With less than three months to go before the new Euro 6 emissions requirements come into force in January 2014, there’s still a buffet of options facing operators when it comes to making truck and bus purchasing decisions.
To exhaust gas recirculate (EGR), or not to exhaust gas recirculate. And is this selective catalytic reduction (SCR) I see before me?
Depending on the approaches they’ve taken to meet the new Euro requirements, different manufacturers have very different view on what works best, of course.
But while all will be more expensive in capital terms, and more complicated to a greater or less extent, vehicle manufacturers (VMs) are united in one thing: Total operating costs should still bring a smile to the face and reliability will be no issue.
Des Evans of MAN Truck and Bus in the UK told Transport News Brief that he estimates that manufacturers have so far collectively spent about €12 billion developing Euro 6 technology, so you’d hope they’ve got it bang on for that kind of buck. Evans calls Euro 6 ‘a lot of hot air about a breath of fresh air’.
We went to MAN’s briefing on the standard to find out where he sees the issues for operators, but also have input from other vehicle manufacturers and emissions technology experts Ricardo from a visit to the Institute of Road Transport Engineers’ recent conference.
Done and dusted?
It’s 20 years since the introduction of Euro 1, and it would now take 70 Euro 6 trucks to generate the same emissions as a single chassis from 1993, so Evans is keen to point out that MAN are not new to the technology. It introduced EGR in 1999 and was field testing SCR in 1995.
It’s a similar story from all of the VMs, Iveco Technical Director Martin Flach explains that the underlying recipe is familiar, even if it has some different icing. “EGR is not a technology we don’t know, but it is more sophisticated [in Euro 6]. It’s an electronically controlled valve, now, rather than a foot-operated device.”
Marketing Manager of DAF Trucks, Phil Moon, also points out that many potential teething problems have worked through in the US where the standards, and the technology, have already been employed. They’ve been the guinea pigs, he says, so now, “it’s tried and tested mature technology”.
If you don’t want to take their word on reliability, how about Andrew Nicol’s, Technical Specialist at Ricardo?
He points out that the duty cycle test for Euro 6 expressly stipulates that VMs have to monitor and ensure the performance of trucks in the real world so that the technology is proven for at least seven years and 700,000km.
It’s a significant addition to monitor the technology and, “there’s a lot more technology,” he says “It will add cost. That’s the way it goes.”
Evans is relaxed about the performance of his Euro 6 product. Like other truck makers, MAN has reasonable numbers on the roads of Europe, so he is concerned that operators are clear about how to control costs.
Early stories about €10,000 price increases are being taken with a pinch of salt by most operators who know from long experience that list price and transaction price are not always intimately entwined.
It will cost something, that’s certain, but VMs are banging the whole life cost drum hard.
Evans is more interested in selling kilometres than selling trucks, too. “When it comes to fleet replacement, operators must ask themselves, again, if they actually need to buy the truck.”
With the promise of taking away the capital burden of ownership, as well as the worries of servicing and repair, creative deals are being done.
Evans told TNB, “We have a contract with Shell, via Hoyer, to supply one million kilometres of transport on each of 139 tractors over five years. They needed costs they could put a lid on, so we gave them a pence per kilometre rate to cover the entire provision, apart from diesel and drivers.”
Even on a more traditional transactional purchase of a vehicle, Phil Moon from DAF says cash tills will still ring with Euro 6. “We will keep total cost of ownership down and profitability up.
“As we get it under our belts we can now look forward to the next generation with improvements in fuel economy (and CO2).”
Enough of the next steps for now, there are still concerns that low-speed, stop-start duty cycles will perform nowhere near as claimed on the tin, with buses in particular. Stagecoach and FirstGroup both raised concerns at IRTE.
Nicol, from Ricardo, turns to the revamped and harmonised world test procedures for Euro 6 to issue reassurance.
“There was a problem in Euro 4/5 with low engine speeds. The new cycle will work at low operating temperatures.”
On disappointments with Euro 4/5 performance, Iveco’s Flach adds, “That’s not the fault of the VM – the legislation didn’t take account of it. There’s a strong cold cycle element in Euro 6.”
SCR doesn’t work as well at idle, where temperatures sit at around 100 degrees but the cats need to be at 200, Nicol suggesting this is why MAN, with its large proportion of buses, has opted for EGR in the mix.
Even so, Iveco’s Flach is confident that because of the new test cycle his company’s highly-tuned SCR solutions will see stop-start operators use no more AdBlue (Urea) in their urban runs than in motorway use.
Nicol says urea concentrations in fuel in non-EGR will run at around six to 8%, however, while widely-used cooled EGR solutions can drop as low as around two to 3%.
At the moment the significant difference in price between fuel and AdBlue means it makes sense in this market, says Nicol, while lower pump prices in the US load the equation more heavily in favour of EGR.
He has another note of confidence for SCR to sound for bus operators worried the engine will overheat once one of their bodies is tightly wrapped around it, however.
“The heat is in the exhaust, not the engine, so cooling isn’t a problem,” he says, adding that on-board diagnostics will also ensure that any issues are flagged up to operators long before they become a problem.
So, look forward to seeing no Euro 6 buses broken down by the side of the road then, or, indeed, in the middle of it.
Ultimately Nicol believes the long-term trend is for more high-performance SCR treatment as it does away with expensive, heavy and complicated EGR.
Take a look at the world of cars – apologies for swearing – and you’ll see there has been evidence of some DPFs clogging and failing in certain sorts of drive cycle.
They’re more expensive on a truck or bus than a van or car, of course, so what lessons have been learnt and can operators expect to avoid costs here? In part, but not completely.
Evans, in his bid to claw as much service and repair work back to the MAN network, says that while the company can train operators to keep on top of EGRs, DPFs and the rest of it, they’ll never be able to do it as cost effectively as MAN.
Plenty in the audience at IRTE would beg to differ, but the warning from Evans is that without top-notch filtration, fluid and fuel choices and regimes, components won’t operate as efficiently as they could.
He points to 500,000km service interval for a DPF on this basis, while Flach has the same figure in mind.
At this point larger fleets will have spent a few thousand on training technicians to clean them, while smaller operators will be given the option of service replacements.
“It’s not going to be ridiculous sums of money,” he promises.
With the promise that overall operating costs will not rise and keep business profitable, it pays to remember that Euro 6 technology is reducing NOx emissions by 80% and particulates by 50%. These drops come on top of already significant previous reductions and so are hugely impressive.
As a result, Evans says the air coming out of the exhaust of a truck can be cleaner than the air being sucked into the engine from the atmosphere
“Euro 6 is a milestone and it’s one that we as an industry should take a lot of pride in,” concludes Moon.