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2022 The Year that Was – Looking Back

    The future of diesel technology is a perennial topic for technology forecasters, futurists, and governments alike. At this time of energy transition, it’s no surprise that discussing how diesel fits in a zero-carbon world was a recurring theme in 2022.

    The year began with a virtual debate hosted by Mobility Impact Partners, where DTF represented the bold and bright future for internal combustion engines vs. electrification (UC Davis) vs hydrogen (Toyota) in trucking. Results of the online survey that followed the session showed that a majority of event attendees agreed with us that diesel would continue to dominate heavy duty trucking sector well into 2030. And more of the newest generation of advanced diesel trucks hit the road in 2022 according to our annual research that showed 53% of all commercial trucks in operation are near-zero emissions.  

    The transition to zero emission vehicles in the trucking sector was the focus of policy and media last year, but new DTF research by Stillwater Associates identified better options. Accelerating fleet turnover to newer advanced diesel trucks and using renewable diesel fuels was found to achieve three times the GHG reductions at 25% of the cost of electrification in the next decade.

    Fuels were a dominant issue in 2022. The global fallout from the Russia Ukraine war and reductions in domestic and global oil production that pushed diesel prices to record highs and prompted fears of supply shortages which never materialized.  

    The role of renewable diesel fuels – also known as hydrogenated vegetable oil or HVO – was recognized uniformly by all heavy-duty engine manufacturers as an established substitute for diesel fuel, delivering immediate carbon reductions of 50-85%. Fleet experience proves out the renewable fuel benefits.  Applications ranging from electric power generation to construction, trucking, and agriculture all are ideally suited for renewable diesel fuel use without any modifications.

    Diesel engines came to the rescue battling wildfires in the West, restoring emergency electrical power and helping recovery and debris clearing from several major natural disasters in 2022, including Hurricane Ian and several other serious storms. With an increasing focus on electrification, concerns grew about the ability of the grid to supply continuous power, highlighting the need for resilience and back up strategies like reciprocating engines – diesel and natural gas- powered generators to be ready.

    Farmers faced many challenges in 2022, including higher fuel prices and inflation-related and weather impacts, but use of advanced machines and equipment helped boost productivity and lower farm inputs helping get crops to market and feed the world.

    Even as automakers expand their light duty EV offerings to consumers, diesel engines continue to be a popular option for full size SUVs and heavy-duty pick-up trucks, delivering extended driving range and unmatched longevity, towing and performance capabilities. 

    EPA ended the year with a bang finalizing its first major heavy-duty truck engine emissions standard in 20 years setting the stage for pushing emissions that are already near zero, even nearer-to-zero while boosting durability and useful life requirements starting for new trucks in 2027. The rule sets up the next chapter in the future for diesel as the dominant technology powering the nation’s trucking fleet.

    Policies seeking to replace or limit the use of diesel were a frequent topic last year as in many previous years. We wrapped up the year with a wide ranging discussion with industry technology and fuel leaders about how, where and why diesel and other internal combustion engines fit in a reduced-carbon world. As we heard, diesel is a technology that still today sets the gold standard for efficiency, power, and performance, and with a solid view it is going to be around for a good long while. Afterall, given that last year was the 125th anniversary of the first proven test of Rudolph Diesel’s namesake engine, you can say that this is a technology that has staying power.

    We are all on the decarbonization team, and we can all win by leveraging the best of each fuel and technology in the right places at the right times. Here's to a productive and prosperous 2023 for all, hoping for greater progress protecting our environment and improving our climate.

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