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Response to CA Air Resources Board's Proposed PHEV/Conversion Regulations
Aug 2, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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This formal reply to proposed regulations by the California Air Resources Board was written by CalCars Technical Lead Ron Gremban following discussions with the individuals and companies involved in the Open Source EAA-PHEV (Electric Auto Association - Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) project, some of whom have also submitted testimony. It's a good overview of the business and technical issues surrounding regulation of aftermarket conversions.

Here's how we summarize the message: "Let's be very careful of unintended consequences of too-early and too-specific restrictions, which could inhibit invention. Right now the auto industry is benefiting from new ideas that could help them make money producing clean cars. And conversions have already stimulated discussion about public and private incentives for these "green-tuned" vehicles and for the even better mass-produced versions that will follow them. Let's take this step by step and not shut down the small innovators."

Find the EAA-PHEV group at http://www.eaa-phev.org and the specific sections on Prius conversion at http://www.priusplus.org/­ . The message archive can best be seen at http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/­group/­eaa-phev/­

July 31, 2008 from Ron Gremban:
Dear CARB members. I'm writing this in response to the emboldened draft regulations below:

At http://www.arb.ca.gov/­msprog/­zevprog/­hevtest/­hevtest.htm :

The ARB is modifying the existing exhaust & evaporative test procedures for Light Duty & Medium Duty Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) to better characterize emissions from all types and architectures of Hybrid Electric Vehicles including Plug-In hybrids. Information regarding this process and the proposed modifications are shown below. To receive information on postings to this website please sign-up on the ZEV list serve.

July 16, 2008

I commend these efforts to tackle the necessary regulation of a complex and potentially extensive and valuable area of our transportation future.

Like Andy Grove, who just proposed the conversion of 10 million trucks, SUVs, and vans into PHEVs nationwide within the next four years, I strongly believe that our automobile manufacturers not only will not, but cannot even begin to, build enough PHEV vehicles in the next decade to create -- by replacing existing and yet-to-be-sold low-mileage vehicles -- the level of oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions reductions that our economy, environment, and California state law requires. Even iif auto manufacturers were to move exceedingly fast, e.g. by converting a full 1% of their new vehicle production to PHEV in 2011 (the expected first full year of any PHEV production -- it took 10 years to reach this point with hybrids), then to double that production quantity each year thereafter, it would take 10 years to reach 90% production penetration, 16% on-the-road penetration, and a likely 8% (that year only, not cumulative) greenhouse emissions reductions.

This means that large numbers of existing vehicles, and not just the small percentage that are hybrids, will need to be partially electrified to come close to meeting the IPCC's and California's greenhouse emissions and oil displacement goals. Of course California will need to be careful to avoid, in the process, moving backwards in criteria emissions and vehicle safety. However, I submit that although the auto manufacturers have generally higher technology capabilities at their disposal than entrepreneurs, they tend to move toward implementation of new propulsion technology in production -- especially technology that they don't yet see as an economic windfall -- at a glacial pace, sometimes even when their very existence is threatened by avoiding doing so (as from today's fuel prices).

Because of this, hybrid-to-PHEV and the upcoming ICE-to-PHEV conversion technologies have so far been created and brought to market by non-profit and entrepreneurial companies and loosely organized groups of engineers on shoestring budgets. I believe that, if we are to have a significant electrification of the vehicle fleet within a decade, this must be allowed to continue and even be incentivized. While conversions, when sold in significant quantities, will need to prove in some way that they do not increase criteria emissions, I believe, in order to avoid a high cost of entry that would prevent small, innovative, shoestring-budget operations from starting out, there is high value in tolerating the creation and even sale of smaller quantities of conversions with lower-level oversight. Such small operations can innovate new conversion solutions, sell a few once they work, then use the proceeds and the field experience to test against and meet progressively carefully monitored regulations as a part of both improving the product and increasing sales. At some point some products and organizations will reach the point where they get noticed and funded for high-cost production engineering, testing, and serious levels of production, as has Hymotion. At this point, the proposed certification requirements (subject to suggestions below) would be appropriate.

Once again, I emphasize that regulation alone is insufficient to get auto manufacturers to do things that are in the public interest but that they don't want to do. This was established as true with the original ZEV mandate (I believe 10% of new vehicles by 2004 were going to be ZEV), and continues with the Pavley bill tied up in court after a federal denial as well as due to a suit by all the auto manufacturers, including even 'green' Toyota. In contrast, what CalCars has discovered does work is a combination of:

  • Laws and regulations, such as feebates, creating strong incentives/disincentives for desirable/undesirable end-user behavior
  • Very public demonstrations that show the viability and availability of the technology to the public, generate large amounts of media exposure, and educate the public to the technology's advantages, both to the individual and to society
  • Development and sales of conversion systems, first to early adopters, then to more mainstream customers, at an ever-increasing scale that the auto manufacturers cannot ignore, and that will provide much of the promised value of PHEVs far sooner than could possibly occur through increasing penetration of new PHEV vehicles alone.
  • Emissions and safety regulations that allow this conversion penetration to begin entrepreneurially while expanding in an increasingly controlled way.
  • Grants, including to small groups that have specific unique things to offer, to help stimulate the needed technical, financial, business, and marketing innovation I propose that aftermarket conversions be required to follow the following progression: 1. Once such standards are created, conformity to a set of safety engineering standards to be established by a to-be-determined consortium of EV and aftermarket automotive experts, similar to the industry standards the very successfully safety-conscious FAA now requires of Light Sport Aircraft manufacturers. 2. Before sales of more than 25 conversions, justify on paper in an application to CARB why the converter believes that the conversion will not raise emissions, given national laboratory tests of emissions levels of other conversions. 3. Before sales of over 100 conversions, submit one converted vehicle to CARB (temporarily) for testing and (if further crash safety regulations beyond the federal regulations already in place for aftermarket vehicle additions and for batteries) show the results of a software-simulated crash test. 4. Before sales of over 1000 conversions, the whole CARB procedure specified in the draft procedures (as updated with suggestions) must be completed. Also: 1. Conversions of multiple makes and models should be considered a single conversion type when vehicle parameters do not vary significantly (e.g. Prius 2004-2008 models are essentially alike, and Escape and Mariner hybrids are also essentially the same vehicle). 2. Testing for conversion longevity against warrantied lifetime is far too time-consuming (ultimately requiring many years) and beyond the capabilities of any organization without the deep pockets of top-tier auto manufacturers. Some shortcut(s) must be acceptable, such as demonstrating that battery deterioration either will not cause increased emissions or will be detected and force repair. 3. Other than against emissions increase, it should be up to the conversion manufacturer as to how long to warrant the conversion and/or parts within it. This will allow the use, for example, of batteries that can make conversions more affordable though they may need replacement one or more times during the remaining life of the converted vehicle. 4. It is unrealistic and extreme to require that the addition of a conversion to a vehicle will reset its mileage for warranty purposes to zero. 5. Actual crash testing must be required only upon embarkation of volume sales.

Draft Aftermarket Parts Certification Requirements

The "Draft Aftermarket Parts Certification Requirements" document contains this potential showstopper for small business: to get approval to sell conversions in CA, a manufacturer must not only warranty a conversion for the expected lifetime of the converted vehicle (section 7), as specified by other regulations -- 10 years or 150,000 miles, I believe, for an AT-PZEV like the Prius -- but the conversion must be tested and proven to not increase emissions for that full lifetime (section 5b, especially 5b.vii), either in a converted vehicle, or via approved laboratory aging (to the vehicle's lifetime, or can that be projected?), with test in a converted vehicle before and after the laboratory aging.

Unless I misread this, it means that conversions will not be able to be approved for sale in CA until such testing is completed, which is an expensive and time-consuming process. Even accelerated aging, if deemed acceptable, would take years to reach the equivalent of 10 years or 150k miles! And what about battery packs that are known not to last that long, but that can provide significant fuel displacement while they do last? A possible out is to show that in conversions that do not replace the original battery, even a worn-out conversion will not increase the emissions beyond those of the unconverted vehicle -- but that out will not work for battery replacement conversions.

Another issue included in that document is that up to 5 in-use converted vehicles of each conversion type must be made available to CARB (I believe yearly) for an unspecified length of time by each conversion manufacturer. Since small conversion manufacturers may themselves own only one or two vehicles, this could present a very difficult economic challenge, despite the fact that CARB would foot the cost of the testing unless the vehicles failed the tests. I would propose that this be changed to one vehicle plus one more for each 1000 conversions sold, up to a maximum of five total.

Section 3 says that these requirements "shall apply to all OVCC (Off-Vehicle Charge Capable) conversion systems to be certified for installation on CA-certified HEVs." What about conversions of non-HEVs?

Depending on how it is interpreted, section 3a could make it difficult to get approval for systems that replace the Battery ECU, that change messages between it and the rest of the hybrid system, or that rely on resetting the OEM system at various times (though the relevant data could be automatically read out and saved as needed). It depends on what is meant by "an analysis showing that these modifications will not adversely affect OBD performance."

Section 3b says, "The driveability of a vehicle equipped with a conversion system shall not be degraded in such a way as to encourage consumer tampering." It may be CARB's interpretation as to whether or not an optional low-performance but zero emissions Forced EV mode would still be allowed.

Altogether, it appears that these regulations would increase the cost of entry into this market to a point where only large corporations could participate, thereby totally locking out the very entrepreneurial startups that have been and are very likely to continue to be the best sources of innovation for technology that the auto manufacturers have been resisting. How about increasingly stringent regulations that become effective after set numbers of each manufacturer's conversions are sold in CA, and that reach the proposed level only after e.g. 5000? Otherwise, the $500k one might spend on meeting the full requirements would have to come from often nonexistent start-up capital, and would still amount to $500 per conversion after the sale of 1000 conversions -- both of which are far beyond the early capabilities of every conversion manufacturer I know of, including Hymotion before its purchase by A123 (A123 has now spent mid-six-figures on such testing), and that sale would not have happened if Hymotion hadn't already been selling viable conversions.

Draft EV Charging Requirements

There are two issues here, both having to do with eliminating the exception to more stringent requirements for vehicles that are capable only of "level 1" charging at up to 1.44 kW from an ordinary 15A, 120VAC outlet.

Instead, the proposal is that all plug-in vehicles be required to conform to J1772 REV ?2009, including the use of a Yazaki plug (although the availability of an adapter to allow plugging into an ordinary outlet may also be required), and that they all be required to have charger capacity to provide a full charge in 4 hours (though battery chemistry is allowed to prolong the charging).

First, requiring the Yazaki plug may not be a bad idea, as it will enable public charge stations with a standardized Yazaki jack to charge all EVs including PHEVs. But, for "level 1" charging, an ordinary 120V plug must be allowed as well, so that one need not rewire his home after buying a PHEV. Public charge stations are unlikely to be important for PHEVs, but could eventually lead to more charging, e.g. at on-street parking spots frequented by people without garages, and at hotels and other overnight locations.

However, the requirement of 4 hour charging is a potential problem and a puzzle. The document says that "...7-8 hours ... time duration would extend beyond preferred late-evening low-cost Utility rate schedules", but PG&E's E-9 off-peak rate is from midnight to 7am, 7 hours, not 4. In fact, if all vehicles started at the start of off-peak rates, the load would be better spread out, at least until the advent of a full-blown smart grid, by a 7-hour charging rate rather than a 4-hour rate. Also, though CARB's document shows that a PHEV-25 could charge from a 120V 15A circuit in 4 hours, that applies only to a compact or efficient sedan and doesn't include charger inefficiencies. A PHEV-40 sedan or a PHEV-20 SUV or pickup truck could reach only a 6 hour rate on 120V, thereby triggering the requirement for a higher power 240V charger, at more cost and to what advantage?

Draft California Exhaust Emission Standards and Test Procedures for 2011 and Subsequent Model Years ZEVs and HEVs

My comments so far are actually from the Staff Presentation slides, which are a condensation of the other documents, and Argonne Labs' presentation at the 2008 SAE Hybrid Conference, as I have not yet read this document.

Presentation slide 26 says that "Only one required charge for PHEV testing if AC Energy to fully recharge is within +/- 1% between the Urban and Highway CD Range tests...". 1% is also mentioned on slide 23, slide 27, and in other places. This seems unusable, as at least 5% differences between separate discharges and charges are common after similar driving conditions.

Thank you for your consideration of my comments.

Sincerely, Ronald Gremban, CalCars' Technical Lead


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