The lab tests cars and trucks for compliance with federal clean-air rules and issues fuel-economy ratings. Its equipment "is very reliable, but old," Sabourin said.
The need for more precise testing devices is a testament to the success the automobile industry is having in reducing pollution from its products. Beginning with the 2004 model year, new cars and trucks will be tested for compliance with the so-called Tier 2 clean-air rules, adopted in late 1999. They require elimination by 2009 of up to 95 percent of the remaining smog-causing emissions, which are already as much as 96 percent below the unregulated levels of the 1960s. Principal pollutants are unburned hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen.
The reductions do not affect the production of carbon dioxide, suspected of contributing to global warming.
Christopher Grundler, deputy director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, which runs the Ann Arbor lab, said his agency sought $14 million for the new equipment, and the Bush administration put the full amount in its budget request to Congress. Lawmakers will be hashing over budget details for much of the rest of the year.
Automakers will be adding and adapting devices at their own engineering centers and production plants to match the new EPA equipment so that they know their vehicles are in compliance, EPA officials said.