The writing has been on the wall for some time now. The Trump administration wants to start cutting funds to the EPA. With a detailed plan due out in May, it's very possible we could see the end of vehicle emissions testing among other programs within the EPA.
What does all this mean to us Tuners and Gearheads? Should we being throwing the biggest party ever complete with big Smokey burnouts, revving out big modified engines and emitting copious amounts of hydrocarbons through our catless unfiltered exhaust?
The answer is no, not really. Not only is testing cars already on the road handled by the states, the truth is most of us have had it really good starting with the wonderful, glorious OBD2. First implemented in 1996 OBD2 has been our saving grace for modifying cars and removing emission controls. First seen as the end of hot-rodding, tuning an OBD2 car has proved to be nothing short of a miracle.
Don't have cats? No problem, tune out the rear O2 sensors or, in the early days, install O2 simulators that mimic a working sensor. Ditched your EGR and EVAP? No worries mate, there's a software out there to fix that. This all obviously applies to areas that don't do visual inspections and just scan your car. Some states don't do any testing at all! Now if you Californians want to throw a hella wicked cool epic party, by all means go for it.
Now there is a lot more to all this than closing down testing facilities. Trump's plan could also change the current trajectory of the 2025 mileage standards set in place by the Obama administration in 2011. Under the current plan, auto manufactures will have to average 54.5 mpg by 2025. Some have raised concern that this could translate to more expensive cars and price out Americans looking to buy an affordable new car.
My fear in all this regarding modified cars is potentially more eyes on the testing process. Since testing the cars already on the road is done at the state level, this could mean some states that will be looking for reasons to not only keep conventional testing but add to it as well. The chances of this go up dramatically after Trump's time in office.
Although we don't fully know what the plan consists of, I trust our system of checks and balances here. I do think a department like the EPA is needed. Let's not forget what happened with Volkswagon and "Dieselgate." But like most government departments, things could be done more efficiently. Something I'd propose would be simply transmitting emission control device failures via over the air systems like OnStar with Gm. Most car makers either can scan your car without having to physically bring the car anywhere now or will soon be able to. If that's all we are checking in most cases anyway it's a win win.
For now I'm going to stick with my own emission controls. Driving my Chevy Volt as much as possible and saving my 1000 horsepower Trans Am and my Mercedes E55 for recreational fun driving. Remember you can have your cake and eat it too.