California and EPA Focus on Tighter Emission Regulations

3/27/1999 6:22:27 AM

A tightening of exhaust and evaporative emission standards for motor vehicles will result from new regulations adopted by California. Similar federal standards, which the EPA is expected to propose, should be finalized next year. Both regulations start to take effect on model year 2004 vehicles.

"Honda welcomes the challenge of these ambitious new regulations and will continue to be the environmental leader in the auto industry," said Tom Elliott, executive vice president of American Honda. Honda is the largest seller of vehicles equipped with advanced low emissions systems.

The California regulation creates a new, "Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle" (SULEV) category. A SULEV will emit only one pound of hydrocarbon exhaust during 100,000 miles of driving &emdash; about the same as spilling a pint of gasoline. Also, oxides of nitrogen emissions are reduced by about 75 percent from current LEV standards.

For the first time, pickup trucks, vans and SUVs under 8,500 GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) will have to meet the same emissions standards as passenger cars. In the past, light duty trucks were subject to less stringent standards.

Proposed new federal standard are also headed in the same direction, but perhaps more important, the EPA is targeting tighter controls on gasoline quality sold nationwide.

As California did in the early 1990's, the EPA's proposal requires much lower levels of sulfur in gasoline. Sulfur is a gasoline component that considerably reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system by contaminating the catalytic converter.

The auto industry is also asking regulators to control distillation index (DI) of gasoline. Gasoline with a high DI can negatively affect exhaust emissions and vehicle driveability.

"Tighter regulations for gasoline sulfur and DI are critical to further lowering automotive emissions," Elliott says. "This is a major step in the right direction by the EPA."