Squeaky Clean

| December 12, 2008

Manufacturers say their 2007 engines will be about as efficient as they are today. But fuel that is more highly refined to eliminate the sulfur will cost as little as 3 cents per gallon more, according to an old EPA estimate, or much more, according to others.

Fuel that has been so refined also will be less dense and will have a 1 percent to 3 percent reduction in energy. Most observers are optimistic that as refiners perfect the process, the drop in energy content will be small. Fuel use will likely increase just enough to compensate for the decrease in energy content.

Detroit Diesel’s communications manager, Liane Bilicki, says the new fuel “will offer close to the level of fuel efficiency we see in our current products.”

Volvo’s Greszler says, “We are working to maintain at least comparable fuel efficiency between current and 2007 engines, but this is predicated upon having fuels with comparable BTU content.”

Since most trucks on the road will have to buy low-sulfur fuel, drivers of older trucks will use it, too. They will likely experience a similar slight increase in fuel consumption, helping make the post-2007 vehicles competitive.

Engine makers believe they will be competitive in performance and reliability as well. With more lead time for research and development than pre-2002, and with hundreds of engines being fleet-tested, they expect a smooth product introduction in 16 months.

Engine makers decline to give even rough estimates about the cost of the 2007 engines and their accompanying diesel particulate filters.

Rainer Schmueckle, then-president of Freightliner, estimated in late 2004 that the 2007 engine changes would add $4,500 to $6,000 to the cost of 2004 engines.

A truck dealer who declined to be identified, but who is familiar with retrofitting particulate filters, projects new engine costs at $8,000 to $10,000. Other reports also have listed estimates as high as $10,000.

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