Good for More Than Just Hot Weather Testing — Death Valley, CA

Badwater, Furnace Creek, Devil’s Golf Course, Dante’s View, Funeral Mountain, and Dead Horse Canyon are just a sampling of the place names in and around Death Valley, California; ominous and foreboding all. And in the summertime, all appropriate if you are not prepared. Also on the map are the words Radiator Water, just as if it were a place name, truly revealing the harshness of summer heat. These place names conjure visions of the extreme struggles that pioneers and prospectors faced in this valley. However, in the springtime and in the fall, the stark beauty of this historic valley with warm days and cool nights is a peaceful place, filled with opportunities for exploration, hiking, relaxing and even fine dining.

Death Valley, the largest national park outside of Alaska, contains more that 3 million acres within the park. It is a place of extremes – 282 feet below sea level at Badwater, average high temperatures in July over 110°F, a high temperature in 1913 of 134°F, average rainfall less than 2 inches per year and while Mount Whitney (the highest mountain in the contiguous United States at 14,495 feet) is not part of Death Valley, it can be seen from Dante’s View.

These extremes provide a natural hot weather test environment for automobile manufacturers in the summertime. Not only is the average high temperature in July over 110°F, there are grades going east and west out of the north end of the valley that provideincreased heat load to test the limits of vehicle cooling systems. Going west from Stovepipe Wells up Route 190 the elevation rises in a very steady climb from sea level to 5000 feet at Towne Pass in a distance of about 16 miles. Going east out of Stovepipe Wells, on Route 374 toward Beatty, Nevada the road rises to about 4000 feet in a similar distance. The trip from Badwater, 282 feet below sea level, to Dante’s View at 5705 feet is less than 40 miles. These routes not only allow real-world limit testing of the vehicle cooling system but also exercise the on-board diagnostic and engine management systems over a full mile altitude change. In addition, in the return trip down to sea level,brake testing can be conducted to determine both brake and brake fluid temperatures in these extreme conditions.

I had the opportunity to visit Death Valley, my second springtime visit, last year.. I’ve also experienced the summer vehicle testing regimen with its physical demands as well as its opportunities of friendship building. The trip last year is particularly memorable as my wife and I visited places I had not seen before: Mosaic Canyon, Artist’s Drive, and Dante’s View. Daytime temperatures were in the 80’s with beautiful clear skies. At 5:30 on Saturday morning we quickly drove from Furnace Creek to Dante’s View to catch the sunrise over the Greenwater Range to the east. It was cool when we left Furnace Creek but we were unprepared for the low 30’s temperature and light breeze at the mountain peak at Dante’s View (duh!). In spite of the cold (and maybe because of the breeze) the view and the sunrise were breathtaking. After snapping many pictures of both the sunrise and the expansive view of Death Valley below us on the west, we returned to an ample breakfast of blueberry pancakes at the Furnace Creek Ranch 49er’s Café.

While the Furnace Creek Ranch is open year around, its sister facility, the Furnace Creek Inn, one mile away closes from early May to early October. In the Valley there are also year around accommodations (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day) at the Stovepipe Wells Village. Beatty, Nevada about thirty miles east of Stovepipe Wells, also provides accommodations for automobile testing crews. A quick 1½ hour trip south from Beatty allows the testing crews to evaluate the hot weather performance of vehicles in stop-and-go city traffic.

The Boshart facility in Ontario, California is conveniently located about 3½ hours south of Death Valley in the east end of the Los Angeles basin. From this base camp, Boshart supports manufacturers for their summer hot weather testing in Death Valley, Las Vegas or even Phoenix, Arizona.

Boshart can provide personnel, equipment and is able to set-up temporary remote test sites for the hot weather testing. Contact us at for more information if you have interest in Boshart’s support this summer.

EPA: Shift Survey Requirements – Really? Why?

In December 2009 the EPA released what is commonly known as a “Dear Manufacturer” Letter, which revised previous certification and fuel economy policy regarding vehicles equipped withMultimode Transmissions, Select-Shift Transmissions (SST), and Shift Indicator Lights. This is another example of this cat and mouse relationship between regulators and manufacturers.

Vehicle manufacturers have developed transmissions with shifting options designed to enhance driving feel and performance. However, this transmission technology creates driving behavior and vehicle operating conditions not easily fitted to the standardized emission test procedures of the EPA. This Letter is the EPA’s response, designed to ensure that the intent of both emissions and fuel economy regulations are upheld. This new policy will be applicable beginning Model Year 2011, but optional Model Year 2009-2010.

With this policy, the EPA has provided various ways a manufacturer can determine which transmission mode is predominant. This is necessary to establish what and how many emissions tests should be conducted to determine both the vehicles’ emissions compliance and fuel economy. The scenarios in which the predominate mode can be assessed is described in the table below:






The EPA suggests a number of ways the manufacturer can design and conduct a survey to determine the different possible outcomes to define the predominant mode. One of the suggested methods is telephone or mail-out questionnaires. The EPA recommends that an independent organization perform these studies. The minimum amount of respondents is set at 50 participants or 30% of vehicle sales, whichever is the smaller number.

Web-based surveys are also acceptable by the EPA, as long as good engineering judgment is being used in the design and implementation of the program.

Additional methods include logging the “driver-selected mode” through instrumentation on a participant’s vehicle. The manufacturer would be required toprovide data from 15 representative drivers. Manufacturers can also collect data from the vehicle’s Powertrain Control Module (PCM), as long as there is enough data collected from each participant to represent at least one week of in-use driving.

At Boshart, we offer all of these services. We have nearly a decade of experience in data collection and equipment installation, as well a web site that allows current Rate Based Monitoring participants to schedule appointments and choose their desired incentive at their convenience. Click here to read more . We pride ourselves in our relationships with our customers and participants while getting the job done thoroughly and efficiently.