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January 02, 2018   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Looking Ahead to 2018

With or without Paris or other accords, clean diesel powers on, reduces emissions, and drives the economy.

The major environmental news in 2017 may have been the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, and in 2018, the U.S. EPA’s efforts to remake the Clean Power Plan seems poised to take center stage. Both of these actions have raised concerns about progress and future potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Outside of these broad policy debates, diesel engine and equipment manufacturers soldier on, with the investments and innovation to make their products more productive and efficient every year. These aren’t just press-conference promises, but real-world, rubber-meets-the-road and steel-meets-the-dirt – these new and more efficient diesel engines are hitting roads and jobsites right now. And according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Outlook (page 96)...  “Diesel remains the dominant fuel for trucks despite increasing use of alternative fuels.”

For commercial trucks, the Department of Energy’s “SuperTruck” joint industry research program for 2018 will be pushing the envelope for heavy-duty diesel engine thermal efficiency beyond 55 percent. This is on top of the new technology achieving the U.S. EPA Phase 2 greenhouse gas emissions standards that went into effect in 2016 for commercial trucks. (For reference, a new Toyota Prius gasoline engine achieves 40 percent efficiency).

Taken together these real gains in clean diesel efficiency are projected to have real results in the future. According to the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook, because the increase in freight travel demand is offset by rising fuel economy standards, heavy-duty vehicle energy consumption will be approximately the same in 2040 as it was in 2016.

$2.9 Billion Spending Choices:  Why states should value cleaner air NOW!

How to spend their share of $2.9 billion is on the agenda for every state in 2018. That’s the amount available to states from the VW settlement dollars in the nitrogen oxides (“NOx”) mitigation fund. The funds are for the purpose of mitigating the excess NOx from VW cheating cars. While the settlement provides flexibility to states to decide how to spend the dollars, some options are far more impactful on reducing NOx emissions than others. 

For example, to reduce 1 lb. of NOx, a new clean diesel commercial truck can do so for an $86 investment; for Compressed Natural Gas, this costs $107; and $165 for a battery electric truck – which are not available in the same vehicle types. Consider a state that needs to reduce 600 tons of NOx emissions to achieve clean air compliance. This can be accomplished immediately by replacing 936 older commercial trucks or 32 older switch engine locomotives.  Or... it would take 923,077 electric vehicles on the road... in a highly uncertain timeframe. Clean diesel investments yield faster reductions in NOx emissions at a lower cost.  More clean air for the dollar, faster.

Did VW kill the diesel car market in the U.S.?  

VW’s well-documented diesel emissions cheating scandal was a major blow to VW customers and took many popular diesel vehicle choices off the market. But that doesn’t mean diesel engines don’t have a future for consumers in the United States. We already had an exciting announcement from FCA about a diesel Jeep Wrangler at the Los Angeles Auto Show! In 2018, Chevrolet’s Equinox and Cruze will provide new fuel-efficient choices for consumers. And with auto show season in full swing – the North American International Auto Show is just a few weeks away – look for some major new product announcements from leading manufacturers like Ford. Announcements like these provide a clear indication about the future for diesel power for U.S. consumers. We’ll be keeping track of all of it in our Diesel Drivers section of our website.


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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