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EPA Fines Harley Davidson On Emissions

Lee Strubinger

Earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency fined Harley Davidson 15-million-dollars over the sale of an aftermarket device that enhanced bike performance, but increased allowable emissions.

The settlement comes just after the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – and after the EPA leveed a much larger fine on the auto manufacturer VW for violating emission standards.

According to the EPA, Harley Davidson sold 12,000 motorcycles that were not covered by federal clean air standards. The company also sold 340,000 Pro Super Tuners, a device is not a part of the motorcycle’s original, EPA certified equipment. Once installed, the aftermarket device increases emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.

John German is with the International Council on Clean Transportation. He says when those two gases combine with sunlight, they turn into greenhouse gases.

“Hydrocarbons, that’s fuel that goes through the engine unburned," German says. "There’s not a lot of that, but it’s certainly harmful. It has toxic properties. It also reacts in the atmosphere with sunshine to create ozone. Nitrogen oxide emissions, the air is comprised of nitrogen and oxygen, and the heat of the combustion in the engine actually causes them to merge and form nitric oxides.”

German says the number of Harley motorcycles involved is high. But, he says the level of emissions likely won’t be as significant as the Volkswagen case last year…

“So, from just a number of vehicles point of view, it is fairly significant,” German says. “For example, the VW case, there were about 500,000 vehicles involved. But, on the other hand, motorcycles aren’t driven nearly as much per year as cars, so their impact on emissions are far far lower. And, also, we don’t know how much the motorcycles were exceeding the standard by, which also affects the total impact.”

German says it’s not clear whether Harley-Davidson was ignorant of emissions the device put out, or if the company tried to get away with the performance enhancers.  Both the EPA and Harley Davidson declined for a recorded interview. In a written statement, Harley-Davidson says it will discontinue sales of the tuning product in the U.S. that was intended for off-road and closed-course competition bikes.