Local motorists who dislike AirCare will have even more reason to celebrate on New Year’s Eve 2014.
But not everyone’s completely happy with the provincial government’s recent announcement to end AirCare for many types of passenger vehicles.
AirCare will end Dec. 31, 2014 for passenger cars and trucks, Environment Minister Terry Lake announced May 24.
“Newer makes and models of light-duty vehicles are not the prime source of the blue smoke and pollution experienced on the road today,” Lake said.
“When you look at most cars now, they run a lot cleaner than the vehicles rolling off the line when AirCare started in 1992.”
Haney Automotive owner/operator Brandon Zimmerman has seen a variety of cars and trucks come through the independent garage’s doors for AirCare service since he started in 2000.
“In the early days for us, there was a lot of AirCare repairs,” Zimmerman said.
Over the past few years, new policies and quality emission standards for newer vehicles have reduced that number.
“We’re not seeing brand-new vehicles for AirCare but they still come through the door,” he said, claiming the Lower Mainland gets a “bad rap.”
“There’s no AirCare in the Interior and no AirCare around the Island,” he said, “but we have it here in the Lower Mainland.”
AirCare is still necessary to control the harmful emissions blowing out the tailpipes of older vehicles, in Zimmerman’s opinion.
And over the past two decades, automotive shops and motorists alike have had to shell out of their pockets to adapt to AirCare, he said.
“People have been spending their hard-earned dollars and getting their vehicles through AirCare because they need them, and the shops and the dealerships have been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the correct tools to fix those vehicles,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a bit of a kick in the pants to be honest with you.”
Haney Automotive has tools specific for AirCare service – including a five gas analyzer worth roughly $20,000 – that could be basically rendered obsolete come Jan. 1, 2015.
“That part of it is not too good for us,” he said.
Currently, AirCare testing costs newer vehicle owners (1992-2006) $46 every two years.
Older vehicles are tested every year at $23 per test.
It is expected that the fee to inspect 1992-2006 vehicles will be reduced in 2014 to make it fair for car owners requiring an inspection in the final year of the program.
But the future nixing of AirCare will only make a small dent in Zimmerman’s business, because his shop has been preparing for this decision from the provincial government for some time.
“We’re evolving,” he said. “We have been [evolving] over the last couple of years because we all knew this was kind of coming. They’ve been talking about getting rid of it [AirCare] for quite a long time.”
AirCare service is seasonal, Zimmerman said, especially in Maple Ridge where many owners of older vehicles tend to take their motorized “toys” out of their garages during the summer months.
“When the sun comes out, those vehicles come out and they’ve got to get them through AirCare and the whole nine [yards]… ,” Zimmerman said.
The recent government announcement follows a Metro Vancouver bylaw that came into force this past January to reduce diesel emissions from backhoes, excavators, forklifts, and many other diesel-powered non-road machines, which were not covered by the AirCare program.
One of the priorities of Metro Vancouver’s air-quality program is to reduce emissions of diesel particulates – the soot or tiny particles in the exhaust of diesel-powered vehicles, equipment, ships and trains.
Both the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley regional district boards have recommended to the province that it change the focus of the AirCare program to reduce significant sources of diesel particulates.
“Addressing major sources of contamination – and diesel particulates is certainly one of them – is key to managing and improving air quality in the airshed we share with our neighbours in the Fraser Valley,” Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore said.
Moore said managing heavy-duty vehicle emissions is an “excellent step” in reducing air pollution.
“It’s time to explore shifting gears when it comes to battling vehicle emissions,” Lake said. “Lower Mainland drivers have done their part by participating in AirCare, so we’ll be reducing fees with a full phase-out of light-duty vehicle testing in 2014.”
The B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) is not happy about the idea of new regulations.
“Shifting AirCare to target heavy trucks is unnecessary,” said Louise Yako, BCTA’s president. “There are already checks and balances in place for diesel engines and fuel that are achieving impressive results in reducing emissions on their own.”
Diesel emissions have been in decline for the last 20 years, she said.
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With AirCare ending on Dec. 31, 2014, the province has other transportation emission reduction policies and programs in place. They include:
• A new greenhouse gas reduction regulation that offers incentives to utility companies for natural gas transportation fleets – including buses, trucks or ferries, as well as the creation and operation of compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas fuelling stations.
• $2 million in seed money to set up a low-interest loan program to help businesses convert their heavy-duty diesel trucks and equipment to increase fuel efficiency, save money, and reduce carbon emissions.
It’s anticipated this program could result in emission reductions of approximately 13,400 tonnes over the first three years.
The program is part of an overall $17-million strategy for clean energy vehicles, infrastructure, home charging stations and the BC SCRAP-IT Society. The Clean Energy Vehicle point-of-sale incentive program provides up to $5,000 off the pre-tax sticker price for qualifying new battery electric, fuel cell electric, plug-in hybrid electric and compressed natural gas vehicles.