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SwRI wins $20M EPA contract for emissions and fuel consumption testing, analytical services

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been awarded a five-year, $20.16-million contract by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide testing and analytical services related to vehicle emissions and fuel consumption.

Key areas of support include emissions characterization and technology assessment. SwRI can develop test procedures and equipment for regulated and unregulated emissions in light- and heavy-duty vehicles and components as well as marine, railway, aircraft, small engine, and other non-highway propulsion systems.

The scope of this contract is quite broad. It encompasses 25 areas, from fuels and lubricants to engine and emissions characterizations, as well as economic studies, general rule-making support, and coordinating peer review meetings.

—Patrick Merritt, principal scientist in the Engine, Emissions, and Vehicle Research Division

SwRI can evaluate all types of fuels and additives, including conventional and reformulated gasoline and diesel fuels; alternative fuels such as methanol, ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), hydrogen and blends of hydrocarbon fuels; and electricity (supplied from batteries or fuel cells) for electric, partial electric, and non-electric hybrid vehicles.

The contract also calls for evaluating vehicles to ensure compliance with current emissions and other regulatory requirements and safety testing powertrains, batteries, and emission control systems. Technical services include evaluating prototype vehicle propulsion systems and related control, data acquisition, and sampling systems.

The contract through the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) Assessment and Standards Division (ASD) uses SwRI’s expertise in its Office of Automotive Engineering — the Engine, Emissions, and Vehicle Research Division and the Fuels and Lubricants Research Division. Since its inception in 1947, SwRI has been engaged in the automotive industry and has performed contract work for federal environmental endeavors even before the EPA came into existence in 1970.

New testing guidance from EPA. On 23 February, the EPA issued a new guidance letter to manufacturers to refine and to clarify the procedures to be used by vehicle manufacturers in establishing vehicle road-load force and dynamometer settings for emissions and fuel economy testing. Road-load is the force imparted on a vehicle while driving at constant speed over a smooth level surface from sources such as tire rolling resistance, driveline losses, and aerodynamic drag.

This new guidance is effective beginning with the 2017 model year. Prior to MY 2017 the road-load confirmation procedures specified in Advisory Circular 55c (issued in 1988) will continue to be used.

When a vehicle is tested for emissions and fuel economy on a chassis dynamometer, the load from aerodynamic drag, friction, and tire losses associated with road operation must be simulated. Dynamometer settings are determined in two stages. First, actual on-road operation must be characterized, which is referred to as the road-load force specification. Second, a road-load derivation is performed to determine how much load the dynamometer will need to apply to simulate the road-load measured during the on-road test. EPA has previously established test procedures for both steps.

The method a manufacturer elects to use to characterize the road-load force is optional; however, the manufacturer is responsible for the accuracy of the road-load force specification and dynamometer settings. It is also the manufacturer’s responsibility to insure that the vehicles it produces conform to the road-load specification reported in the application for certification and used for certification and fuel economy testing.

EPA may test, or require the manufacturer to test, production vehicles to verify the accuracy of the manufacturer’s reported road-load specification and dynamometer settings. If specifications or settings are found to be inaccurate, EPA may require the manufacturer to retest the affected emission certification vehicles, retest fuel economy data vehicles and recalculate fuel economy label values, recalculate the GHG emissions and CAFE fleet averages, and correct the ABT credit reports.

The road-load force specification for all vehicles covered by a certificate of conformity and dynamometer settings used during emissions testing are required to be reported in the application for certification. EPA may deny, suspend, or revoke certificates of conformity where it finds that production vehicles have road-load forces that differ substantially from the road-load specification in the application for certification. Manufacturers failing to provide accurate vehicle road-load specification information in their applications for certification may also be subject to enforcement action, including civil penalties.

A number of automakers have had to reduce their fuel economy ratings for certain models over the past several years; the new detailed guidelines for EPA are designed to prevent these sort of changes.

EPA recommends the procedures found in SAE J2263 as revised 12-2008, and J1263 as revised 03-2010 (the test procedures in J1263 are applicable however the data must be analyzed in such a way to determine a 3 term equation of force) and J2264 as revised 01-2014.

EPA then provides specific guidance on vehicle preparation; the road or track facility; the road-load force specification and accompanying vehicle configurations; road-load force confirmation testing; EPA road-load force confirmation criteria; and corrective actions for revising the road-load force specification.

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