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  • The Diesel Technology Forum

Experts say there’s a future for ICE vehicles, fuels in a reduced-carbon world


Leaders in engine technology and original equipment manufacturers, among others, say there’s a future for internal-combustion engines (ICEs) and fuels even as the world works to decarbonize. During a webinar Dec. 14 hosted by the Diesel Technology Forum, panelists discussed efforts to further improve the engines and lower their carbon footprints.


“We are in a world in transition, in terms of energy,” said Allen Schaeffer, DTF executive director. “We are reliant, heavily, on fossil-fuel energy but also trying to make a move towards using more renewable energy. Both in the kind of energy that powers are homes and our vehicles, machines and equipment. The internal-combustion engine is seated squarely between these two worlds.”


He noted that diesel, gasoline and natural gas are currently used in ICEs to power nearly all of our world’s vehicles as well as the global economy.


The panelists discussed fuels ICEs may run on, including those currently running on petroleum diesel fuel.


Matt Leuck, Neste’s technical manager of renewable road transportation, discussed the benefits and drop-in nature of renewable diesel.


Stanadyne CEO John Pinson added, “The low- and zero-carbon liquid fuels are going to be important. We should really consider ICE as part of the solution.”


Adam Schubert, a senior associate with Stillwater Associates, spoke about how the need for various fuels impacts fuel suppliers now and in the future.


“Fuel suppliers will need to supply all of the vehicles, legacy and new, for as long as they’re on the road,” he said.


Other power sources were discussed including eFuels, gaseous fuels and electricity.


“The carbon-reducing power of making rapid, incremental progress through fuels and through engine innovation will bring us tremendous benefits,” Pinson said. “And we should do that while also working on the others.”


Troy Kantola, a product director and plant manager for Tenneco, said, “The three major motivating technologies that are out there—liquid fuel, fuel cells and batteries—they all have their own weakness when it comes to infrastructure. Where are you going to get the feedstocks? Or how are you going to equip the nation to plug in their cars? Or where are we going to get our hydrogen from? There’s not one of those technologies that can be favored. They’re all equally difficult.”


Kelly Senecal, the co-founder of Convergent Science and a visiting professor at the University of Oxford, said, “We need a diverse portfolio of solutions, and in order to allow us to get there, we need technology-neutral regulations. Engineering, not politics, should drive future transportation policy.”


Those opinions were echoed by many of the panelists who recognized the numerous uses of ICEs in transportation, emergency response, shipping, rail, mining and more.


“A single solution, it’s not going to win,” said Cathy Choi, Cummins’ executive director. “We need to be technology neutral, yet performance based.”


Panelists spoke about their beliefs that technology-neutral, outcome-based solutions and performance standards should guide policy rather than specified outcomes.


“We need technology-neutral incentives as well,” Choi said.


Panelists stressed that additional standardization of how various decarbonization efforts are measured would be helpful. A number explained lifecycle analysis and how that’s much different than simply considering tailpipe emissions.


Other ways to help with decarbonization were noted. Pinson urged industry to “design for remanufacturing or sustainability of the overall engine.”


The panelists shared their beliefs that we should continue to take actions now to decarbonize with ICE improvements and various fuels, while working toward the distant future.


“We need to make sure that with the urgency we have on global warming, that we take every option to decarbonize,” said Pierre Guyot, senior vice president of John Deere Power Systems.


Senecal reminded the virtual audience, ““The journey is as important as the destination.”


To watch the webinar hosted by DTF, click here.

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