Much Cleaner But More Expensive Engines The Result of Regulations
Manufacturers of diesel-powered farm equipment for the U.S. market are nearing the final two hurdles of a 15-year-long process that has greatly reduced the amount of pollution these engines produce.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s final Tier 4 emission regulations arrive in 2014 and 2015 as nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) in diesel exhaust is required to be even further reduced in new machinery. In fact, tailpipe emission levels will have been cut by more than 95% in new engines by 2015—compared with diesel engines in 2000.
That kind of clean sweep doesn’t come easily, or inexpensively. However, there are few hard and fast estimates as to just how much all the modifications have cost manufacturers—and will cost customers.
“Definitely the regulations impact vehicle costs,” Matt Rushing told us. Rushing is AGCO’s vice president of product management for global technology solutions. “But with every change we’ve made to meet emission standards we’ve also improved engine performance and efficiency.”
Rushing points to increased fuel efficiency they’ve seen in the move from Tier 3 to Tier 4—particularly in combines and sprayers. “We expected to see in the neighborhood of 8-9% increase in fuel efficiency but we are seeing improvements of 14% in some cases,” he says.
One farm machinery dealer in the western United States, who asked to remain anonymous, told us that increased fuel efficiency is a very real thing. He also estimates the price of new machinery to rise 10% as a result of the new engine requirements.
The real unknown, says the dealer, is the frequency, difficulty and cost needed for maintenance on the new engines. “As a dealer I don’t exactly know what to expect,” he told us.
The Tier 4 standards began in 2011 with layers of requirements added through 2015. Not surprisingly Tier 4 follows Tiers 1-3, which began with new rules implemented beginning in 2000.
Most diesel engine manufacturers for off-road use (construction equipment, generators, etc. are also part of these regulations) will take one of two paths to comply with Tier 4 or a combination of the two. The first is known as exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), which recycles part of the exhaust to lower combustion chamber temperatures, which reduces emissions.
The use of EGR is known as an “in-cylinder solution” because the modifications are made within the engine. This system requires additional manifolds and plumbing around the engine itself.
The alternative approach, which AGCO is using, is an “after treatment” technology. The primary after treatment technology is called selective catalytic reduction (SCR), which positions a special catalyst in the exhaust stream. The catalyst fosters the reactions of the exhaust that has been treated with diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF.
Get used to that acronym, as DEF tanks of up to 10 gallons will now be part of many diesel engines. DEF is essentially liquid urea that reacts with nitrogen oxides to lower emissions. Depending on the size of engine and the work being performed, a farmer might use 150 gallons of DEF for every 200 hours.
At $4 to $5 per gallon, DEF is relatively inexpensive. But it is uncertain what the use of millions more gallons of additional urea in diesel engines will do the price.
Probably just about the time everyone is getting used to these changes more will likely be on the way, according to AGCO’s Matt Rushing. The European Union may be looking to reduce carbon particulates in diesel exhaust beginning in 2018. “I think that is where the focus will be in the next stage of emission reduction,” Rushing says.