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Clean diesel power is essential to achieving future truck efficiency gains

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The success in reaching the first phase of greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty vehicles and the new complex challenges facing truck and engine manufacturers in achieving the proposed second phase of regulations were outlined during a rulemaking hearing conducted by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials on 6 August.

"Today, manufacturers of commercial trucks, engines and their components produce the cleanest, safest and most fuel efficient technology in the world, and over 95% of those vehicles are powered by diesel engines. Advances in diesel engine technology will continue to contribute to the overall efficiency gains of vehicles under this proposed rule. As a result we expect diesel technology to remain the primary power plant for commercial trucks into the foreseeable future," said Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum.

"For all parties, the challenge of further increasing fuel efficiency while maintaining or improving environmental, safety and productivity of commercial vehicles is as important as it is complex. To be successful, the final outcome here must build on the success already accomplished in achieving near zero emissions with today's new clean diesel technology, and drive continued innovation while ensuring that the end products are highly desired by customers."When finalised these rules will join the Clean Power Plan, light duty vehicle efficiency standards as the third key component of the Administration's climate change plan and are expected to contribute substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions while helping to advance commitments to the international climate convention.

Emissions reduction

"In light of the Clean Power Plan announcement earlier this week, we thought it was important to note that new technology clean diesel trucks on the road between 2010 - 2014 have already reduced annual carbon emissions by about the same amount as 2.4 coal fired power plants, and NOx emissions equivalent to the equivalent of 158 coal fired power plants.”

The technology of choice

According to Schaeffer, diesel will continue to be the technology of choice because it offers an unmatched combination of power, increasing energy efficiency, work capability, reliability and now near zero emissions environmental performance, along with an ability to utilise a variety of low carbon renewable diesel fuels.

Since 2000, the leaders in clean diesel technology and the EPA have worked cooperatively in establishing a regulatory pathway that brought about the introduction of an entire new generation of clean diesel engines for both on and off road applications.

"Manufacturers have met the challenge to virtually eliminate both NOx and particulate emissions from diesel engines, reducing emissions by as much as 98% from previous levels," said Schaeffer. "These new technology clean diesel engines are being widely embraced by customers as evidenced by the increasing penetration into the vehicle population."

According to state vehicle registration data for 2014, of the roughly 9.2 million Class 3-8 heavy-duty vehicles on the road nationwide, about 38%, or 3.4 million vehicles are deployed with a 2007 or newer model year engine. Of these, 20% or roughly 1.9 million vehicles on the road meet the 2010 emissions milestone that requires near zero levels of both particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions.

According to the Fuels Institute, by 2023 diesel engines will power between 95 and 97% of all medium and heavy duty vehicles despite the introduction of alternative fuels and power trains, including all electric, fuel cell and continued introduction of natural gas powered vehicles.

Factors to consider

As EPA works to develop the final Phase 2 rules, Schaeffer noted that it is important that the rule must be a national programme uniform to all 50 states including California; remain fuel neutral in nature; provide ample lead time and stability; be compatible with the needs and complexities of the diverse marketplace; be mindful of the other requirements placed on industry relative to environmental and safety requirements of commercial vehicles; harmonise standards to the greatest extent possible, and carefully consider the longstanding trade off between NOx and CO2.

"Now achieving near zero emissions, clean diesel technology powers the overwhelming majority of medium and commercial trucks today and thanks to these improvements is poised to continue as the prime powertrain technology for commercial vehicles in the future," said Schaeffer. "The engine may look and perform somewhat differently, and may be burning different kinds of low carbon fuels. But in the end, it will still be a diesel engine and an integral component of meeting the needs of a growing economy and a cleaner and more sustainable future."

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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