Writer's Ramblings

A Biker's View on EPA Compliant Scooters

Written by  November 30, 2005

Did you ever want to live in California? You might as well if you operate a motor vehicle, including a motorcycle. All 49 remaining states are going to be subject to California emission standards beginning in 2006 with total compliance due by 2020. I am no lawyer, but I am going to try to unravel all the legalese and make the ruling understandable to the average scooter tramp. For those of you who enjoy bureaucratic masochism, proceed to the United States Environmental Protection Agency web site for the final ruling regarding highway motorcycles.

I am going to start out by explaining the effects of the ruling on the average Joe building a kit bike or a ground-up build. If your bike is not EPA compliant, (and at this point there are no testing procedures in place), either way you go, the EPA considers this a “kit” bike. The EPA, showing monumental generosity, allows each individual ONE EPA-exempt build for the “lifetime of the rule” or, in normal English, in YOUR lifetime. My advice is, if you want more than one kit bike, you’d better hurry; if it isn’t titled before January 1, 2006, you used up your one exemption. Oh, but wait, there is more. The best I can tell, if another individual or shop builds it for you it is still your one exemption. Now keep in mind if a shop builds your scooter you are restricted to how many miles you can ride it, but if you build it you can ride until to your heart’s content. OK, you have built or had someone else build your bike—remember the following and you are all set:

You just used up your one exemption.
You cannot sell this bike for five years.
You can have a shop build it for you, but you must buy all the parts before the build starts.
If a shop builds it for you, it counts as your one-time exemption, not theirs (they get 24), and you are limited in miles you can travel.
You cannot modify, fold, spindle or mutilate a bike that was EPA compliant to begin with to build your ride.

Confused yet? It gets better. Local builders are next. It does not matter that they are a licensed manufacturer according to state laws. They get to build 24 EPA-exempt bikes. These bikes get a gaudy sticker stating they are not compliant and their use on public roads is limited. What does “limited” mean, you ask? You can ride your scooter to display it or put it in a show and that is all. OK, OK, I know enforcing this is going to be impossible, but who needs the damn hassle?

Finally we will look at manufacturers. You have to believe that all their units will be compliant straight from the factory. My question is this: If a bike is EPA compliant from the factory will it still be subject to yearly testing? Will the feds trust the manufacturers? If you ride that new EPA-happy scooter for a year then sell it, is the new owner responsible for proving compliance? Beats the hell out of me!

OK, now let’s look at ways of sticking it to the man. First off, the EPA at this point has NO program to certify engines, so the aftermarket engine builders are safe. You can do the same thing people have done to cars for years—get it OK for testing then take off the parts you don’t “want.” Buy an EPA-happy engine (injected of course), get some choked pipes with oxygen sensors and make the man happy. When you get home throw your shotguns and Super E back on and save the emissions stuff for the next build. Title your bikes to any relative or child you trust. Or, do like I will—they are going to have to catch me first. Remember also, this is a Federal law; the states are on their own deciding how to enforce it. It’s easy to pass a law; it is much harder to get the states to provide equipment and staff for testing. At this point the testing procedures have not even been outlined. The law itself looks like Swiss cheese, so I have to believe anybody with a little imagination and ingenuity can get around this crock for years to come. Remember the Federal government’s motto when it comes to bikers, “bend over, we’ll drive.” I’ll keep you posted on new developments.

NOTE: Any views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Cycle Connections or its editors.

By Loney Wilcoxson