MAX Update No. 42: Is MAX Illegal?

| 3/23/2010 4:09:40 PM

“MAX is legal at the state level but illegal at the federal level.” 

Now that's a bold statement. Unless this is your first day on the Internet, you're probably aware that many bold statements are opinions presented as facts, and many unsupported statements lack the expected “LOL” at the end, but this particular example deserves our attention.

This bold statement is a reader comment from Update No. 39: Who Smoked the Electric Car? We were discussing electric cars back then, but the conversation did drift some. (In summary: I think small is beautiful for electric cars, too: Efficient EVs use fewer resources than inefficient EVs, and battery power is no excuse for driving oversized and inefficient vehicles.) This particular drift has come up before, and raises a question worth exploring: Did I violate a Federal law when I built MAX? A closely related and even more important question: Will you be violating a Federal law if you build a MAX of your own?

As best as I can tell (and believe me, I've looked hard and long for an answer to this question), the answer is no. MAX does not appear to be violating any Federal law, statute or regulation, nor does the EPA have regulations involving home built or experimental automobiles. It does have strict emissions regulations for mass-produced cars sold to the public in large quantities. The EPA raises the bar on those regulations every year, but the current (and future) production car rules are not applicable to America's vast used car fleet, much less to cars built one at a time for their owners' enjoyment.

The challenge comes from state regulations for home-built cars. Guess how many different sets of automobile registration and equipment regulations there are among the 50 states in the United States. Go ahead, take your time, give it a guess.

If you guessed 50, you’re a good guesser! Wow, 50 different sets of rules. Every state I've researched (and I've researched a bunch of 'em because Kinetic Vehicles customers come from all over the place) has a way to register a home-built car, but no two ways are the same.

Jack McCornack
6/1/2010 10:34:35 AM

Hi Robert, there are a number of car engine possibilities, with various advantages and disadvantages. The late '70s early '80s VW diesel (found in the VW Rabbit and others) would be a shoe-in, there are adapter kits to mount that engine on a Suzuki Samurai transmission. Advantages: more power and (though the Kubota beats that era VW engine on emissions) an engine that met the EPA certification requirements of its day and thus has appropriate credentials. We're also (don't tell anybody yet, though, because I'm not ready to give a progress report) building another MAX with a Geo Metro engine, which has similar advantages plus it'll run on gasoline which is an advantage to some folks...and they can be found on the used market for about $3500 less than a Kubota. But the Kubota-powered MAX will get better fuel economy than either of these alternatives, I bet'cha.

5/29/2010 9:32:35 PM

There is no car engine being considered for this project ? An offroad engine is the only possibility ?

4/28/2010 1:30:28 PM

>I am asumming there is no VIN with MAX. You assume correctly, kinda. There was no VIN when I went in, but after MAX passed inspection, the State of Oregon assigned it a VIN and the DMV clerk pasted the VIN on the chassis with a tamper-proof sticker. >>>>what I mean is I am asumming there is no VIN from the manufacturer. If you have a VIN at the get go the process is easier. It helps your case when you have to go face these people.

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