Competing engine technologies will offer fleets a choice

With the next round of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission standards for heavy-duty engines on the horizon, the battle lines have clearly been drawn. EPA2010 emissions standards call for further reductions in NOx, and there are two vastly different approaches to getting there.
Volvo Group, Daimler Trucks North America and Paccar have announced they will meet 2010 emissions standards through the use of selective catalytic reduction (SCR), a technology that’s already widely used in Europe. On the other hand, Navistar (International) and Cummins will instead focus on meeting the targets by expanding the use of their current exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) strategies. (Cummins will use SCR on its mid-range engine line).
So which technology will ultimately win out? That remains to be seen. Both sides have made compelling arguments as to why their decision is the right one. The main arguments emanating from the EGR camp are that: SCR requires additional components and is overly-complex; urea may not be widely available by 2010; and SCR is unproven in North America.
Meanwhile, companies that have chosen SCR counter that: SCR is a proven technology; there were no urea availability issues in Europe; and SCR is the only way to meet EPA2010 emissions standards without sacrificing fuel economy. In fact, proponents of SCR insist they will deliver a significant fuel economy improvement over today’s engines.
So in a nutshell, there you have it. There’s obviously a lot more to this issue and there will be major educational campaigns launched by both sides over the course of the next couple of years. The stakes for engine manufacturers are enormous; each manufacturer will be investing millions into developing their 2010 solution.
The stakes for fleets are high as well. If one technology proves to be significantly better than the other, fleets that are early adopters may worry that they pitched their tent in the wrong camp.
My not-so-bold prediction is this: Both solutions will work. They’ll both meet the EPA requirements and the usual fears of reliability, performance or infrastructure issues will prove to be unwarranted. With each previous round of EPA emissions standards, the engine manufacturers have proven they are amazingly resilient – and capable. So the bottom line is that fleets and owner/operators will have a choice – a difficult choice – to make.
Now is a good time to begin preparing to make that choice, by reading up on both technologies and asking questions of your suppliers and dealers. There’s likely to be two viable solutions for the 2010 emissions standards, your best bet is to do your homework and try to determine which solution will best suit your own unique requirements. It’s never too early to start.

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James Menzies is editorial director of Today's Trucking and He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 24 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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