Tuesday, October 26, 2010

EPA Issues First-Ever Emissions/Efficiency Rules For Heavy Vehicles

For the first time, the EPA has issued emissions/efficiency rules for heavy vehicles that fall into one of three classes:
Each of the three categories has different targets.

* Combination tractors (commonly known as semi trucks) would get new engine and vehicle standards and, according to the EPA, "achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel consumption by 2018 model year," compared to a 2010 baseline.
* Heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans would fall under emissions rules that are similar to the rules that govern light-duty trucks and passenger cars. There would be separate gasoline and diesel standards that would, "achieve up to a 10 percent reduction for gasoline vehicles and 15 percent reduction for diesel vehicles by 2018 model year (12 and 17 percent respectively if accounting for air conditioning leakage)."
* For vocational vehicles, the proposed standards would reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions up to 10 percent by 2018 model year.
These new guidelines would require major purchases and/or retrofits to meet the requirements.

I find it curious that the vocational vehicles, which include garbage trucks and school buses are subject to only a 10% cut and not a greater percentage. This is an area where even greater energy savings could be realized through incorporating hybrid vehicles. I suspect this omission might be due to the fact that this would essentially turn into an unfunded mandate against states and localities to purchase new equipment whereas the other vehicle types would require purchases by independent haulers and owners/businesses.

In any event, the reduction in emissions and greater efficiency will improve air quality in many parts of the country and may reduce long term costs. What is particularly striking is that even a 10% increase in efficiency could have a tremendous effect on energy costs. For truck operators, getting these sort of efficiency increases could, "and save as much as $74,000 over the truck's useful life. Moreover, these vehicle classifications account for 4% of the vehicles on the road, but 20% of the energy consumed. There's a tremendous potential to reduce reliance on foreign energy sources.

Expect to hear from businesses that will complain about having to absorb the costs of purchasing the new trucks and equipment, but the long term savings may more than make up for it.

There are some pretty easy methods to improve aerodynamics on trucks that could improve fuel efficiency without resorting to new technologies. These include aerodynamic mirrors, air dams, mud guards, and fairings/guards. Add in a boat-wing fairing for the rear of a trailer, and you could get a 20%+ increased efficiency and that's before any engine modifications.

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