ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In low brown-brick buildings near the University of Michigan, 350 workers test the emissions on 400 vehicles a year, tearing them apart as needed. Their tools detect pollutants like nitrogen oxide at 100 parts per billion. In a hangar-size garage, they chain 80,000-pound freight trucks in place and spin their wheels at 90 miles an hour, measuring the exhaust.
Welcome to the hive of Chris Grundler -- environmental sleuth, bureaucrat and more-than-occasional bane of the auto industry.
As head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air-quality and transportation office, Grundler holds as much sway as any single human over how global automakers allocate more than $100 billion in r&d money each year. Sometimes they chafe.
At the moment, he’s saying Fiat Chrysler Automobiles needs to spend $5.1 billion to comply with U.S. fuel economy standards for 2025 -- a huge burden for a company just seven years removed from bankruptcy. But it’s a price FCA must and can pay, Grundler says, as the U.S. intensifies its fight against climate change.
“Grundler has the government job most important to the environment that nobody knows about,” said Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign.