No. Not exactly.
The auto world was in a frenzy a few days ago thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (SEMA). While the issue was only recently brought to light, the EPA drafted a 629-page proposal in July of 2015. SEMA came out with a statement that read, “EPA Seeks To Prohibit Conversion of Vehicles Into Racecars.” SEMA states that the EPA wants to prohibit people from turning road cars into race cars and stop the sales of certain parts.
While that’s how SEMA feels, what does EPA’s regulation actually mean for enthusiasts and performance manufacturers? To put it in simple terms, EPA’s regulation entitled “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standard for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2” will affect the automotive industry, especially manufacturers and enthusiasts that have ties to the track. First off, the reason why no one saw this coming was because the EPA has never gone after racing cars. The EPA’s definition of “nonroad vehicles” has always referred to lawn mowers, agricultural equipment and industrial machines. However, the EPA is now attempting to change this.
In the Federal Register document, “EPA is proposing in 40 CFR 1037.601(a)(3) to clarify that the Clean Air Act does not allow any person to disable, remove, or render inoperative (i.e. tamper with) emission controls on a certified motor vehicle for purposes of competition.” It was understood that the Clean Air Act never applied to competitive cars, but now the EPA states that has never been the case. In a statement to the public, the EPA stated, “People may use EPA-certified motor vehicles for competition, but to protect public health from air pollution, the Clean Air Act has—since its inception—specifically prohibited tampering with or defeating the mission control systems on those vehicles.”
And that the regulation that SEMA has commented on does not change this fact. The EPA also added, “The EPA remains primarily concerned with cases where the tampered vehicle is used on public roads, and more specifically with aftermarket manufacturers who sell devices that defeat emission control systems on vehicles used on public roads.” EPA’s new regulation isn’t necessarily new, the Agency just wants to clarify the wording found within an existing law. From the wording, it sounds like the EPA isn’t necessarily concerned with track-only racing cars, but ones that have been modified to be used on and off the track. That’s not so bad right?
Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that. SEMA and enthusiasts alike are extremely upset because of the inevitable crackdown on emissions-related parts for racing use. Before, track-only cars could have components that didn’t meet emissions standards. Due to the EPA’s new wording, that will all change, which would put an enormous dent in the automotive parts industry and grassroots racing. Since it would be illegal—technically—to modify a vehicle, whether it be for off-road use only or for road use, the EPA “may assess a civil penalty up to $37,500 for each engine or piece of equipment in violation.” However, the EPA claims that it is more concerned with modified vehicles being driven on public roads.
Other racing components like brakes, roll cages, or suspension are okay, since this rule only deals with emissions. However, can you imagine having to build a race car with the emissions fairy guiding your every move? SEMA is obviously upset, because the EPA is choosing to pull a fast one on the automotive world and enthusiasts. If the proposed regulation were to go into play, it wouldn’t go into effect until 2018 and won’t be retroactive. So it wouldn’t apply to current racing-modified production cars, only to cars produced in 2018 or later and acquired with the intent of being raced.
What does all of this mean for enthusiasts and manufacturers? As an enthusiast, turning an older, classic vehicle into a track-only car is not only affordable, but also enjoyable. If this regulation were to pass, one would have to be extremely careful with modifying a vehicle for track only use as it would have to meet emissions standards. Moreover, manufacturers would have to stop selling and making emissions-related components for track-only cars. That means a drastic increase in sales. Then again, it could be worse. For now, it looks like the EPA will stay away from cars that are only used on the track, which is good.