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New ODBII Test Equipment Enables Hybrid Smog Test

The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) is now finalized and released the testing equipment required to do ODBII only tests in Cailfornia.  This is an update to the earlier post which stated that hybrid cars were exempt for smog checks until 2014. 

Why Require that Hybrids are Tested Now

It is not like the BAR didn't want to test hybrid vehicles, it was that they were not able to because the testing equipment could not accomodate the differences in how a hybrid vehicle operates.  Cars spend a lot of time idling and so a main part of the original BAR 97 test was an idle test.  However, hybrids don't idle.  When a hybrid vehicle is stopped unless the battery requires charging the combustion engine is turned off.  The equipment required that an idle test is performed but a hybrid does not idle. 

How Hybrids Use the Electric and Combustion Engine

Hybrid vehicle saves gas by running on an electric motor and only turning on the combusion engine to charge the vehicle batteries or when the engine load exceeds the capacity of the electric motor.  Most hybrid vehicles direct power to the wheels from the combustion engine.  One in particular the Chevy Volt does not.   In the Volts case it uses the combustion engine as a generator to charge the depleted electric batteries.  The turning on and off again of the combustion engine is actually the main way a hybrid save gasoline.  Many people including myself asked why don't combustion engines just turn off?  The reason has to do with the power of the electric motor in a hybrid vehicle and the lack of power of the electric motor in a combusion vehicle.

That's right, all combustion engines have an electric motor, it is called the start motor.  When you turn your car on in the morning and it goes through the starting process it is the electric starter motor that is turning the engine until the combustion reaction takes over.  When your battery is low it is the electric motor you hear straining to start your car.  The problem with turning off a combustion engine is that the starter electric motor is so small that it cannot smoothly turn a combustion engine on.  A hybrid has a very powerful electric motor that can easily turn the motor on without you even noticing very much.

The ODBII Test Does Not Rely on and Idle Step

The ODBII testing process which can be run on most 2000 or later year car models including hybrids gets emission information from the ODBII computer.  It is this new testing process which enables hybrids to be tested.  What this means is that the smog check location your bring your vehicle to must have an ODBII testing system.  If not, you will not be able to test your hybrid.