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State Air Resources Board Could Move to OC Campus

The California Air Resources Board is considering moving its El Monte testing facility to new digs, with Orange County a possible parking space.

A Carb spokesperson cautioned that efforts have miles to go, even before a request for proposal is ready.

“We are in the very early planning stages for replacing our current motor vehicle laboratory,” said John Swanton, an air pollution specialist with Carb.

The board is part of the state Environmental Protection Agency that tests for and monitors compliance with air quality regulations, including vehicle emissions.

The Arie Jan Haagen-Smit Laboratory is more than 40 years old, and industry and regulatory changes have led to new testing needs.

Research, New Technologies

Carb wants to add more research to its testing activities, and new automotive technologies—hydrogen fuel cells and electric—have developed.

“The basic principle is to transform a current facility to address the next generation,” said Scott Samuelsen, a professor of mechanical, aerospace and environmental engineering at University of California-Irvine and director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center there.

UC Irvine has expressed interest in a new facility, as have other university campuses, including the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of California-Riverside, and Cal Poly Pomona.

Samuelsen said he doesn’t expect an RFP for at least four to six months.

In addition to research and testing, he suggested a new facility could also do certification.

Cars with new technology would be tested, as they are now, on emissions and fuel economy.

Cars could also be monitored to see whether they were still performing according to regulations as they aged, he said.

Swanton said an outside company is updating a 2006 feasibility study for a new facility and that when that report is finished, an RFP for the project would be prepared.

He said a new facility could use existing space, new construction, or some combination of the two.

“We would be the same as a private company doing research on a campus,” Swanton said.

Samuelsen posed a hypothetical situation of buildings at the edge of the UCI campus, specifically designed for the lab and possibly developed by and leased from private owners.

UCI would not invest its own money, he said, and would benefit from students doing research, and from being a central resource for the UC system.

“As we understand it, they’re interested in locating at a campus to effectively engage the system as a whole,” Samuelsen said.

Students, Researchers

He said 100 students are already doing similar research and that he expects that number, including those from other campuses working remotely or at the facility, to double in the first 10 years of operation.

“Wherever it’s located, it would be a portal for students and researchers,” he said.

Students would see how their work fit not only with research and testing, and government and regulatory issues, but also with the industries involved in making the cars that are tested, Samuelsen added.

Carb’s current campus includes about 131,000 square feet of testing and office space and employs about 350, Swanton said. The 2006 report called for some 248,000 square feet and an investment of $174 million in a new facility.

Those numbers are likely to change due to the passage of time and shifting needs, Swanton said.

Total employment would be about the same, but the number of employees who would be at the new facility is unknown, he added.

“Part of the design and report process is identifying the best way to do this,” he said.

The new study is looking at work processes, testing demands, research plans extrapolated out for several decades, changing technologies, and making the new facility energy-efficient.

Swanton and Samuelsen said the facility—in part because of the new automotive technologies it would study—will be nearly “zero-emission” when it’s up and running.

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