Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, writes that aspirations and predictions for new fuels and technologies are high, but these must be evaluated in the context of reality to meet the needs of the trucking industry. He writes:
Diesel – the most energy efficient internal combustion engine – remains the technology of choice in the trucking industry. Diesel’s dominance in trucking has held steady over many decades and challenges from many other fuel types, thanks to its unique combination of unmatched features: proven fuel efficiency, economical operation, power, reliability, durability, availability, easy access to fueling and service facilities, and now near-zero emissions performance.
And diesel technologies are not standing still. Right alongside the exploration of alternative powertrains, manufacturers are developing even cleaner, more efficient diesel engines. From coupling with hybrid-electric technology and battery storage systems, to pushing thermal efficiency boundaries, the new generation of advanced diesel technology is part of a sustainable future.
New renewable diesel fuels and advanced biofuels deliver further benefits when paired with diesel engines: lower carbon dioxide emissions and significant reductions in ozone precursors. These renewable biofuels are helping public and private fleets in cities and states across the country take meaningful steps toward a low-carbon future.
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Our shared goal is to provide goods movement technologies that meet the needs of the customer and society, and are economically viable. The new generation of advanced diesel technology is already competing in the future, today.
Facts About Heavy-Duty Trucking in the U.S.
- More than 4.9 million new-generation diesel-powered Class 8 (tractor-trailer size) vehicles are on the road in America today – that means 36 percent of America’s Class 8 truck fleet runs on the newest, cleanest diesel technologies.
- More than 97 percent of all U.S. Class 8 trucks run on diesel fuel.
- About 21 percent of all commercial trucks (Class 3-8) use gasoline. Only about 4 percent use other fuels, with those using natural gas amounting to less than 1 percent.
- The 4.9 million new-technology diesel trucks on America’s roads have removed more than 26 million tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 59 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air.
- In 2014, the first-ever fuel economy rule for commercial vehicles kicked in. Three out of every four of these trucks are powered by diesel, more than 97 percent of the larger Class 8 trucks are powered by diesel. Technologies designed to meet these rules will make the fuel-sipping diesel engine sip even less fuel. Between 2014 and 2018, these fuel-efficient trucks will have saved 530 million barrels of crude and eliminated 270 million tons of carbon dioxide.
- All new diesel trucks sold since 2011 meet stringent emissions standards establish by the U.S. EPA, CARB and the NHTSA. The EPA’s Cleaner Trucks Initiative, launched in November 2018, will help bring the next generation of commercial diesel trucks even nearer to zero emissions than ever before.
- As of March 2019, U.S. sales of Class 8 trucks was up by nearly 18% over last year. By the end of 2019, ACT Research analysts forecast U.S. sales of new Class 8 trucks will top 264,000. The overwhelming majority of these trucks will be powered by advanced diesel technology.
- Research and development of new clean diesel and hybrid technologies continue to push the envelope. Engine manufacturers participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s SuperTruck program are pursuing 57% thermal efficiency for Class 8 trucks. These benefits are delivered by clean diesel technology.
- Diesel technology offers truckers the greatest fuel efficiency for the dollar. As evidenced in the recent “Run on Less” campaign from the North American Council on Freight Efficiency, after more than 50,000 miles, the seven Class 8 diesel trucks in the demonstration exceeded an average of 10 mpg, even with heavy loads of more than 65,000 lbs., with some trucks exceeding 12 mpg. This represents a dramatic improvement in ton-mile freight efficiency.
- Diesel-powered trucks, trains, ships and intermodal systems move more than 80 percent of all cargo in the U.S. and more than 90 percent throughout the world. According to The Fuels Institute, diesel will remain the predominant fuel for commercial vehicles through at least 2025, when it retains 96 percent of the medium- and heavy-duty market. Ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel is available at all truck stops and more than half of all retail fuel stations across the country.
- Today’s heavy-duty diesel engines virtually eliminate criteria emissions, including particulate matter and NOx.
- It would take more than 60 of today’s generation of diesel-powered heavy-duty commercial trucks to equal the emissions of a single U.S. model made in the pre-2000 era.
- The Health Effects Institute Advanced Collaborative Emissions Study (ACES) undertook the most comprehensive emissions and health testing examination done to date of new-technology heavy-duty diesel engines meeting the U.S. 2007/2010 on-road diesel emissions standards. The study reports the effectiveness of diesel particulate filters in reducing particulate matter emissions by more than 90 percent and of selective catalytic reduction systems in reducing smog-forming NOx emissions by 94 percent.
Renewable diesel fuel cuts greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent (compared to fossil-based diesel) and reduces emissions (soot), and does so without requiring any engine or vehicle conversions or the buildout of expensive new infrastructure.