EPA Proposes Criteria to Certify Vehicles as Clean, Energy Efficient

On May 17, EPA announced proposed criteria for certifying vehicles as clean and energy efficient to guide states that choose to allow such vehicles on high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes -- even when the vehicles have only one occupant.

The proposal, which was required by The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), is designed to spur the purchase and use of vehicles that are better for the environment and energy security.

The proposal applies to cars, SUVs, vans and trucks below 8,500 pounds. To be eligible for the HOV exemption, these vehicles would be required to meet specifications for both low emissions and energy efficiency.

To be considered low emission, EPA proposes that a vehicle would have to be certified to either the stringent federal Tier 2 "bin" 5 standard (or cleaner) or the equally stringent California LEV II (Low-Emission Vehicle) standards. Under the Tier 2 program, manufacturers have the flexibility to certify Tier 2 vehicles to different sets of exhaust emission standards that EPA refers to as "bins." The Tier 2 program implements a structure that has eight emission standard bins. Each bin represents a set of standards to which manufacturers can certify their vehicles. For more information about the Tier 2 Vehicle & Gasoline Sulfur Program, visit http://epa.gov/tier2/index.htm. For more information on the California LEV program, visit http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/levprog/levprog.htm.

To be considered energy efficient, EPA proposes that a vehicle would have to be:

  • A dedicated alternative fuel vehicle.
  • A hybrid vehicle achieving 50 percent or better in-city fuel economy or 25 percent or better in combined city/highway fuel economy compared to a similar gasoline fueled vehicle.

Any changes to HOV programs as a result of this proposal would be implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation and enforced by the individual states that choose to allow HOV exemptions. States can opt to toughen EPA's criteria, but the officials may not reduce them. The SAFETEA-LU provision allowing states to adopt HOV exemptions is currently set to expire Sept. 30, 2009.

For more information on EPA's proposal, go to http://www.epa.gov/otaq/ld-hwy.htm.

For more information on SAFETEA-LU, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/index.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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