. (MY >= current calendar year – 1)
  • 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. (MY <= current calendar year – 2 and < useful life)
  • 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. (Exceeds useful life)

(Editor’s note: MY = Model Year)

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