DOT, EPA Set Nation’s First GHG, Fuel Efficiency Standards for Trucks, Buses

by | Oct 26, 2010

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) have unveiled the first national standards to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks and buses. The new proposed standards are for three categories of heavy trucks: combination tractors, heavy-duty pickups and vans, and vocational vehicles.

The EPA and DOT sent draft rules to the White House in August.

The program, proposed by EPA and DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is projected to reduce GHG emissions by about 250 million metric tons and save 500 million barrels of oil over the lives of the vehicles produced within the program’s first five years.

For combination tractors, the agencies propose engine and vehicle standards that begin in the 2014 model year and achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel consumption by 2018 model year.

For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, the proposal calls for separate gasoline and diesel truck standards, which phase in starting with 2014 model year and cut emissions and fuel consumption 10 percent for gasoline vehicles and 15 percent for diesel vehicles by 2018 model year (12 and 17 percent respectively if accounting for air conditioning leakage).

For vocational vehicles, the agencies propose engine and vehicle standards starting in 2014 model year, which would reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption 10 percent by 2018 model year.

Overall, the heavy-duty national program would provide $41 billion in net benefits over the lifetime of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles, together with the potential for fuel efficiency gains, ranging from seven to 20 percent.

There is a 60-day comment period that begins when the proposal is published in the Federal Register.

While a host of companies including Navistar and Cummins and organizations such as ACEEE, Diesel Forum and the Engine Manufacturers Association have announced support for the proposed standard, some like ACEEE say the agencies have left some fuel-savings opportunities on the table.

“Setting fuel efficiency standards for trucks is a crucial step toward saving oil and reducing emissions from the transportation sector. And it will help keep down the price of goods that move by truck,” said Therese Langer, Director of ACEEE’s Transportation Program, in a statement.

Langer said a recent National Academy of Sciences study shows how long-haul tractor-trailers (the biggest diesel users) could reduce their fuel consumption by at least 35 percent by 2017, using measures that would pay for themselves in two years but the proposed rule calls for no more than 20 percent savings. “Trailers are not covered by the rule, even though improving trailers’ aerodynamics and tires alone could reduce fuel use by 10 percent,” she added, and “the program needs to do more to draw advanced technologies into the market.”

Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the non-profit Diesel Technology Forum said that many initial gains in fuel efficiency will come from improvements in the efficiency of the diesel engines including further advances in combustion efficiency, waste heat recovery, improved efficiency through advanced turbocharging and fuel injection. Other technologies such as lower rolling resistance tires and aerodynamics, and idle reduction strategies could also be used as part of a total vehicle approach, he added.

Schaeffer noted that some vehicles may be more appropriate for some solutions than others. As an example, long-haul trucks can benefit from aerodynamic improvements that cut vehicle drag and save fuel because they operate at higher average speeds, however, local pickup and delivery trucks would not benefit from aerodynamics but would benefit from increased use of hybrid powertrains because of the stop and go nature of their operations, he added.

The Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) also announced their support for a single national GHG reduction and fuel efficiency improvement program.

The associations said they will review the proposal, submit comments as part of the public participation process and work with EPA, NHTSA, and other stakeholders to ensure that an implementable rule is finalized on schedule.

A few companies already are pledging to work with the EPA and DOT to implement the proposed changes.

Navistar said it will work closely with the EPA and DOT to ensure this program expands the use of existing technologies to reduce CO2 emissions, improve overall fuel efficiency, and to properly incentivize the early introduction of advanced technologies.

“While it’s too soon to evaluate all elements of the proposed regulations, we are committed to engaging with the EPA and DOT on this issue. We look forward to working together with government and industry leaders in the months ahead to implement changes that will benefit the customers and communities we serve with cleaner, more fuel efficient commercial vehicles,” said Daniel C. Ustian, Navistar chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Cummins, which already has made some advances in clean diesel technology, also supports the new standards.

“For some time now, Cummins has advocated for consistent and responsible regulations that recognize the needs of business, offer clear direction and provide incentives to companies that create innovative technologies as well as jobs in this country,” said Rich Freeland, president, Cummins Engine Business, in a statement. “Such regulations also add real value to our customers, as better fuel economy lowers their operating costs while significantly benefiting the environment. We look forward to working with the EPA, DOT and other stakeholders in developing the final rule.”

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