EPA2010 – Myths and Realities: Part 1

As January 2010 draws near, fleet managers and owner/operators will have to decide between two competing technologies to meet EPA2010 emissions standards. By now, most will know that Navistar is going to ramp up exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) levels in order to become EPA2010-compliant, while all other manufacturers are employing the exhaust aftertreatment system known as Selective Catalytic Reduction(SCR).
Each solution has its advantages and each also presents some concerns. Both camps are ramping up their PR campaigns and will undoubtedly be disseminating some information in the coming months that will be challenged and debated. The PR war is already underway, and will only intensify in the weeks and months ahead. There’s a lot at stake here for all truck and engine manufacturers.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll post a series of blogs that will address some concerns and/or myths about EPA2010 emissions standards and both of the solutions that will be presented to the market. These blogs will be comprised of information obtained through many interviews I’ve conducted on the subject and plenty of additional research.
If you’re a stakeholder in this debate, and wish to comment on any of the points below, feel free to post a comment.
Today, I’ll start by addressing the concern that with only 344 days to go, there’s still no urea (DEF) infrastructure network in place.
EPA2010 MYTH: There’s not enough time to develop the urea distribution network required for SCR
Ever since SCR was first discussed as a potential solution for EPA2010 emissions standards, concerns were expressed about the ability to develop a comprehensive North America-wide distribution network for urea. Urea (now referred to as Diesel Exhaust Fluid – DEF) is the required additive for SCR systems. Housed in a separate tank, the fluid is injected in small doses into the exhaust stream. It then causes a chemical reaction in the SCR catalyst where NOx is broken down into harmless water and nitrogen.
SCR’s detractors initially voiced doubts that DEF would be widely available by 2010, citing the need for massive infrastructure investments. Those concerns may have been valid, if you were envisioning the need for a DEF pump at every truck stop and cardlock across North America. That’s not going to be the case by January 2010, but fortunately for SCR backers, that level of availability will not be required.
DEF will be consumed at the relatively slow rate of 2-3% compared to diesel, engine manufacturers claim. DEF tank sizes will range from about 13-20 gallons, so a truck will likely only require a DEF top-up every 4,000-6,000 miles.
To put it in perspective, a highway truck with a 13-gallon DEF tank averaging 6.5 mpg will be able to travel from New York to Los Angeles and then back to Denver before requiring a DEF top-up, according to Mack Trucks’ David McKenna.
So while you may not find a DEF pump at every filling station by January 2010, it’s hardly a cause for concern. There will be plenty of places along a 4,000-6,000 mile run to find DEF, including all truck and engine dealers that offer SCR engines, many truck stops and other DEF distributors.
The DEF distribution network has begun to take form, and most notably Pilot Travel Centers has committed to offering the fluid ‘at-the-pump’ and in a variety of other sizes. Undoubtedly, as the opportunity to profit from the sale of DEF draws closer, more truck stops will announce their intentions to carry the fluid. Many suppliers have already announced their intention to produce and distribute DEF. Drivers will be able to carry a spare tote jug of DEF along with them, to ensure they don’t run out of the fluid en-route.
As Michael Delaney, senior vice-president of marketing with Daimler Trucks North America points out, “One would have to work pretty hard to run out of DEF.”
Even the harshest critics of SCR seem to have backed off claims that DEF won’t be widely available by 2010 and have turned their attention to other factors, such as its price. But that’s the subject for another blog entry in this series.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • James, thank you for the “de-demonization” of Diesel Exhaust Fluid and SCR in general. I have heard absolutely everything imaginable from the source of urea (barn yard fluid); to the toxicity of DEF, it isn’t per the EPA, to the SCR system portrayed on a website that makes the installation look like a gigantic homemade still, designed by Rube Goldberg. All that I can say is I’ve been in the truck industry for 35 years and we have never ever met an EPA HDDE emission mandate without some degradation of fuel economy; until now. SCR reduces NOx to near zero – difficult to even measure infintisimal amounts AND IMPROVES FUEL ECONOMY. Ah the magic of modern chemistry! The fuel economy difference between the improvement with SCR versus the degradation of MASSIVE EGR will be difficult to ignore. Couple that with the reduced CO2 emissions of lowered SCR fuel consumption and you have a true win – win.
    F.Y.I. You can check out the Mack SCR website at http://www.mackscr.com or our SCR blog http://www.macktrucks.com/default.aspx?pageid=2561.

  • David
    Ah yes, the improvement of fuel economy with SCR would be difficult to ignore if anyone was actually ignoring it. But apparently the cost offset of the additional hardware required for SCR as well as the cost of the urea itself is apparently easy to ignore seeing you didn’t address it!!
    Kevin Campbell

  • Kevin, are you suggesting that fuel economy is unimportant? This really is incredible! However that would be an excellent Marketing Platform for Massive EGR as you would be 100% correct in your assesment. You seem to further imply that your new engines will be cost neutral, meaning no charge for engineering the new Maxxipillar installation? Or any other engine? Are your EPA engine certifications with out any cost? The EPA must really love you all because it costs the rest of the industry hundreds of thousands of dollars to certify each engine family to the new standards. So the cost difference between the two technologies will not be as wide as you imply or would like, which definitely shortens the return on investment period for the customer. Oh before I forget the cost of DEF on a per mile basis will be something around $0.012 per mile or $0.0074 per kilometer. I know guys that spend more per day on coffee.

  • No David, no suggesting fuel economy is unimportant, didn’t even go there; did you know that putting words in someone’s mouth is rather unsanitary?! Neither did I say our engines would be cost neutral, just observing that you did not address the additional cost of the urea and added componentry (Navistar will not require urea, urea tanks, urea dosers, lines, wires or an additional controller). Do we know what the full cost of urea will be? No, not at this point. I just think it’s only fair that if you are going to tout the improved fuel economy of SCR that you also fully disclose the cost of urea and its associated components. If the fuel economy improvements of 2-3% for SCR are accurate, and urea will require a 2-3% useage rate (see article above), that doesn’t really allow for much true costs savings if urea has a similar cost structure to diesel fuel, correct? If fuel economy were the only issue, you would be happy, but alas it isn’t! I’m only asking for the full life cycle cost to be considered!
    Those interested in a full cost, life cycle analysis can consult Navistar’s website for 2010 emissions:

  • Wow, you guys are stealing my thunder for the rest of this series! You’ve already touched on several issues I plan to address further.
    In all seriousness, thanks for taking the time to read and respond. You are both very passionate about this issue. I hope you both stick around for the remainder of the series and take the time to answer some reader questions.

  • Please remove my previous post. My questions were answered in another of your myths and realities series. MaxxForce seems to be doing a fine job with their product.

  • There is a smarter technology just patented in the US. The exhaust waste heat in the muffler makes steam from the tap-water added into GreenPower Muffler system (in stead of Urea)and the steam & EGR help to reduce NOx drastically and improve fuel economy. With this technology, there is no need for using Urea fluid or no excessive EGR at fuel penalty. There is a smarter technology to meet 2010 now without Urea nor Fuel penalty.
    GreenPower DPF-Hydrated EGR system for super-large diesel engine on the vessel has been selected to receive the Grant Award and is being verified by the CARB under the financial sponsorship from the Port of Los Angeles.
    This technology will be exhibited at the DEER 2009 Conference, Dearborn, Michigan.