Truck News


Fuel prices can go down

With the federal elections over, we can hope to see positive moves in health and education and, hopefully, some relief from sky-rocketing fuel prices.No thanks to the federal-or the provincial governm...

With the federal elections over, we can hope to see positive moves in health and education and, hopefully, some relief from sky-rocketing fuel prices.

No thanks to the federal-or the provincial governments-the profits of owner/operators and fleets have suffered badly over the past year due to those high prices.

But there are ways to lower those prices; other countries have managed to improve fuel economy using new technology and thus lower taxes.

The Swedish government, for one, has done it.

In 1992 it mandated that diesel sulphur content be reduced from 500 parts per million (ppm).

In fact, they managed to reduce it to the ultra-low level of 10 ppm, and created such a demand that by 1996, virtually the entire marketplace had shifted over to the new fuel.

By lowering the sulphur, the Swedes also reduced the cost of a litre of diesel by 10.2 cents, by adjusting its taxes.

Similar changes here to the make up of the fuel would lead to savings in health costs, and the government knows it.

According to Ottawa’s 1997 Health and Environmental Effects Panel, the health benefits of using low-sulphur diesel fuel would result in savings that would more than offset the several-hundred million dollars lost each year through the lowering of excise taxes on diesel.

For all of the talk by Canada over air pollution, it still has a long way to go.

Our gasoline averages 330 ppm of sulphur. The U.S. is about 310 ppm. Germany averages 30 ppm; Japan hits 20 ppm.

The federal government had planned on reducing gasoline sulphur content to 30 ppm by Jan. 1, 2005.

If both gasoline and diesel fuel sulphur content can be reduced to these levels, billions of dollars in health-care costs will be saved.

Reductions in diesel-fuel sulphur content will also go a long way toward boosting diesel-engine longevity.

For its part, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association thinks 150 ppm is workable today.

In addition, low-sulphur diesel fuel would produce much less exhausted black smoke, less carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen.

The sulphur oxides formed during combustion, when mixed with condensed moisture, generally tend to form sulfuric acid. This sulfuric acid can cause corrosive wear to occur when the engine is cold and condensed water is present.

In the future, when ultra-low sulphur diesel fuels carrying 50 ppm or lower emissions are available, OEM’s will be able to use catalytic converters, like those on gasoline engines, to reduce emissions even further.

The OEM’s are already in the process of re-designing their engines, in part because they will have to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s stricter exhaust-emission regulations by 2002.

And, truth be told, current technology complies with those tighter sulphur-content rules.

Corporate research and development is shooting for a 90 per cent reduction in diesel emissions over the next four years.

Some of the diesel-engine OEM’s are looking at exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) designs, where a portion of the exhaust gas is routed back to the intake manifold – like in gasoline engines – to lower the combustion flame temperature, which in turn will lower the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

However particulate matter (PM) emissions are increased with this technology, but tests show that adding water to the EGR technology reduces peak flame temperatures inside the combustion chamber, and thus reduces NOx.

As well, the water tends to boil before the fuel, which breaks up the particles and reduces their levels.

Variable hydraulic-valve actuation systems and digitally controlled fuel-injection valve technology-alone or with electronically controlled common-rail injection systems-will be followed by a camless diesel engine.

This changeover is expected by 2005, as it is already on the drawing board of several major engine manufacturers.

Variable-nozzle turbochargers are also due very soon, in fact, with DDC’s Series 50 bus engine already using this technology, coupled with EGR.

Plus, combining the advantages of digital air and fuel management, with exhaust-gas aftertreatment (via a regenerative trap), will provide the diesel engine with a distinct advantage over other currently available low-emissions technologies, such as compressed natural gas (CNG).

According to a number of studies, the diesel engines of 2005 to 2007 will produce less particulates, NOx and unburned hydrocarbons-when run on five ppm fuel-than CNG engines.

At these levels, an entirely smokeless and odorless exhaust is possible. With this new technology coming on line, hopefully governments can be convinced to reduce their tax levels on both gasoline and diesel fuels. n

– Bob Brady is the president of Hitech Consulting in Burnaby, B.C.

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