When we asked about coming applications for the new diesel fuel, the automakers were, as usual, somewhat vague in their answers. Tom Read, a P.R. rep for GM, said his company is "always looking for opportunities" to make use of the new fuel. "We'll drop it in where we see the opportunities, and where the market is right. If the market is right, we'll make it work." He went on to say that Duramax applications in 2500- and 3500-series trucks will likely be among the first prospects for the new technology, as will medium-duty trucks.
A recent article in trade journal Automotive News stated that several makers have new diesel applications on the drawing boards, including Toyota and Nissan for their fullsize trucks. Honda, too, has a four-cylinder diesel in the works for light-duty trucks, says the magazine.
GM's medium-duty trucks will likely be among the General's first recipients of clean-diese
Daimler-Chrysler proved it's already in the hunt by demonstrating a whole system of clean diesel technologies-called Bluetec-on a Jeep Grand Cherokee concept SUV at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Jeep's European 3.0L common-rail diesel engine was just the start of the Bluetec system, which also included a diesel particulate filter and a catalytic converter that transformed NOx into nitrogen and water vapor. At the Detroit show, Dieter Zetsche, Daimler Chrysler's CEO, said Bluetec is "ready for all 50 states, and can even meet 2009 emissions standards."
It's these kinds of particulate traps and catalytic converters that'll make the '07-and-newer trucks clean enough to sell in smog-bound places. Yet they don't exactly sound like performance-enhancing devices, do they? If anything, they conjure up memories of the days when gasoline switched from leaded to unleaded, and we were warned of how leaded gas would destroy the new smog equipment. Well, guess what. The same thing is happening again.
GM Duramax 6600
GM Duramax 7800 (medium duty)
Ford Power Stroke
The emissions controls on the '07-and-newer diesel trucks will be damaged-"poisoned" is the word used by a couple of our sources-if subjected to the old, higher-sulfur diesel. "Two tankfuls of high-sulfur and the catalyst will be shot," predicted Shell's Leon. So these vehicles will be stickered, most likely on the dashboard and at the fuel filler, warning the owner to pump only ULSD into the tank. Gas pumps, too, will be well marked with signs indicating that the new fuel is in the storage tank. Chevron is already calling its new diesel S15; BP calls it ECD, for Emissions Control Diesel.
Everyone we spoke to said the new fuel should work just fine in current and older diesel engines. Its lubricity won't be a factor, and the slightly lower energy content will be felt only by the most sensitive of drivers. The only issue that did arise had to do with rubber and other elastomers in a truck's fuel system.
Ford's Mighty F-350 Tonka concept truck-Power Stroke powered-looks as good today as it did
Said John Leon, "In 1993, diesel changed from high (2,500 ppm) sulfur to the low sulfur we have now, and at that time I'm told there was some leaking in O-rings and fuel systems. Vehicles made before 1993 used to use nitrile rubber-based seals which would shrink when exposed to high temperatures or changes in the sulfur content of the fuel. Since 1993 all manufacturers have changed to synthetic materials in their O-rings."
Because the change in sulfur content from 500 ppm to 15 ppm isn't as drastic a drop as the one in 1993, Leon said he doesn't anticipate seeing the same kind of impact. "But people with vehicles older than 1993 may want to check with the vehicle's manufacturer to see if they recommend any course of action because of the new diesel."
Everyone we spoke to was bullish on diesel's future. "Shell as a company thinks diesel will get bigger in the U.S.," said Leon. "Maybe not as big as in Europe, but certainly bigger." It certainly has a leg up on that other alternate fuel on the horizon, hydrogen. "The nice thing about diesel is that the infrastructure is already there," Leon said. "Hydrogen will require completely new infrastructure. But with diesel, you get your fuel at the same place you've always come to, just at a different pump."
Every Jeep Liberty fitted with the 2.8L common-rail diesel rolls off the Toledo assembly l
Bio Willie sounds like a drug for male enhancement, but it's actually a biodiesel fuel made by a company co-owned by country singer Willie Nelson. Bio Willie may be the best known, but it's just one of several biodiesel fuels that have become available recently.
Biodiesel is an alternative form of diesel fuel that's made from vegetable oil, cooking oil, or animal fat-resources that are easily found in this big, bread-basket nation of ours. It's not a new idea; when Rudolf Diesel demonstrated his namesake engine at a Paris fair in 1898, it ran on peanut oil. It was Diesel's hope that his engine would be a viable power source for farmers, small business owners, and others for whom a steam engine just wasn't practical or affordable.
Today, biodiesel is sold pure (also called "neat") or blended with petroleum-based diesel. Bio Willie, for example, is a B20 fuel, meaning it contains 20 percent pure biodiesel and 80 percent petro-diesel. B5-5 percent bio, 95 petro-is the other commonly found blend and is the percentage most often suggested by OE manufacturers of heavy-duty diesel engines, including Ford and Cummins.
This map, from the National Biodiesel Board, indicates areas of the country where biodiese
Beyond its non-petroleum origins, biodiesel's main advantage is emissions reduction. According to statistics provided by Cummins, using a B20 diesel fuel can decrease particulate emissions by 16 to 33 percent, carbon monoxide emissions by 11 to 25 percent, and hydrocarbon emissions by 19 to 32 percent. Because of biodiesel's high oxygen content, though, B20 actually increases NOx emissions by 2 percent, cites Cummins. (As a side note, we can tell you of another "emissions" benefit from firsthand experience: An engine running on biodiesel smells like french fries, not your typical smoke-spewing semi.)
What's the downside of biodiesel? It has less energy content compared with petro-diesel, so mileage may be affected, depending on the blend ratio. It also has a higher viscosity than conventional diesel, so flow problems may develop, particularly in cold weather. And the methyl esters in the fuel have been known to attack rubber and composites in fuel systems, creating the potential for leakage.
Despite those issues, biodiesel is growing in popularity, as does our motivation to find non-petroleum-based energy resources. Thanks to visible spokes-folks like Willie Nelson, it'll probably continue to do so. More info: www.wnbiodiesel.com.