Fuel Smarts

Emissions Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Apples and Oranges

April 2015, TruckingInfo.com - WebXclusive

by Rolf Lockwood

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Adjusting to Phase 1 of the fuel economy and greenhouse gas regulations may have eased the coming transition into Phase 2. Photo via Freightliner
Adjusting to Phase 1 of the fuel economy and greenhouse gas regulations may have eased the coming transition into Phase 2. Photo via Freightliner

Apples and oranges. That's how Brian Mormino describes the difference between the emissions regimes of the previous decade and the one that was launched last year and will enter its second phase in 2020. Executive director, worldwide environmental strategy and compliance at Cummins, he says all the hard work and heartache of dealing with engine emissions from 2002 on to 2010 has left us well equipped for the next steps.

We've already taken the first of those steps, starting a year ago, with Phase 1 of the fuel economy and greenhouse gas regulations as decreed by President Obama. Back in 2010, with so-called "criteria" pollutants like nitrogen oxide (NOx) under control, he ordered the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Administration to move on. He told them to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, along with other gases in lesser amounts, while improving fuel economy in medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

The challenge was anything but small, the timeline short, but the 2014 targets were met, largely because so much had already been achieved. And the next target in 2017 will be met as well.

"I'd like to help people understand that the industry is in a great place from the standpoint of technology and the future," Mormino told me in a lengthy recent interview. "What I mean by that is that we now have diesel particulate filters, we have SCR systems, we're taking care of emissions in the exhaust. And we have learned and improved on those systems.

"And so when we look at meeting the first GHG and fuel consumption standard in 2013, a year early, how did Cummins do that? We did it by improving the engine architecture that we already had in place. And what are we going to do for 2017? We're going to improve on the engine architecture that we already have in place. And I would even venture to say that when we look at 2021, we're going to improve on the engine architecture that we already have in place."

The new regime

Phase 1 of the GHG and fuel economy regime does not involve just engines as in the past, but trucks as well, with tires and aerodynamic devices tested and taken into account.

The present 2014-19 rules say that heavy-duty tractors must achieve as much as a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by 2017, a little more by 2019. Engines, tested separately, had to improve 3% by 2014, 6% by 2017. Mixers, refuse haulers, and other vocational machines must get to a 10% reduction in fuel consumption by 2017.

None of this change caused a stir last year, and initial targets were met with ordinary improvements of existing hardware and software. Things will get tougher on engines in 2017 but radically new hardware -- like waste-heat recovery -- won't be required.

When these rules were announced it seemed to many observers that, with so many variations in commercial vehicles, it would be near impossible to find a standard that applies to all. But not so, apparently, and for reasons similar to those cited by Mormino.

"It's complicated, but we've been able to manage all the configurations in Phase 1," said Dean Waters, director of compliance and regulatory affairs at Daimler Trucks North America. "Mostly we're able to manage all the differences because we spent a lot of money developing fuel-efficient technologies years ago. All those decisions that have paid off for our business and paid off for our customers, have also paid off in the regulatory world and enabled us to deal with all the different configurations out there."

Phase 2 Tougher

Phase 2 of the fuel-efficiency/greenhouse gas regulations will soon be unveiled. A draft rulemaking proposal was originally due to be released in March, but has been delayed until June. Regardless, the final rule is due some time in 2016, affecting trucks built in 2020 and beyond.

We don't know much about it, and even the people I've talked to lately who keep track of what's going on in Washington can only guess. All we really know is that Phase 2 will demand even tougher, more stringent CO2 and fuel-consumption reductions. Much tougher, it seems. But our firm knowledge stops there.

Will trailers be added to the mix? It's almost certain, it seems, and there are suggestions that it will happen in 2018. At least for dry vans and reefers.

Engines and vehicles are tested separately in Phase 1, but there are those who urge that just one test, with engines rolled into the whole truck like any other component, is the better approach for Phase 2. Both sides are pretty vehement, and we'll look at that in the next instalment.

Part 1: Where We've Been      Part 2: Changing the Focus

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