This article also appears in
Subscribe now »

Regarding climate change, “we really are in a race against time,” said Christopher Grundler, Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality for the U.S. EPA.

Phase 2 GHG driver for advanced technology, alternative fuels

Opening day of the SAE 2016 Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress featured a well-attended symposium on Meeting the Challenges of Phase 2 GHG: Implications and Effects. A keynote presentation by Christopher Grundler, Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality for the U.S. EPA, kicked off the event, during which he stressed the importance of implementing emissions regulations like the recently issued final Phase 2 greenhouse gas standards affecting model year 2021-2027 medium- and heavy-duty on-highway vehicles.

“We need to accelerate what we’re doing because we really are in a race against time,” he said regarding global climate change. “We are heading now into uncharted territory,” with average CO2 levels in the atmosphere exceeding 400 parts per million for the first time ever.

The U.S. EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expect the new rules to save more than 1 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions and 2 billion barrels of oil, while also saving vehicle owners $170 billion in fuel costs, over the life of the program.

For Class 7 and 8 combination tractors—one of four regulatory categories—the fully phased-in standards will achieve up to 25% lower CO2 emissions and fuel consumption compared to the Phase 1 standards. Trailers used with heavy-duty combination tractors, a new category for Phase 2, are expected to achieve an up-to-9% reduction compared to an average model year 2017 trailer once the standards are fully phased in.

The agencies refer to Phase 2 as a “technology-advancing” phase that will require emerging technologies not yet in widespread use. Grundler is quick to note, however, that the standard is “technology neutral.”

“Our job is more than just setting standards and having some numbers,” Grundler said. “If the people that use these trucks don’t buy them in numbers that matter, we’ve failed.”

Following the keynote, four SAE-member industry experts provided their respective viewpoints on the topic. Timothy Blubaugh of the Truck Manufacturers Association echoed what several other speakers stated at COMVEC—that there needs to be one nationwide standard that allows manufacturers to build a single fleet of vehicles and engines for the U.S. market.

“California must adopt [Phase 2] as is to keep a 50-state program,” he said. “We’ve heard noise that [CARB] thinks there should be aerodynamics on certain vocational vehicles where it’s not required in the U.S. rules [for example]. So we’re a little concerned, but it’s a critical element of ensuring that we have [consistency].”

Dave Schaller of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) works with fleets to help them understand the technologies that improve fuel efficiency, and those that aren’t as effective in certain applications.

“How do fleets gain the confidence to go out and spend the money. There are so many opportunities for them,” Schaller said. Around 70 adoptable technologies for the Class 8 line-haul and regional-haul industry are evaluated on the NACFE website, he noted.

Five major barriers to adoption are uncertain payback time, questionable reliability, lack of access to capital, a dearth of credible information, and lack of technology availability.

Illustrating the struggles fleets face, Schaller and his NACFE colleague Michael Roeth write in SAE technical paper 2016-01-8014, “There are areas that can be hard to monetize. Lightweighting benefits are easy for weight-sensitive fleet operations, but to all other fleets, the value of running lighter is much more difficult to factor into the payback calculation.” This is one of many examples they detail in the paper.

Schaller and Roeth also note that support organizations such as SAE International and the Technology & Maintenance Council should be quick to develop the needed standards and practices to support the industry in its efforts to develop and quickly implement fuel-saving technologies.

On-road statistical databases that reflect real-world use are going to grow and have greater impact as better data is gathered and more is known about factors such as loads and the weather, according to Nigel Clark of West Virginia University. Clark conducts research within the WVU Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions.

“On-road statistical databases are going to drive design and certification changes,” he said. “We’ve got to know more about different vocations and loads within a class. Right now, a lot of this information is held by fleets.”

Clark highlighted a number of “tools in the toolbox” to help improve fuel efficiency, pointing out those that pose some challenges such as waste heat recovery.

“When you come to use that waste heat, the technology can be quite expensive,” he said. “You can use it in various ways, but it isn’t economical and it also adds weight to the vehicle. So that’s an example of one that requires quite a lot of examination.”

Lukas Walter of AVL believes the industry “can definitely achieve” upcoming legislation like Phase 2 with already-demonstrated technologies that just need further development and optimization. The commercial vehicle sector should examine other industries for component-sharing opportunities to improve the business case of technologies such as battery systems, he said.

Is there a single technology that can reduce CO2 by more than 20%? Walter posed this question and offered alternative fuels as a possible solution. Natural gas direct injection, for example, could achieve more than 20% reduction at the same torque level as a diesel engine, according to AVL testing.

“CO2 reduction is the future driver for alternative fuels,” he said.

Continue reading »