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More about diesel emissions

As promised at the end of our Mid-March 2002 article "The future is clear," here are more topics and links related to diesel emissions.

EPA wins on emissions ruling
The U.S. Court of Appeals recently upheld the Clinton administration’s clean air standards for ozone and particulate pollution, ending a five-year campaign by industry groups to have the standards overturned. Environmentalists herald the ruling as a great victory. Some industry groups say the standards are reactionary and draconian. Read more at and

More diesel emissions links⊂=Transport%20and%20Energy

Cummins to meet EPA regs with current engine platform
Cummins recently announced that it has achieved an important milestone in the application of existing combustion technologies and hardware for its industrial engines required to meet the Tier 3 emissions standard. The company demonstrated it could meet the Tier 3 requirements without the addition of aftertreatment devices or other costly hardware. It will launch EPA compliant engines prior to the 2006 deadline.

Cummins says that by achieving Tier 3 standards with existing engine platforms, electronic fuel systems and existing fuels, it has minimized engineering and product development costs "without the addition of expensive and unproven aftertreatment devices." For more information, visit

Cleaner fuel
Diesel engine manufacturers aren’t the only companies under pressure. The EPA is also pressuring refiners to reduce the sulfur content of diesel fuel.

In the mid 1990s, EPA regulations reduced the sulfur content in diesel fuel from 5,000 to 500 parts per million (ppm). Although these sulfur reductions decreased soot and toxic emissions, they also led to significant wear problems in high-pressure diesel fuel pumps. These wear problems are expected to mushroom because the EPA has proposed reducing the sulfur content of diesel fuel to 15 ppm by 2007. Lubricity is becoming a very important attribute for diesel fuel components.

The good news for farmers is that biodiesel may be the best lubricity additive on the market. In addition to its use in low blends, biodiesel can be used in a 20% blend with petroleum diesel (B20) or straight (B100) without expensive engine modifications. This flexibility has made biodiesel one of the most attractive options for federal, state and municipal fleet managers who must comply with the federal Energy Policy Act of 1992. Other fuel options require the purchase of special vehicles or expensive retrofit procedures. For further reading, visit

Diesel alternatives?
Rudolph Diesel patented the idea for the diesel engine in 1892. By its design and the fuel it burns, the diesel engine was 30% more efficient than the gasoline engine. In terms of energy burned for work produced, the diesel engine still rules.

It’s not that other inventors haven’t tried. Sir William Robert Grove actually beat Diesel by building the first fuel cell in 1845. His fuel cell electrolyzed water into hydrogen and oxygen, then combined these gases back into water to produce electricity. Later versions of the fuel cell would use natural gas or other fuels as a hydrogen source. But since the byproduct is pure water, all fuel cells are basically pollution-free.

In 1959, Allis Chalmers introduced the first fuel cell-powered farm tractor. NASA space vehicles have been powered by fuel cells. And ammonia fuel and cryogenic oxygen were once used to power a fuel cell forklift.

The downside of fuel cells is the expense. Fuel cells require large amounts of expensive platinum as a catalyst. So the technology never caught on.

In recent years, however, several companies have found ways to reduce the amount of platinum needed to make a fuel cell vehicle run efficiently. This has raised hope that fuel cell-powered economy cars might become practical as early as 2004. So could it be time for the fuel cell tractor to make a comeback?

None of the tractor companies we talked with will admit to having a fuel cell, or alternate power, tractor program. However, a company called UQM Technologies, which specializes in fuel cells and hybrid electric vehicles, has already built a hybrid electric HUMVEE for the U.S. Army which actually outperforms the conventional diesel version in acceleration, range and torque. Interestingly enough, UQM is also under contract with John Deere to develop hybrid electric vehicles and components for future John Deere products. UQM would not comment further due to a nondisclosure agreement it has with Deere, and Deere isn’t talking either.

To learn more about the history of fuel cells and how they work, visit

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