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The Future of Lower NOx Heavy-Duty Engine Standards

Population growth is inevitable. In China, India, the U.S., and other countries with already large populations, a lot of people will mean a lot of cars and heavy-duty engines which will burn a lot of fuel. It is predicted that the world’s population growth will reach 9 billion by 2040. Since population growth drives GDP, this simultaneously drives the need for diesel engines. More people means a greater demand for places to live, work, eat, and be entertained in which drives the need for heavy-duty and construction vehicles that use diesel engines. Currently, there are not a lot of options that work better than a diesel engine. So what does this mean for the future of lowering NOx levels in the atmosphere for these heavy-duty engines?

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The answer lies in clean diesel technology. In order to meet these future demands, the diesel industry will grow stronger and further the development and use of clean diesel technology. While the United States has started developing and working with clean diesel technology early, there are still several emissions-based health concerns that have not fully been addressed. The health problems of these emissions are becoming a global issue. Thus, anticipating future standards will enable countries around the world to reduce emissions, which must be regulated. As more fuel economy standards develop, so too do technologies related to enhancing fuel economy as well as protecting the environment.

According to information Victory Blue received at the recent Integer sponsored Diesel Emissions Conference & DEF Forum 2013, the largest culprits of diesel emissions are trucks, followed by off-road equipment, then ships/commercial boats, and so on. While there is some lingering debate on what’s most important about Particulate Matter (PM)—the size, number, mass, or shape, etc.—it is clear that NOx levels must be reduced. Thankfully, SCR systems enable high performance, which means the engine can be cleaned up while still maintaining the output power of diesel. This is important to understand because future SCR efficiency must be approximately 99% in order to meet the California Air Resources Board (CARB) NOx target of 0.05g/HPhr whereas it is currently at approximately 95%. This clearly indicates that, in order to proficiently control future output of NOx, advanced SCR control technology is required.

Since many heavy-duty engines operate using a cold start, this means that much of the budgeted or allowed amount of NOx is used up in the first 200-600 seconds of starting up. The cold start needs to be analyzed in order to understand how much it is really worth since it is one place where engine technology can save a lot of NOx. Of course, saving on the NOx during a cold start would only be truly valuable to OEMs depending on how often the heavy-duty engine has to start up in a cold environment. Also, depending on how often the heavy-duty engine starts will determine its impact on the environment.

The following are new technologies proposed to meet future emissions standards:

  1. A high NOx engine might be able to get away with no EGR and might be able to run a fairly advanced timing, accumulate a lot of NOx and have a big SCR system with lots of urea. Most heavy-duty engines aren’t going this way right now.
  2. The possibility of EGR plus some slightly advanced timing. This is slightly advanced, and this is where we basically are today.
  3. Another possibility of developing a new technology is EGR + Retarded Timing (Massive EGR). This would require no SCR catalyst and would be extremely difficult to bring to production.

Overall, the focus for the future of heavy-duty engines will be to reduce NOx from 9 grams to 3 grams. It seems as though the main area to focus on to reduce the amount of NOx released is in the cold start. The heavy-duty engine industry might want to borrow strategies from the light-duty industry and use fast acting catalysts to assist in overall NOx reduction. Essentially, operators of heavy-duty engines should expect new transmission technologies to emerge and change!