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Constructing a Sustainable Future Begins with Advanced Diesel Power

    Photo of the National Mall courtesy AEMThis National Infrastructure Week features a display on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. of the tools of work in building a resilient infrastructure and more sustainable future. It’s a full array of construction machines and equipment – excavators, backhoes, track type tractors, trenching equipment, and much more. The displays highlight the industry’s efforts toward sustainability. They also demonstrate technological innovation and a very eclectic fuel and power future that includes new all-electric options, concepts for hydrogen internal combustion engine technology, and the latest in advanced diesel technology.

    Construction equipment and machines will be in greater demand than ever the next few years, thanks to a myriad of projects funded by the unprecedented amount of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Infrastructure Investment Act (IIJA). According to the Administration, $220 billion in funding has been dispersed for more than 32,000 projects across 4,500 communities. Projects encompass the transportation network of roads, bridges and rail, infrastructure, broadband, and drinking water, among others. For example, for FY 2022 the Army Corps of Engineers has more than $7 billion in infrastructure projects committed.

    Building this next generation of more equitable and resilient infrastructure, at the scale envisioned, requires unprecedented deployment of new equipment. Most construction machines and equipment rely on diesel power thanks to its unique combination of efficiency, power, performance, durability and reliability, and near-zero emissions. The newest generation of advanced diesel-powered equipment enables work to be performed more precisely, more productively and with lower emissions and other impacts than ever before. Today’s advanced diesel engines have greater power density, are more fuel efficient, and achieve near zero emissions. 

    At a recent virtual event, “Building for the Future: Innovations in Construction Equipment to Deliver Next Generation Resilient Infrastructure and Clean Energy Projects”, industry leaders from Caterpillar, Cummins, John Deere, and Chevron Renewable Energy Group outlined their strategies for helping their customers meet both project and sustainability goals on construction projects. It’s clear that more productive and efficient jobsites with lower emissions are being achieved, thanks to innovations in the machines, but also smart practices, connected technology and autonomous features. Industry leaders are utilizing these advanced technologies every day to do the work necessary for a resilient infrastructure. They’re enabling the clean energy future through current and future equipment as well as fuel choices and operational strategies.

    The latest generation of diesel power achieves near zero emissions, more power, uses less fuel, does more work, is low-carbon, and is renewable fuel ready. Productivity boosting solutions are in the forefront of leading manufacturers’ equipment offerings. Telematics and connected worksites monitor and streamline equipment operations, guiding operators to minimize repetitive task time, enabling the ability to achieve accurate finished task results on a first pass rather than multiple pass operation. Industry estimates that smart solutions like telematics can reduce diesel fuel consumption by 40%, translating into significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions and climate benefits.

    Hybrid energy storage systems are now incorporated into a growing number of new off-road machines and equipment like wheel loaders and excavators, where the repetitive duty cycle such moving large quantities of materials (stone, dirt, debris) enables lower fuel consumption and emissions without sacrificing power and durability. Caterpillar’s new electric drive dozer delivers up to 35% less CO2 per ton of material moved.

    Volvo Construction Equipment has a new line of compact electric equipment alongside advanced diesel technology. Their use of integrated autonomy into some of its most utilized equipment types to reduce emissions by more than 40%. Precision use of the equipment also places workers away from dangerous locations and boosts worksite safety.

    Beyond innovations in new technology, fuel switching is an easy strategy to reduce the carbon footprint of equipment operations. Diesel engines old and new are capable of operating on renewable diesel fuel and blends of biodiesel to deliver big and cost-effective emissions reductions. For example, the City of Oakland, California made the switch to exclusively use renewable diesel fuel in the city’s fleet of heavy-duty vehicles and equipment. This fuel that can be used as a drop-in replacement to petroleum diesel, reduces emissions by upwards of 80% compared to petroleum diesel. City managers estimate that the switch to renewable diesel fuel has displaced more than 250,000 gallons of petroleum diesel fuel and eliminated 1,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.