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October 28, 2016   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

The Little Chemical Plant that Could

Thanks to selective catalytic reduction (SCR), a small chemical plant is attached to these clean diesel engines to meet stringent near-zero emissions standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) beginning for trucks built for model year 2010.


It’s the hottest day of the year, humidity is through the roof, and a 30,000 lbs. truck is delivering 50,000 lbs. of freight up a mountain. Not only will the clean diesel engine under the hood of this truck get the job done, but thanks to the clean diesel system, freight will get delivered along with impressive air quality benefits. Thanks to enormous advances in clean diesel technology, more goods and work can be completed while reducing emissions to near-zero levels. The latest clean diesel trucks deploy a small chemical plant attached to the engine that can achieve these impressive air quality benefits. Thanks to the recent VW settlement, more of these clean diesel trucks can enter service and start delivering freight and clean air benefits to communities around the country.

One of the most overlooked technological breakthroughs in transportation has not been self driving electric cars, but the clean diesel system found on commercial vehicles and off-road equipment. Thanks to selective catalytic reduction (SCR), a small chemical plant is attached to these clean diesel engines to meet stringent near-zero emissions standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) beginning for trucks built for model year 2010. 

Today, one-in-four commercial vehicles on the road across the country is powered by a clean diesel truck using an SCR system. Put another way, three out of four trucks on the road do not come with the latest clean diesel systems. 

Thanks to the recent VW settlement, more of these clean diesel trucks may enter service and deliver immediate term air quality benefits for communities across the country. Through the $2.7 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust, included in the settlement, states may replace older vehicles and equipment with the latest clean technologies to reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and improve air quality.

Recent research highlights that clean diesel remains the most cost effective technology to reduce emissions of NOx and improve air quality. While there are other technologies and fuels, clean diesel may be the most cost effective path to improve air quality on a dollar-for-dollar basis.  According to EPA’s recent National Port Strategy, eliminating 1 lbs. of NOx by replacing the oldest trucks with a new clean diesel truck can be achieved by investing $86.   The same emission reduction would cost $107 for natural gas and almost $200 for all-electric technology.

Thanks to clean diesel and advanced SCR systems, more emission reductions and clean air benefits can be generated for communities across the country than alternatives.  States looking to maximize their clean air investments and improve air quality for their constituents through the VW settlement should consider clean diesel.



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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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