Natural gas advocate NGVAmerica told the EPA today that federal efforts to streamline the process for certifying natural gas vehicle aftermarket conversions could help expand the use of non-petroleum fuels.
Currently, the Clean Air Act prohibits altering a vehicle or engine from its certified configuration, which also precludes up fitting an alternative fuel conversion system. In May, the EPA proposed to amend its regulations for these aftermarket conversions by adding flexibility for alternative fuel converters and engine manufacturers as long as they prove the alterations satisfy emissions standards. Testing and compliance procedures would differ based on the age category of the vehicle or engine that is being converted, those being new and nearly new, intermediate age or outside useful life.
EPA said a new rule is expected to offer a streamlined approach that would result in a cost savings for many converters.
Jeff Clarke, NGVAmerica’s general counsel and director of regulatory affairs, said today during a hearing in Ann Arbor, Mich., on the agency’s proposed rule changes that the alternative fuel industry supports certification requirements for new vehicles and engines, but that the proposal for aftermarket solutions “has been a long time in coming and is welcomed.”
But he also offered a few recommendations. For bench testing of heavy-duty vehicles, Clarke said manufacturers should use EPA-approved chassis testing that would lower the cost of complying with regulations. He also said EPA should state that converting a vehicle to an alternative fuel does not void the OEM warranty. Additionally, he recommended that EPA should allow aftermarket manufacturers to pay annual or quarterly certification fees instead of paying fees based on expected sales and that manufacturers can seek both a Certificate of Conformity for the new vehicle and approval for converting this vehicle after two years.
“Until there are sufficient numbers of original equipment manufacturers’ products available in the marketplace, our industry will continue to need aftermarket conversions to help us grow, to help us justify the necessary investments in fueling stations, and to help us increase market penetration,” he added. “Conversions fill a void unmet by original equipment manufacturers and demonstrate consumer demand for new applications.
“Conversions also provide a ready means of addressing the emissions and fuel consumption of medium and heavy duty vehicles that will continue to be in operation for many years to come.”