MAX Update No. 77: MAX Gets Smogged

| 7/5/2011 4:52:04 PM

Tags: MAX, 100 mpg, fuel economy, emissions, smog, Jack McCornack,

There have been a few questions about MAX’s legality among the Comments on these updates. Now I don’t think of myself as a scofflaw, and I sure don’t think rules are meant to be broken, but I often let the reason for the rule guide my interpretation of the rule.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, if you’re new here) has some very strong words regarding tampering with vehicles and their engines, and there are plenty of good reasons to prohibit tampering, regardless of the intent of the tamperer. However, there are some inconsistencies in enforcement; some are based on getting the most bang for the enforcement buck, and some appear to be the result of just plain good sense. I have had many conversations with EPA engineers and execs over these last few decades…

Well yeah, I was one of the home brewed alcohol fuel folks back when Mother Earth News was first spreading the word about alternative fuels, back in the late ‘70s, and here’s a big surprise: the EPA did not recognize ethanol as a motor fuel back then. Everybody who was running ethanol blends back in The Day was violating the Clean Air Act; we were all a bunch of tamperers, violating the letter of a law that had gone into effect in 1963, when gasoline was 29 cents a gallon and we exported more gallons than we imported.

I expect every EPA official I talked with back then has retired, so if I may grossly paraphrase the off-the-record consensus of the era, it was: yeah, technically you’re in violation, but we have better things to do than throw the book at a handful of conservationists who are doing now what we’ll all be doing in the future, so keep up the good work and maybe we’ll all learn something.

Half a lifetime later, I’m playing canary-in-the-coal-mine again, with an unconventional car with an unconventional engine burning an unconventional fuel — straight vegetable oil. As with ethanol 30 years ago, the EPA does not recognize straight vegetable oil as a motor fuel today (And they only got around the legal problem of biodiesel fuel by redefining diesel fuel as petroleum or vegetable based. There’s not much sulfur in vegetable oil; that’s a plus.), yet people have been converting their diesel cars and trucks (and selling conversion kits, and writing books on how to do the conversion yourself) for years and I don’t think any of those people have been carted off in handcuffs.

Part of the issue is it costs several kajillion dollars to get EPA approval for an engine or a fuel…or did until recently. On April 8, 2011, CleanAlternative Fuel Vehicle and Engine Conversions; Final Rule hit the Federal Register. Make yourself a big pot of coffee before you read it, it’s 45,000 words long and there are no pictures. There’s an easy to read summary at EPA Announces Final Rulemaking for Clean Alternative Fuel Vehicleand Engine Conversions but the point is, the EPA is making an effort to make it easier to demonstrate (and market) adaptations that reduce petroleum consumption, provided they do not increase harmful emissions.

jeff dean
7/24/2011 10:14:31 PM

Jack, where is Max at as far as mpg? Did the lighter rims, mileage max tires, taller tires, have an effect? Are you considering changing the differential for a taller gear? What are you planing for the windshield and top? I've been fallowing Max from day one and have enjoyed the whole process. Thanks for sharing with us.

jack mccornack
7/21/2011 12:37:51 AM

Abbey, Jason and Jeff, I appreciate your comments and I'm learning a lot from this discussion. I of course agree that major automotive manufacturers (e.g. VW) can do better than individual eccentric experimenters (e.g. Yours Truly), but just 'cause I'm not Dr. Martin Winterkorn (Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG) doesn't mean I'm going to stop doing my best. MAX is what I can do on a $10,000 budget. The XL1 is what Volkswagen AG can do with a budget in the many millions. Regarding the opinion that MAX is "not likely" safer than a motorcycle because motorcycles are more agile, well, MAX is pretty dang agile and I too have had my motorcycle endorsement for 40+ years--I'd say MAX is somewhat safer than a bike but I'll not claim it's a huge margin. Y'all may be underestimating MAX's maneuverability.

jeff dean
7/20/2011 9:18:58 PM

Abbey,I agree with you on many points. The Kabota would not be my choice of engine. I think maybe the VW TDI would be a better choice. It's already set up for automotive, proven reliable, proven efficient, and much more HP. As for plywood in the interior, I was surprised to see that. Lessons from modern race cars (stock cars) would be well taken here. Aluminum and plastic would be more appropriate, stronger, lighter, and doesn't splinter on impact. Although I would make many changes to Max, it's interesting to see how someone else does it. It would be interesting if others would document their eco-builds (scratch built eco-cars, not hyper miler geo metros) and put them on the net.

abbey bend
7/20/2011 11:32:58 AM

Jeff, I quote, "If someone where to build a copy of max and drive it half the time. This would certainly save some fuel, and save wear and tear on the primary vehicle. It seems to me that this would be both serious and applied to the road. As for safety, it looks like like Max is safer than a motorcycle. And probably produces less emissions than a used car of equal value." Not likely, a motorcylce is much more nimble, and even very small ones will have better acceleration than this car. I have been riding since 1968 and know defensive driving, acceleration, superior braking are what makes motorcycles safer than many cars. Cars with large amounts of plywood in the interior are less safe, just ask any safety engineer. As for the savings in fuel, many ways to do this more easily than with this hybridized vehicle. Jason makes some the very best points about vehicles and backs them up with facts about emmissions and vehicle certifications. To add to Jason's point about the emmissions on this Kubota engine, those numbers are only good on its intended use, once it is used outside of the design its emmissions change, to the negative in this case, always does when a stationary engine is used for a road vehicle engine. A simple smog test is not very much use for anything except to generate income for the state.

jason hinton
7/18/2011 12:56:22 PM

Jeff: The C.A.R.B. data for your truck is below; all numbers are grams / mile. I doubt your F250 is sold in the UK so you wouldn’t find data on the UK website. I’ve also included data for my ’02 TDI Jetta and the new ’12 TDI Jetta. The additional of a NOx catalyst and particulate filter to the TDI has made a big difference in emissions. 2008 Ford 6.4L Diesel (0.040 NMHC) + (1.110 NOx) + (0.400 CO) + (0.010 PM) = 1.560 Total 2002 VW 1.9L Diesel (0.050 NMHC) + (0.700 NOx) + (0.400 CO) + (0.050 PM) = 1.200 Total 2012 VW 2.0L Diesel (0.015 NMHC) + 0.050 NOx) + (0.500 CO) + (0.002 PM) = 0.567 Total

jeff dean
7/16/2011 11:10:13 PM

Jason, that's an excellent example. Thanks for setting me straight. I wonder how my 08'f250 6.4 powerstroke compares to the VW TDI? Can't seem to find info in mg/km.

jason hinton
7/16/2011 4:08:20 PM

Jeff: Here you go. This is UK emission data. I use the UK data because they put fuel economy and emission information all on one page. All vehicles are new VW Golf’s with a 5 speed manual transmission. All are Euro 5 emission compliant. I think we can both agree these are VERY similar cars. Cars don't get more similar than this. 1.6L TDI Diesel (90PS) - 4.5 L/100km - 593 mg/km (CO+HC+NOx) 1.2L TSI Gas (85PS) - 5.5 L/100km - 371 mg/km (CO+HC+NOx) 1.4L Gas (80PS) - 6.5 L/100km - 206 mg/km (CO+HC+NOx) As you can see the most fuel efficient engine puts out almost 3 times the pollution as the least fuel efficient.

jeff dean
7/15/2011 10:45:04 PM

Jason, your Jetta TDI weighs almost eleven times as much as your SRX250. Even with a 200 lb. driver/rider on each, the Jetta weighs seven times as much as the bike, yet the bike doesn't even get twice the mpg. That tells me the bike, even at 85 mpg is not efficient and not burning the fuel completely. I would expect if we compare two cars with similar aerodynamics and weight, the one with the higher mpg would have fewer emissions per mile.

jason hinton
7/15/2011 3:31:46 PM

Jack: If you go to the following website and looks up Kubota’s official certification we will all know exactly how much pollution Max’s engine produces.

jason hinton
7/15/2011 3:31:07 PM

Jeff: You are still assuming that low fuel consumption = low emissions. This is not always the case. An extreme but very visual example is a 2-stroke scooter. They get great fuel mileage, often more than 100 mpg. They also trail a blue cloud of pollution behind them. Another more personal example is my daily commute. I live in Birmingham, AL and we often have ozone warning days in the summer due to poor air quality. My wife has developed asthma problems since we move to the South 7 years ago, so air pollution affects my family directly. On those ozone days I could ride my 1987 Yamaha SRX250 motorcycle that gets 85 mpg or my 2003 VW Jetta TDI wagon that gets 45 mpg. Using your logic, I should ride the motorcycle. Going to CARB’s website and pulling the emission certifications gives a very different story. The SRX produces 1.12 g/mi Hydrocarbons (HC) and 16 g/mi Carbon Monoxide (CO). My TDI produces 0.05 g/mi HC and 0.40 g/mi CO. So my motorcycle uses ½ the fuel but produces 38 times the pollution compared to my car.

jeff dean
7/14/2011 8:41:06 PM

Abbey, If someone where to build a copy of max and drive it half the time. This would certainly save some fuel, and save wear and tear on the primary vehicle. It seems to me that this would be both serious and applied to the road. As for safety, it looks like like Max is safer than a motorcycle. And probably produces less emissions than a used car of equal value.

jason hinton
7/14/2011 12:48:01 PM

You need to be careful comparing EU mpg ratings with US mpg ratings. The EU test cycle has lower top speeds and slower acceleration than the US test cycle. That leads to vehicles with the same engine rating higher on the EU cycle than the US cycle. The 120 hp Ford Focus is rated at 39.9 mpg(US) in Europe but only 33 mpg(US) on the US. The smaller gasoline engines sold in Europe should meet US emission standards without any modifications. Diesels are another story. The US has stricter emission standards for diesels then the EU. Diesels require a NOx catalyst to meet US standards. Diesels sold in Europe won’t be required to have the NOx catalyst until Euro 6 standards go into effect in 2014. This makes a diesel engine more expensive in the US then in the EU and diesel engine are already more expensive than gasoline engines. You can see worldwide emission standards here: Car buyers in the US are used to paying more for a more powerful engine. Paying more for a less powerful engine is a hard sell in the US. It is also a hard sell to pay more up front even if you save money long term. Many Americans fixate on monthly payments instead of total cost.

jason hinton
7/14/2011 12:46:05 PM

VW does well with their TDI but if you want a diesel car in the US you have to buy a VW. (BMW and Mercedes offer one model each but they both sell for ~$50K) VW only imports their most powerful diesel engine to the US. In the UK the Golf is available with 8 engines ranging from 85 hp to 140 hp. In the US the standard engine in the Golf is a 170hp gas engine and the 140hp diesel is an extra cost option. VW has been much more successful selling TDI's since they increased the hp even though fuel economy took a big hit. The 90hp and 105hp TDI's sold from 1999 to 2006 were much slower sellers. Sales have also been helped by increased fuel prices. I own a ’02 VW Jetta TDI. It makes 90hp and goes 0-60 in ~12.5 seconds and I’ve averaged 46.2mpg over 220K miles. I’ve never considered it to be too slow. Every time gas prices go up people ask me about my VW. However when I let them drive it they say they could never drive a car so slow. Until fuel cost go up and stay up, many people will buy based on size and performance instead of fuel efficiency. Fuel costs are the reason that the best selling car in Europe is the VW Golf but the Ford F150 in the US.

jeff dean
7/13/2011 3:37:42 PM

Jason, so what you're saying is that many of the cars in Europe that are more efficient than the ones here in the US would pass emissions test here, but its just too expensive to get them certified. So when Ford certifies their little economy car with a gas engine that gets 35 mpg, why wouldn't they put their European diesel, @45 mpg, in it and certify it? VW does it, and I don't think their TDI is considered slow or underpowered, and they seem to sell well.

abbey bend
7/13/2011 12:20:11 PM

Jack, the reasons for stationary engines not being as fuel-efficient as a one designed for the road are many. The simplest reasons are ignition timing, camshaft design, and exhaust design. All of these greatly affect an engines performance in real world terms. The reason all modern engines in transportation are computer controlled is to give better fuel efficiency and more horsepower for the same amount of fuel. Take timing, all over the road engines have variable ignition timing, including diesels. As one is accelerating, and one is always accelerating or decelerating, if for no other reason than roads are not perfectly flat, the timing needs to advance and retard to keep the engine in a sweet spot for power development. Camshafts are another story, one designed for a constant RPM, as found in stationary engines, has much different needs than one designed for variable RPM like a road engine. This greatly affects both fuel economy and emissions of the engine, as a function of its total fuel used. Most fuel efficient RPM is set by the camshaft design. Exhaust on a stationary engine can be built to make maximum use of the standing wave created in the exhaust cycle, effectively supercharging an engine, boosting the power, and reducing the fuel used. On road engines, the exhaust is made to what is considered the most desirable compromise, for the camshaft, compression ratio, timing combination presented. Jason makes several very valid points about real world testing certification, and the local smog station, nothing alike. I enjoy your test car, in some ways but one needs to realize this care would not pass any modern safety standard or certification standard. As a bit of fun, it makes sense, as something serious to apply to the real world, not so much.

jason hinton
7/13/2011 9:32:11 AM

Continued: The tests done buy manufacturers are one of the reasons the US doesn’t get many of the efficient engines offered in Europe. An auto manufacturer has to certify every vehicle / engine combination sold in the US. If even the air filter changes between vehicles an additional test is required. These tests cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. (I was a product manager for a line of utility vehicle sold in the US. It cost ~$250,000 to C.A.R.B certify one vehicle in 2008 and the test for off-road vehicles is much less complicated than the one for cars and truck.) In addition to the certification cost, the manufacturer also has to stock parts for each engine and train mechanics on each engine. So offering an additional engine in the US costs the manufacturer lots of money. They weight these increased costs against incremental sales. How many additional vehicles will I sell if I offer this engine? If the manufacture thinks offering the additional engine will make them money, they will sell the engine. You can’t buy a Toyota diesel Hilux (Tacoma) in the US because Toyota doesn’t think they will sell enough to make money. So why doesn’t Toyota think enough people will choose the diesel engine for them to make money by offering it? The most obvious reason is buyer preference. In Europe fuel is 2 to 3 times more expensive than in the US. That makes more buyers in the Europe choose the more efficient diesel even if that engine costs a little more. Another reason is performance. The US market is obsessed speed and horsepower. Many of high mpg vehicles sold in Europe are much slower than those sold in the US. The base engine for the VW Golf is a 1.2L / 85 hp gasoline engine. It takes 12.3 seconds to get to 62 mph. The base engine for the Golf in the US is a 2.0L / 140 HP diesel. It takes 9.3 seconds to get to 62 mph. Many people in the US would consider a car that goes 0-62 in 12.3 seconds “dangerously” slow. I disagree. My personal car is

jason hinton
7/13/2011 9:29:23 AM

Jeff: We are talking about different emissions tests. The emission test that Max completed is an annual emission test done to catch “gross polluters”. It is designed to find people would have neglected to repair broken emissions systems or have purposely modified their vehicle is some way that greatly increases emissions. The standards for these are set in parts / millions since it would be too costly to require every emissions testing facility to purchase the equipment need to measure in grams / mile. The test is also very basic. For example the “test” for particulates is simple a visually check. Do I see smoke coming out of the exhaust Yes / No. I am talking about the tests done by manufacturers in order to be able to sell a specific vehicle in the US or C.A.R.B. states. These are done in multimillion dollar emissions labs and are done on “rolling roads” or dynos. It is actually a whole series of tests with different requirements. The emission standards for these tests are set in grams / mile. The results of these tests can be seen using the link I posted below.

jeff dean
7/11/2011 7:59:01 PM

Jason, If Max passed the emissions test while sitting there idling, then mpg must be irrelevant to the test. Therefore emissions must be measured in units such as parts/million not grams/mile. Therefore I reiterate, a car that gets 4x the mpg would have to be more efficient, burn the fuel more complete to get more energy out, and produce fewer emissions per mile. That being said, what is stopping the big three as well as the rest of the world from selling high millage vehicles in the US? More than half the new cars sold in Europe are diesel and higher mpg than here in the US. Many are made by US companies including Ford, GM, and Cummins, but not sold in the US. So what gives? Why can't I buy a Toyota Hilux diesel here legally in the US?

jason hinton
7/10/2011 4:35:23 PM

Jeff: The emission standards set by C.A.R.B. and the EPA are not related to fuel economy. The purpose of car emission standards was to reduce pollution that causes smog and effects the health of humans. If you look at air quality and smog in major cities around the US you can see that these standards have been effective. Even though we have added millions of cars and burn may more gallons of gasoline than we did in the 60's and 70's, smog in urban areas has declined. Theoretically perfect combustion of gasoline has the following equation: C8H18 + 12.5 O2 + 47 N2 ----> 8 CO2 + 9 H2O + 47 N2. So gasoline + air would turn into carbon dioxide, water, and nitrogen. A SUV could theoretically get 1 MPG but burn the fuel perfectly and get a perfect emission score. However, we currently cannot burn fuel perfectly so other elements are produced. The ones that the EPA and C.A.R.B. measure and regulate as pollutants are: CO (Carbon Monoxide), NOx (Nitrogen Oxides), HCHO (Formaldehyde), CH4 (Methane), and HC (Hydrocarbons, both NMOG and NMHC). Carbon dioxide is not considered a pollutant in current emission standards.

jason hinton
7/10/2011 2:53:09 PM

Wow there is a lot of misinformation here. Emission standards for cars and trucks are set in grams / mile (g/mi), not parts per million (ppm). You can see all of C.A.R.B.'s certifications here: Smog pumps (or as they are properly known, secondary air injection) do not inject air into an engine's exhaust to dilute the exhaust so it will pass emissions. This would be useless since emission standards are set in g/mi not ppm. The purpose of the additional air is to add oxygen to the exhaust mixture and allow unburned hydrocarbons burn and reduce pollution. This is why smog pumps injected air as close to the exhaust manifold as possible. It is important to inject the air when the exhaust gasses are hot so the hydrocarbons can burn.

jack mccornack
7/8/2011 6:50:07 PM

Jeff58, I'm with you re the mileage consideration--I'd rather see emissions in parts per mile than parts per million, but percentage of exhaust was how it was set up back in The Day. Remember the "smog pumps"? They pumped air into the exhaust header, and at idle, they made a fair difference in ppm. Abbey, like you, I wasn't surprised by my pass. And I don't want to wear out my welcome at the smog shop, but I too would like to have some moving test data; maybe I can ask them if they have a longer hose on their sniffer. :-) But as to "Stationary engines seldom fair as well under driving conditions because that is outside of their design parameters", I've done a fair bit of engine design in my youth, and I can't think of any design parameters in a stationary engine that would make it smoggier if it were moving.

abbey bend
7/8/2011 2:10:03 PM

No surprise here, any modern engine, and this is a modern engine, is required to meet certain emmissions standards to be sold in the United States. This is why certain engine cannot be sold in California, they do not make the California standards for emmisions. Can you imagine buying a new engine and big clouds of smoke came bellowing out when you started it? How long before that supplier is out of business. Part of your results are because it is such a small engine, part of the results is because it is a newer, modern engine. All new engines are required to meet certain standards, even if people are largely unaware of them or they are not advertised openly. What would be more interesting is to see what the emmision results would be as it drives down the road. Stationary engines seldom fair as well under driving conditions because that is outside of their design parameters. Does not mean it would fail, just would be interesting to see the difference.

jeff dean
7/6/2011 8:42:18 AM

That's great that Max did so well on his mid-terms. Do those test take mpg into consideration, or just emissions at an idle? I just don't understand how an suv @ 14 mpg can put out less emissions than a small car from Europe with a small diesel that gets 56 mpg. If a vehicle gets 4x the millage it must be more efficient, therefore burning less fuel...less emissions. Yet we can't import these cars because they don't pass emission test. How does Max drive with the new wheels/tires. Lighter rims, taller tires make any noticeable difference?

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