Emissions Feature; Emissions standards are getting tighter... is the Canadian aftermarket ready?
There’s a certain irony about environmentalism and automobiles these days. With global warming and the almost daily reports of record temperatures, melting Arctic ice and drought, the need for serious action is reaching into mainstream Canadian consciousness … and politics. Automobiles are a classic target when it comes to pollution and although there’s nothing that can be done to reduce the primary greenhouse gas, CO2 from a treatment standpoint politically, tighter light vehicle emissions standards are a way to be seen to be doing something about climate change as well as smog issues in our crowded cities. The bottom line is standards are getting tougher and this will affect the way we service cars and light trucks.
California points the way
Any tech old enough to have worked on light vehicles in the Seventies will remember how many vehicle manuals had three wiring diagrams for each model: Canada, U. S. Federal, and California. That’s because since the 1960s California has issued special, tougher vehicle smog standards to deal with that state’s (especially Los Angeles) difficult autodriven pollution problem. Many manufacturers accordingly built different models for California. But over the last decade, several other states have announced the intention to adopt the California Air Resources Board (CARB) rules, making it harder to justify different versions of the same vehicle in the U. S. market, since California-standard cars and truck automatically pass the less stringent “Federal” standards. And Canada, especially with major Detroit-Three auto plants and the Free Trade Agreement at play, patterns our standards after the U. S. example.
In essence, if you want to know the future of Canadian light vehicle emissions standards, ask Governor Schwarzenegger. And despite the ongoing regulation of CO, NOx and HC emissions in I/M programs across the continent, it’s COthat has stolen the spotlight and will dominate future rulemaking. And the only way to reduce vehicle CO2 emissions is to improve fuel efficiency. Again, California leads the way with a set of standards commonly called the “Pavley rules.”
Like current U. S. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration) rules, these standards apply to the average of the vehicle makers’ fleets for cars and light trucks, which creates another issue: manufacturers with large hybrid offerings, like Toyota, can use their very high fuel efficiency to offset the lower mileage of larger vehicles within the fleet. Auto makers that lack hybrid technology may have to curtail sales of large vehicles or reduce the size of optional engines, forcing users who need heavy hauling or towing capacities to either switch manufacturer or consider small commercial vehicles. At present, the Detroit Three will be at a disadvantage, unless their electric/hybrid technology catches up with the Japanese head start.
Will Canada adopt the Pavley rules? Given the momentum the California standards have already gathered, the increasing number of U. S. states in agreement as well as statements from British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Qubec that these provinces (representing over 40 per cent of the nation’s population) will also adopt the Pavely rules, the trend is becoming clear.
At present, the federal government uses a joint government-industry committee to hammer out a preliminary memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding new vehicle standards: “The government has stated, in its Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions, May 2007, that the standard ‘will be designed for Canada to maximize our environmental and economic benefits and will be benchmarked against a stringent, dominant North American standard’. In the interim, the Committee will continue its work so as to deliver the results outlined in the MOU.”
The wording is key. Since fuel efficiency is the only emissions control technique that can deliver economic benefits to drivers that defray the cost of the new technologies (by reducing fuel consumption), the government would seem to have little option but to join the Pavley party. According to the Dan Becker report “Clean Cars for Canada: Saving $37 Billion” prepared for climateforchange.ca in October 2007: “At the current average national gasoline price of 99.7 cents per litre, Canadians would save $36.9 billion dollars at the gas pump if the federal government adopts Pavley standards. Automakers have stated that they intend to achieve the Pavley savings by incorporating more fuel efficiency technology into their vehicles. That is because improving automobile efficiency is the least expensive way to cut emissions. Every gallon of gas burned pumps 28 lbs or 12.70 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere. About 21 lbs or 9.53 kilograms comes directly from the tailpipe with 7 lbs or 3.18 kilograms due to the extraction, transportation and refining of the fuel. So the bulk of emissions reductions attributable to Pavley rules will come from burning less gasoline.”
Presumably, savings would be substantially greater at current fuel prices. Interestingly, California’s Air Resources Board cites the Canadian contribution possible with Pavely rules on its website: “There Are Additional Benefits if Canada Adopts California Standards. If the Pavley rules are implemented in Canada, by calendar year 2020, a cumulative total of 87 MMTCO2 (million metric tons COemitted) will have been prevented from being emitted as compared to 58 MMTCO2 E if only the proposed federal fuel economy standards were implemented” (http://www.arb.ca.gov/ cc/ccms/reports/final_pavleyaddendum. pdf). There seems for TIG welding Circle # 31 on Reply Card to be little alternative to the Pavley processif automakers are to be given a unified
continent- wide standard. How will it affect my shop? Implications for the repair aftermarketaremany. One is, as long as traditionalCO/NOx/HC standards are set on a ” grams- per- mile” basis, it’s unlikely that new emissions control technologies will be needed to achieve lower levels of these traditional pollutants; burningless fuel automatically reduces overall vehicle emissions, so three- way catalysis and feedback port fuel injection look like solid bets for the foreseeable future. This stability should ease the training burden and keep current technician skillsmarketable longer than in the past,barring a game-changer like fuel cells or all- electric drive trains. On the other hand,manufacturers without the ability to offset sales of low- mileage vehicles with hybrids or very small cars may have to reach into the technology bag for efficiency improvements in larger cars and light trucks. On the engine side, look for cylinder deactivation to become common, as well as smaller engines with larger turbochargers for better volumetric efficiency. Internally, the traditional mechanical issues still dominate: more power from smaller engines means a higher operating RPM and redline, so the industry can expect lightweight slipper pistons with very small ring packages fit with greater precision in shorter cylinder bores. The war on friction will also extend through main and rod bearings running in lighter viscosity oils which ironically will have drastically lower zinc and phosphate additive levels at the very time when higher operating temperatures and rotational speeds demand the most from the lubricants. Maintenance will become critical, with more expensive oils and extended drain intervals requiring closer adherence to the handbook intervals, especially oilchanges, althoughit’s far from clearwhether the second- or third- owners of these high- tech vehicles will be willing orableto do what may the crankcase, piezoelectric common-rail direct injection, possibly combined with stratified charge technology (remember Honda’s CVCC?) will become standard for gasoline as well as diesel engines, meaning the fuel injection event will require more than simple pulse-width scanning with a scope; there will be several mini-inject
ions before TDC, requiring faster, tighter ECU control and the need for well-filtered fuel and consistent fuel pump pressure. Both these factors suggest that “white box” filters and fuel pumps will have to get better in quality terms or put installers at greater risk of comebacks as OBD systems see erratic fuel delivery.
Savings from the engine will not be enough. In the driveline, expect seven-and eight-speed automatic transmissions to become common, along with specialized low-rolling resistance tires. This may restrict consumer replacement tire options and force larger inventories of model-specific rubber in consumer tire stores. Weight loss will continue with light alloys (mainly aluminum) appearing in more suspension/ sub frame components and in traditionally heavy steel parts like drive shafts. Aerodynamics will also have to improve, which has repair implications due to restricted cooling air flow through the radiator. This implies more cooling system work as these vehicles age, particularly with lifetimefill systems, which should have the coolants’ additive packages severely depleted as the vehicles enter their second and third ownership cycles. Diesels may proliferate in light trucks, but ever more stringent emission rules for the oil burners means expensive filtration and/or urea injection, both of which, combined with poor fuel availability, will keep diesel on the margins.
One potential downside of the CO2 regulations is the ramping up of vehicle scrappage programs and the consumer pull of new cars and light trucks that consume much less fuel, a factor which, in a high gasoline price/low interest rate economy, discourages major repairs, especially for mid-life V-8 powered SUV’s and light trucks. And if a major breakthrough like GM’s much-anticipated Chevrolet Volt electric car proves feasible, the Canadian aftermarket will have to go back to school and be ready as the battery cars come off warranty. If there’s a single message in the upcoming greenhouse gas-driven emission standards, it’s this: if the Canadian repair aftermarket keeps up with the evolving technology, there will be cars and light trucks to repair for the foreseeable future … and they’ll be burning much less fuel.
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