If International Truck and Engine Corp. president Dee Kapur was looking for some notoriety while addressing the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association in late January, he certainly hit the mark.
His strong words against the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), are certain to provoke more than a few rebuttals.
As with many in his position, Kapur is in favor of global platforms that make it easier for OEMs to sell their products internationally. Different technologies and legislative demands, of course, get in the way of such plans.
One of the trends pushing the globalization of the trucking industry is that emissions standards are beginning to converge. But Kapur told the HDMA he’s concerned by the push in some regions towards compressed natural gas (CNG) as a preferred way to meet impending emissions standards. The North-American familiar clean diesel, according to Kapur, is cleaner, cheaper, safer, more fuel efficient and more reliable. He also pointed out CNG produces higher levels of NOx and particulate matter than today’s North American solution, as well as 20 other pollutants.
He had stronger words for the move by some manufacturers towards SCR, widely used in Europe and the preferred method of reaching the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 emissions standards in North America by Volvo and Daimler. According to Kapur, meeting the 2010 emissions standards with SCR “is fraught with challenges.”
He said SCR will be costly and overly complex. He also said there will be major urea distribution challenges and urea has a tendency to freeze in cold weather and evaporate when it’s hot. More importantly, Kapur said urea is simply the carrier of ammonia, which is the reductant in SCR systems. When the ammonia is extracted from the urea, CO2 is created, Kapur explained. And CO2 is the “next frontier” for the Environmental Protection Agency.
International has decided instead to meet 2010 emissions standards using technology already in use today, along with advancements in fuel systems, air management, combustion processes and controls.
“We’re convinced, on the computer and in the lab, there are solutions that meet 2010 without urea,” Kapur told the HDMA, although he acknowledged alternatives will have challenges of their own, such as increased heat rejection and possible fuel economy degradation.
But he concluded by saying even if some manufacturers do forge ahead with SCR, it will become obsolete in 2013 or 2014 when the EPA cracks down on CO2 emissions.
Those are strong statements and no doubt SCR proponents will, and should, have a lot to say in return. But whether you agree with Kapur’s assessments of CNG and SCR or not, they do point to two inescapable realities:
First, is the “inconvenient truth” that many of the new more environmentally friendly technologies coming into the marketplace still have tradeoffs that all stakeholders – the suppliers, the buyers, government agencies and the public – must acknowledge, take the time to understand, and then address. I just hope that all involved take the high road and stick to the facts and the science rather than rely on some of the theatrics and mud slinging we saw during the last couple of rounds of emissions reductions.
And that brings us to the second reality; another pre-buy before the next round of emissions standards are implemented in 2010 is pretty well guaranteed. Our own research, dating all the way back to 2000, shows that a strong majority of fleets who used a pre-buy strategy in the past are likely to repeat their action.
A third of fleets pre-bought the last time around (40% if you isolate large for-hire carriers). As Kenny Vieth, a partner with A. C. T. Research, who also spoke at the HDMA, pointed out, such a strong pre-buy may have been fuelled by the fact the North American economy was at the peak of its cycle and truckers were at the peak of their profit cycle, creating the perfect conditions for the storm of supply and demand that occurred. But I think the pre-buy in 2007 was also fuelled by buyer uncertainty about the new engines, just as it was back in 2002. And the conflicting comments made by engine manufacturers with competing technologies – EGR vs ACERT – added to the fire.
From the early sounds of it, we can expect more of the same for 2010.
“Defining ‘green’ is not a trivial task, especially when tradeoffs exist.”