The Clean Heavy Duty Vehicle Conference wrapped up yesterday near Universal Studios in Los Angeles. A few hundred attendees heard industry experts from manufacturing, government, suppliers and research speak to a variety of topics affecting heavy-duty trucks and buses.

Since 2007 marks the first phase of new government regulations on diesel-engine emissions and there's another round of rules coming in 2010, this year's conference focused heavily on new fuels and advanced technology that's coming to market.

One conference of special interest to me was titled "OEM Roundtable: Moving Toward 2010 and Beyond" because it gave a peek at how manufacturers will deal with new regulations to lower NOx output.

"The technology is here," said Dr. Michael Readey of Caterpillar. "Engineering them into different applications is most challenging."

Take selective catalytic reduction (SCR) using urea. Adapting the technology to long-haul trucks wouldn't be a problem, but medium-duty chassis cabs are used in myriad applications. Finding the right location for the tank and exhaust system would vary between different types of service bodies mounted on the truck frames.

"Urea has the highest efficiency," added Alan Karkkainen of International Truck & Engine, who also raised the question of investing in "stranded technology."

What if, asked Karkkainen, new developments within the engine combustion made required solutions, such as exhaust aftertreatments, out of date?

Speakers were encouraged by advancements in hybrid technology but one big question seemed to loom over biodiesel. Without stricter controls on production and formulas, sensitive emissions equipment could be affected.

"We got to get away from splash blending. We've done surveys of B5 and found it ranged from B-nothing to B-everything," said one speaker, saying that refineries should decided on a nationally approved formula "so we all have the same fuel."

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