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Power Struggle: Cat says new combustion method will pass even 2007 emissions requirements

With the entire trucking world holding its breath over upcoming deadlines for engine makers to reduce emission levels, Caterpillar insists it has found a viable solution that builds off of existing, l...


With the entire trucking world holding its breath over upcoming deadlines for engine makers to reduce emission levels, Caterpillar insists it has found a viable solution that builds off of existing, long-proven technology.

The company has unveiled its Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology (ACERT), which will become commercially available in the third quarter of 2003. ACERT is combined with what will be CAT”s third generation HEUI (hydraulically-actuated, electronically-controlled unit injector) fuel system and the most advanced electronic controls and air systems the company has ever offered. Together they form the backbone of the first emission-reducing formula publicly championed by a North American engine manufacturer as being ready to face 2004.

The complete line of what CAT is now calling its Clean Power Engines includes all current ratings of the 3126E, C-10, C-12, C-15 and C-16 models.

It had long been theorized that any solution to 2002, 2004 and 2007 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-imposed targets would need to include cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). Instead of sending the engine emissions out the stacks, this system draws a portion of them back into the combustion chamber and literally burns them away. However, the amount of heat rejected during the process threatens component life, current component design/placement and even coolant life. There is concern about how EGR will impact drain and other engine maintenance intervals to compensate for higher soot and potentially corrosive contaminant loads the oil would need to handle.

EGR-equipped engines would also increase in size and complexity, according to John Campbell, truck engine products director of CAT’s Performance Engine Products Division. New components would need to be added into engine design, and bolstered cooling systems would be required to dissipate the excess heat. Campbell adds his company finally decided to avoid cooled EGR when it noticed resulting trends of higher costs both for truck manufacturers and owners.

ACERT, on the other hand, doesn’t present any of these pitfalls, according to Campbell.

“ACERT requires minimal new hardware, which lowers the overall cost and greatly simplifies installation for the truck manufacturer,” he says. “In addition, the simplicity of the system will mean that the transition from current engines to ACERT-equipped engines will be almost unnoticeable to the customer.”

The new technology simply won’t be available for the 2002 deadline, however, Caterpillar isn’t worried.

“Caterpillar is not asking for a delay in the 2002 deadline,” says Campbell. “We’ll still work within the flexibility of the agreement.” While he refuses to explain precisely what room the company had to navigate the ever-tightening emissions standards, Campbell says that the bank and/or trading of emission credits is one option open within the framework of the U.S. Clean Air Act. These credits, representing the total amount of emissions a firm is allowed, are distributed based on a number of highly complicated factors. Companies are then permitted to buy and/or sell credits among themselves to allow higher emitters to compensate for their overage without actually making reductions.

While this type of wrangling may provide a short-term answer, Cat insists ACERT is its way of the future.

“This new technology is an environmentally sound solution that also offers excellent benefits to truck owners, says Dave Semlow, marketing manager of CAT’s Truck Engine Division. “ACERT is a customer-driven solution that is designed for the long-term.”


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