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Conference report: 16th DEER Conference

29 October 2010

The DEER Conference, organized by the US Department of Energy (DOE), was held on September 27-30, 2010 in Detroit, MI. With the participation of about 900 delegates, this year’s conference reached almost record high attendance level. Keeping the formula and the new name introduced last year—Directions in Engine-Efficiency and Emissions Research—the conference focused on diesel engine technology, but also covered other areas in energy efficient engine research such as gasoline HCCI engines.

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Regulations and Technology Trends. The conference is traditionally opened by a plenary session “A View from the Bridge” which is devoted to regulatory perspectives and trends in engine and vehicle technology. This year, the session was dominated by future fuel economy and CO2 emission regulations and their impacts on future powertrains. The same issues were covered, with focus shifted onto the powertrain technology, by the “Engines & Fuels” panel held on the second day of the conference.

CO2 reductions from light-duty vehicles are a high priority in California, where an overall GHG reduction target of 80% by 2050 has been adopted (T. Cackette, ARB). As a policy decision, California CO2 standards for vehicles and engines will be merged with federal requirements. Other measures to reduce carbon emissions from transportation in California include low carbon fuels and reduced VMT (vehicle miles travelled). To achieve their 2050 GHG targets, California envisions a steadily increasing market penetration of plug-in hybrids (PHEV), battery electric vehicles (BEV) and, eventually, fuel cell vehicles.

Most other speakers focused on advanced, fuel efficient internal combustion (IC) engines, hybrids and electric vehicles—the interest in the latter categories being consistent with the change in the allocation of government research funding, which moved away from fuel cells. GM is approaching the launch of the Volt PHEV (T. Stephens), with an annual production capacity of 45,000 to be built. The vehicle will use a 16 kWh lithium ion battery which will come with an 8 year/100,000 mi warranty. GM also declared their support for energy diversity, and for ethanol in particular, as the demand for petroleum is predicted to grow faster than supply. In the North American market, diesel cars appear to be playing a minor role in the GM powertrain strategy.

Cummins, on the other hand, considers diesels to be a good fit for the light-duty application (W. Eckerle). As clean diesel engine technologies are maturing, the cost of aftertreatment and other components will decrease, while advances in modern gasoline engines will drive cost increases. Therefore, light-duty diesels will become more cost acceptable compared to gasoline engines. Cummins anticipates that US market penetration of small diesel vehicles, as well as downsized GDI cars, will increase from 2017, with diesel hybrids to play a role from around 2020. On the heavy-duty side, Cummins anticipates 20-30% fuel consumption reductions in line-haul trucks.

Daimler (E. Bockenhoff) discussed the challenges to be faced by heavy-duty engine and truck manufacturers to meet the coming CO2 and fuel economy requirements for highway trucks. Daimler is one of the recipients of research funding under the DOE Super Truck program, which calls for a 50% freight efficiency improvement by 2014. The program also includes a target of 50% brake thermal efficiency for heavy-duty diesel engines. Daimler emphasized the role of SCR aftertreatment in meeting the CO2 reduction targets--with a 95% efficient SCR catalyst, the engine could have a 2 g/bhp-hr engine-out NOx emissions, thus allowing for better fuel efficiency (the speaker also noted that Daimler trucks cannot run with urea tanks filled with water). Since 2005, the company has produced over 350,000 trucks worldwide with urea-SCR technology.

The DOE voiced their support for continuing use of liquid fuels: gasoline and diesel (S. Koonin). These fuels have high energy density—higher than batteries—and power IC engines that already have high thermal efficiency with further potential for improvement. Liquid fueled fuel cells (ethanol, methanol) also could be an interesting future research direction due to the higher energy density (compared to H2) and the electrical efficiency. Dr. Koonin also emphasized (as did several other speakers, later during the conference) the importance of computer simulation technologies, considered to be one of US strengths. Through increased use of computer simulation, the development of engine and emission systems can be accelerated and the R&D costs can be reduced.

The oil industry perspective on future petroleum market was presented by ExxonMobil (G. Karsner). In the light-duty segment, the global oil demand (largely gasoline) through 2030 is predicted to be flat. The expected decrease of demand in developed (OECD) markets due to CO2 regulations will be balanced by an increase of demand from non-OECD countries. However, a global increase in demand for oil (mostly diesel) will come from the heavy-duty vehicle market.

Conference website: eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/resources/conferences/deer