At more than 400,000 square feet, the California Air Resources Board new emissions lab is the largest zero-net energy building in the U.S, quadruple the size of the old building in El Monte.
"That’s a hallmark of this facility is that we’re able to have testing of much larger vehicles and more of those vehicles than we ever had before," said John Swanton, one of CARB's Air Pollution Specialists.
What You Need To Know
- Inside the new headquarters, upwards of 1300 vehicles a year will be put through their paces and run under various conditions with lighter and heavier loads.
- CARB says it’s always on the lookout for car manufacturers who try to cheat the system
- The SoCal headquarters is said to be the only state-operated independent facility of its kind in the country
Inside the building, upwards of 1300 vehicles a year will be put through their paces and run under various conditions with lighter and heavier loads. There are 16 bays ranging from light duty cars to heavy-duty vehicles, including big-rigs and other trucks. The engines can even be taken out and tested on their own.
One area that Swanton showcased simulates driving in extreme heat.
“The room will go up over 100 degrees,” he explained. “You’ll have actual sunlight on it so the vehicle is operating under those conditions.”
And he says it’s not just motor vehicles, but practically anything with a combustible motor.
“We test everything from engines that are in string trimmers and lawn and garden equipment up to engines that are in earth movers and bulldozers and everything in between,” said Swanton.
The emissions are collected and analyzed by the on-site lab while another lab tests alternative fuels like biodiesel and how they affect emissions.
“Any vehicle that you buy new in California has been certified by CARB to meet California emissions standards,” said Swanton. “It also means that the vehicle is being monitored through its useful lifetime period to make sure that the vehicle’s continuing to meet those emissions control standards.”
CARB says it’s always on the lookout for car manufacturers who try to cheat the system, such as Volkswagen that was caught almost a decade ago by engineers at the previous location in El Monte. The company installed sophisticated software in its diesel vehicles to make them look as if they were polluting much less than they actually were.
“In rare cases where we find intentional actions, we can order that repairs and mitigation of the pollution that was created be performed,” Swanton said.
The carmaker eventually admitted fault, and a good portion of the new facility was paid for as part of a settlement with the state of California.
Swanton says he’s a car guy through and through, whether gas or electric.
“A car is still a car, and if you enjoy working on cars, this is a great place to do it,” he said.
It’s also a place in a league of its own. Swanton says CARB’s Southern California headquarters is the only state-operated independent facility of its kind in the country.
“We really are on the forefront of a transportation revolution, and it’s something that the world is looking to see what California does,” he said.
In the fight against climate change, CARB says what comes out of our tailpipes can be telling.
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