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  • The Diesel Technology Forum

Getting it done: Journey to net zero carbon global transport requires many routes

As leaders come together in New York during Climate Week NYC, all decarbonization options for transport must be considered given the magnitude of the challenge and the great diversity of global economies, energy systems and transport needs.

“There is no doubt that opportunities for zero-emissions technology commercial trucks are growing, particularly in the United States and Europe,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a not-for-profit educational group. “At the same time, benefits from these technologies are comparatively far off, yet carbon reductions in the near term are recognized as critically important to meeting international declared carbon-reduction goals. This is a principal opportunity for leveraging the most advanced generations of internal combustion engines and the vast population of existing vehicles and equipment by utilizing cleaner fuels that are suitable for all.”

Today, diesel engines are delivering substantial benefits to society in the form of efficient and clean power and can do much more, Schaeffer added.

“A recent study evaluating options for commercial truck fleets in 10 Northeastern states found that between now and 2032, three times the reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions can be achieved at 25 percent of the cost of electrification by accelerating the turnover of older trucks to new advanced technology diesel models and utilizing low-carbon renewable biodiesel fuels across the entire fleet,” he said. “Even under some of the most aggressive steps to transition to zero-emissions vehicles, diesel trucks are expected to continue to dominate the trucking sector for well more than a decade as 80 percent of truck sales by 2030 will still be diesel. New and more efficient commercial diesel trucks on the road in the U.S. since 2007 have already saved more than 20 billion gallons of fuel and eliminated more than 202 million metric tons of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions (2007 and 2020). These more-efficient trucks will have eliminated the same emissions as taking 43 million cars off of the road for a year.”

The diverse nature and significance of the challenge to reduce global GHG emissions dictates that it is not a one-size fits all problem, Schaeffer said, but instead one where many solutions will be needed.

“An effective climate policy is also one that balances near-term strategies for GHG-emissions reductions alongside investments in future zero-emissions solutions,” Schaeffer said. “The advanced generation of diesel technology is part of the technologies that will help meet the climate challenge.”

The potential for large-scale carbon reductions from battery electric, fuel cell and hydrogen internal combustion engines across large portions of the global economy depends on many factors. If successful, it is still relatively far off, and will be measured in decades. Considerable development of fueling supply, infrastructures, vehicles, and equipment-supporting infrastructures are necessary to make these alternatives competitive with diesel.

Globally, one out of every two economic sectors depends on diesel power. Trucks, trains, buses, marine workboats as well as agricultural, forestry, mining and construction equipment rely almost exclusively on diesel. Tackling the multiple challenges of reducing GHG emissions requires many solutions.

No other fuel or technology can match the combination of energy efficiency, work capability, reliability, durability, economical operation, and environmental performance that diesel delivers in every corner of the world.

The U.S. EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate that the Commercial Vehicle Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Standards Phase 1 rules saved 270 million tons of CO2 and 22.26 billion gallons of oil between 2014 and 2018, and that the Phase 2 rules will save another 1 billion tons of CO2 and nearly 84 billion gallons of oil between 2021 and 2027.

Diesel engines are already reducing GHG emissions.

Greater fuel efficiency, and the virtual elimination of particulate/black carbon emissions, contribute to sustained progress toward global goals.

For tomorrow, expect continued progress on energy efficiency, lower emissions, integration with battery and hybrid-electric drive systems, and greater use of renewable, low-carbon biofuels as further evidence of diesel’s expanding capabilities in our sustainable future.

Advanced diesel engines have undergone a fundamental transformation in environmental performance while boosting energy efficiency thanks to sustained research and investment from leading manufacturers, suppliers fuel producers and associations including Clean Fuels Alliance America, Neste, Renewable Energy Group, Phillips 66, and Western States Petroleum Association.

The Diesel Technology Forum is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the current and future role of diesel engines, equipment and fuels. Forum members are leaders in advanced diesel technology, emissions controls, as well as petroleum-based and renewable biofuels.

1 Comment

Jeronimo Sekiro
Jeronimo Sekiro
Aug 02, 2023

I'm far from a scientist, but I have spent a good chunk of my career in the renewable energy sector, and I've seen some impressive advancements in the journey towards net-zero carbon global real transport.

Just a few years ago, I was working with a small startup team focused on developing efficient electric vehicle charging solutions. At that time, the thought of electric vehicles dominating the road seemed like a far-off dream. Fast forward to today, EVs are gradually becoming the norm, and we're making great strides in the right direction.

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