A few years ago, not many people saw diesel engines as a solution for meeting increasingly strict emission standards. For a long time, diesel engines were regarded as unclean because they emitted large quantities of combustion soot. In fact, diesel engines have undergone rapid development, and their emissions have been dramatically reduced. Today, diesel is one of the most exciting and promising technologies in the race for new engine solutions in a world increasingly concerned with environmental care and resource economy. And all evidence suggests that diesel will have even more to offer in the future.
Modern particle filters have reduced soot emissions to a minimum, while nitrous oxide emissions also have decreased dramatically. But the diesel engine’s strongest future potential lies in its efficiency. The more efficient an engine is, the lower its fuel consumption and the less carbon dioxide it emits.
“Advances in recent years have shown that things we believed impossible yesterday can become reality a few years later. Many things we do today were dismissed as impossible just ten years ago. Nobody knows how fuel-efficient diesel engines can become. We’re far from reaching the limits set by the laws of nature,” says Volvo’s President and CEO Leif Johansson.
A hundred times cleaner in 20 years.
The fuel consumption of a diesel engine in an FH12 Volvo truck has dropped by 37 percent in the last 30 years. Diesel engines are constantly being developed, and their fuel consumption will drop a further 15 percent by 2020. A clear example of how diesel engines have been refined over the years can be seen in Volvo Trucks’ range of engines, which have become 100 times cleaner in terms of air pollutants over the past 20 years.
As a result of increasingly strict US and European emission regulations, new solutions are required for diesel engines, combustion processes and exhaust gas aftertreatment. Already when the Euro 4 emission standards were introduced in Europe three years ago, Volvo cut emissions by developing more efficient diesel engines and through exhaust gas aftertreatment with the AdBlue additive and SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction). This technology easily meets the new Euro 5 emission standards due to be introduced in October 2009. Series production of the Euro 5 engines started in Skövde, Sweden in May 2009.
“The diesel engine is compatible with renewable fuels”
Diesel engines are currently used in Volvo trucks, construction machinery, buses and boats, and high-efficiency diesel engines do not need to run on diesel alone. In 2007, the Volvo Group was the world’s first automotive manufacturer to develop seven different specially modified diesel engines for trucks to demonstrate the scope for carbon-neutral transport. The seven modified truck engines can run on the following seven renewable fuels or combinations of them: biodiesel, biogas, biogas combined with biodiesel, ethanol/methanol, DME, synthetic diesel and hydrogen gas combined with biogas. All the fuels are made of renewable raw materials and do not add carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when combusted.
“A diesel engine is an extremely effective energy converter that is highly compatible with many renewable fuels, regardless of whether they're liquid or gaseous," says Jan-Eric Sundgren, Head of Public and Environmental Affairs and a member of Volvo’s Group Executive Committee. “With our knowledge of engine technology and our large volumes, we can develop engines for various renewable fuels and open up possibilities for carbon-neutral transport in other product areas such as buses, construction equipment and marine applications."
Read more about the solutions we are working on that will contribute to increased fuel efficiency in the future.