EPA Proposal to Prohibit Conversion of Vehicles into Racecars

Courtesy of SEMA Washington, DC Staff

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a regulation to prohibit conversion of vehicles originally designed for on-road use into racecars. The regulation would also make the sale of certain products for use on such vehicles illegal. The proposed regulation was contained within a non-related proposed regulation entitled “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2.” 

The regulation would impact all vehicle types, including the sports cars, sedans and hatch-backs commonly converted strictly for use at the track. While the Clean Air Act prohibits certain modifications to motor vehicles, it is clear that vehicles built or modified for racing, and not used on the streets, are not the “motor vehicles” that Congress intended to regulate.

“This proposed regulation represents overreaching by the agency, runs contrary to the law and defies decades of racing activity where EPA has acknowledged and allowed conversion of vehicles,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “Congress did not intend the original Clean Air Act to extend to vehicles modified for racing and has re-enforced that intent on more than one occasion.”

SEMA submitted comments in opposition to the regulation and met with the EPA to confirm the agency’s intentions. The EPA indicated that the regulation would prohibit conversion of vehicles into racecars and make the sale of certain emissions-related parts for use on converted vehicles illegal. Working with other affected organizations, including those representing legions of professional and hobbyist racers and fans, SEMA will continue to oppose the regulation through the administrative process and will seek congressional support and judicial intervention as necessary.

The EPA has indicated it expects to publish final regulations by July 2016.

EPA Proposed Regulation: 

Under the EPA proposed regulation, certified motor vehicles and engines and their emission control devices must remain in their certified configuration even if they are used solely for competition.  Violators would be subject to the fines and penalties included in the tampering prohibitions.

SEMA’s Understanding of Proposal as Confirmed by the EPA:

SEMA representatives met with EPA officials on January 20, 2016 to confirm the association’s understanding of the proposed regulation.  The EPA officials confirmed that the regulation would make it illegal to convert a certified motor vehicle into a vehicle to be used solely for competition.  The EPA officials claimed that this had always been their interpretation of the Clean Air Act. 

Myth: This proposal is not changing current law.

Congress never intended the Clean Air Act to be interpreted as giving the EPA the authority to regulate vehicles used solely for competition, regardless of whether the vehicles were once emissions-certified road vehicles.  Once a vehicle is taken out of use as a road vehicle and dedicated solely to racing, it is beyond the laws which apply to road vehicles.  The EPA and SEMA fundamentally disagree on this point.  SEMA has cited the statutory text, legislative history, and congressional intent of the Clean Air Act, as well as 46 years of history whereby vehicles have been converted from certified road status to status as race vehicles without any objection from EPA. 

Myth: The EPA is merely clarifying the law as it relates to motor vehicles and nonroad vehicles, and its proposal only affects vehicles driven on the streets.

The EPA is adding new language to the regulations.  This new language states that a motor vehicle can never be modified, even if it is used solely for competition and never again used on public roads.  The EPA is seeking to prohibit modifications affecting any emissions-related component, such as engines, engine control modules, intakes, exhaust systems, etc.

Myth: The EPA’s proposal only affects medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

The EPA inserted the problematic language into a rulemaking that focuses on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, however, the rulemaking also includes a section entitled “Miscellaneous EPA Amendments.”  The language affecting “vehicles used solely for competition” (i.e., racecars) was a “miscellaneous EPA amendment” and would, in fact, affect all light-duty vehicles, not just trucks. 

Myth: SEMA is overreacting, this will never get passed.

The EPA has issued a proposed regulation.  Regulations are issued by federal agencies and not voted on by elected representatives.  If the language becomes final (EPA is expected to issue a final regulation in July), then it will have the force of law and can only be challenged in federal court or overturned by Congress. 

Myth: The EPA could not enforce this proposal.

The proposal would give the EPA the power to enforce against any vehicle owner that converts his or her emissions-controlled motor vehicle into a vehicle to be used solely for competition.  Whether or not the EPA chooses to enforce, it would be illegal for an individual to convert their motor vehicle.  Additionally, the EPA has stated that it will enforce against aftermarket companies that sell parts for use on the converted vehicles, which will limit racers’ access to parts. 

Myth: The EPA’s proposal would not affect vehicles that have already been converted into racecars.  

It is the EPA’s position that they will be able to enforce against vehicles that have already been converted in the past.  While the EPA has indicated that it does not currently plan on enforcing against individuals, it does plan on going after the companies supplying parts for vehicles that have already been converted.  So, if you have a racecar that began life as a street car, this regulation would affect your access to parts, and leave you open to enforcement if the agency so chooses.  

Fact: The EPA’s proposal would not affect racecars with original emissions controls.

The EPA notes that race vehicles with original, unmodified emission controls, including the original engine configuration, engine control module, intake and exhaust components, do not violate the law.  The issue is that very few competition race vehicles have been left unmodified and in a certified configuration.  

Fact: The EPA’s proposal would not affect purpose-built racecars, such as sprint cars, open-wheel dragsters and the cars that currently compete in NASCAR.

The EPA agrees that vehicles that were originally manufactured for racing are excluded from regulation under the Clean Air Act.  However, the EPA believes this exclusion extends only to vehicles that were never certified for on-road use or issued a VIN. 

Fact: The EPA’s proposal will not affect the exemption for “nonroad vehicles,” such as dirt bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles and boats used solely for competition.

The EPA has indicated that it will continue to allow “nonroad vehicles” (dirt bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, boats) to be exempted from certain emissions regulations if they are used solely for competition.  Distinct from its stance on motor vehicles, however, the EPA’s current position on nonroad vehicles allows emissions-certified nonroad vehicles to be converted into vehicles used solely for competition.

Get the Facts for Yourself:

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles--Phase 2, 80 Fed. Reg. 40,138 (July 13, 2015), docket no. EPA–HQ–OAR–2014–0827:

Please use the search function to locate this provision within the proposed regulation:
Subpart S--General Compliance Provisions for Control of Air Pollution From New and In-Use Light-Duty Vehicles, Light-Duty Trucks, and Heavy-Duty Vehicles
67. Section 86.1854-12 is amended by adding paragraph (b)(5) to read as follows:

§ 86.1854-12 Prohibited acts.

*    *    *    *    *
(b) * * *
(5) Certified motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines and their emission control devices must remain in their certified configuration even if they are used solely for competition or if they become nonroad vehicles or engines; anyone modifying a certified motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine for any reason is subject to the tampering and defeat device prohibitions of paragraph (a)(3) of this section and 42 U.S.C. 7522(a)(3).

To review SEMA’s comments to the EPA proposal, go to:  http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2014-0827-146

To view and sign a petition to tell the EPA to withdraw its proposal to prohibit the conversion of vehicles into racecars, go to:



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