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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Harley Fine Cut

Last week the United States Department of Justice announced it was cutting a fine levied against Harley-Davidson a year ago from $15 million to $12 million.
The motor company was cited last August for selling high performance electronic fuel injection tuners called Screamin’ Eagle Pro Super Tuners. The Environmental Protection Agency called the tuners “illegal tuning devices that increase air pollution from their motorcycles” and fined Harley $12 million. The pollution police also ordered Harley to contribute $3 million to an EPA project that will replace conventional wood burning stoves with cleaner wood burning stoves. What has changed is that the motor company no longer has to buy $3 million worth of new and improved wood burning stoves.

Suck, Bang, Blow

For decades, Harley-Davidson has met government mandated pollution standards by making their air-cooled motorcycle engines run less efficiently. The engine was designed in 1907 and its operation is usually described as suck, bang and blow. Basically, less air sucked into the engine’s combustion chambers results in a smaller bang, the release of less energy when the fuel air mixture ignites, and a corresponding decrease in the exhaust gases that result from burning gasoline.
Eventually, the only way the motorcycle manufacturer could make that strangled, old-fashioned engine meet increasingly stringent pollution standards was by discontinuing carbureted motorcycles. Carburetors, for those who are new, were mechanical devices attached to the intake manifolds of gasoline powered, internal combustion engines. With a basic set of tools including a screwdriver, shade tree mechanics could tune their carburetors to run with maximum efficiency. Harley stopped shipping carbureted motorcycles in 2005.
Carburetors were replaced with computerized fuel injectors. Because they were electronic, fuel injectors became virtual black boxes for home mechanics. But Electronic Fuel Injection could be tuned with a lap top computer and a device that could reprogram the factory settings.

Opening The Black Box

That’s what the Screamin’ Eagle turner did. The device, when attached to a computer and the motorcycle gave mechanics the “ability to view the bike’s air/fuel ratio, O2 sensor readings, engine speed and temperature, RPM and vehicle speed, throttle position, spark advance and much more.” Harley said the tuner was “designed to simplify management of street-legal performance calibrations as EPA-compliant performance modifications are made. It easily allows the rider or technician to view and evaluate engine operating parameters.”
In a press release issued after Harley finally cried “uncle,” the EPA alleged “that Harley-Davidson violated the Clean Air Act by manufacturing and selling about 340,000 devices, known as tuners, that allow users to change how a motorcycle’s engine functions, These changes can cause the motorcycles to emit higher amounts of certain air pollutants than they would in the original configuration that Harley-Davidson certified with EPA.”

Tuner Equipped Bikes

Although the tuners were not equipment attached to motorcycle but simply a diagnostic tool to help owners understand the inefficiencies mandated by the EPA, the government still required Harley to “conduct tests on tuner-equipped motorcycles and provide the results to EPA to guarantee that their motorcycles remain in compliance with EPA certification requirements for emissions.”
In a section written by somebody who actually understood what tuners do, the release stated “Since January 2008, Harley-Davidson has manufactured and sold two types of tuners, which when hooked up to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, allow users to modify certain aspects of a motorcycles’ emissions control system. These modified settings increase power and performance, but also increase the motorcycles’ emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Hydrocarbon and NOx emissions contribute to harmful ground-level ozone, and NOx also contributes to fine particulate matter pollution.”
“Exposure to ozone and particulate matter pollution has been linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. Exposure to these pollutants has also been associated with premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory disease are particularly at risk of health effects from exposure to these pollutants.
“By reducing the chance that Harley-Davidson motorcycles produce emissions above their legally certified levels, this agreement contributes to state and federal efforts to meet air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter.”