The Diesel Engine and the Road Ahead – a US Perspective

The diesel engine has become the workhorse of commercial transportation around the world and has had to adapt to different environments and various pressures throughout its history. It is now at the point where it has achieved excellent performance whilst maintaining its superior fuel economy and meeting ever-tightening emissions regulations.

Contrary to common belief, diesel engines emit extremely low levels of carbon monoxide (CO) and unburned hydrocarbon (HC) emissions, as shown in Figure 1. This fact is based mainly on their heterogeneous combustion that is characterised with high air-to-fuel (A/F) ratios. Their combustion efficiency is extremely high and consequently they convert their hydrocarbon fuel to mostly carbon dioxide (CO2) and water. However, because they power vehicles that can travel almost twice as far as their gasolinepowered counterparts on a gallon of fuel, they have the ability to reduce the total man-made CO2 contribution to the environment as seen in Figure 2. Diesel engines, however, have traditionally emitted higher levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) than their gasoline counterparts.

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