Karl Sievertsen, chief technology officer for Eaton's Vehicle Group, and Zari Venhaus, director of corporate marketing communications, discuss upcoming regulatory changes to emissions standards for heavy-duty truck and commercial vehicles. 

In this episode we discuss: 

  1. Emissions regulation benchmarks for commercial vehicles for 2021, 2024 and 2027
  2. The role of electrification in emissions reduction 
  3. Eaton vehicle technologies and initiatives helping to move the trucking industry toward greener, more efficient future

To learn more, visit "Commercial vehicle manufacturers face emissions regulations challenges".

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ZARI VENHAUS: There's a lot of talk today about the electrification of vehicles. But in the commercial vehicle space, the diesel engine is still king. We are here with Karl Sievertsen, the chief technology officer of our vehicle group, to talk more about vehicle emission standards and fuel economy.


So, upcoming regulations in emissions. 2021, we have some changes happening, then 2024, 2027. Similar things happening in Europe, China, Brazil, India. So when we think about these changes, what are the changes that are happening right now, and what do OEMs need to be thinking about in terms of the specific reductions in CO2 and oxides of nitrogen?

KARL SIEVERTSEN: The regulations that you speak of, primarily involving fuel economy-- improving fuel economy and thereby lowering CO2 emissions, greenhouse gas effect, protecting the environment-- and harmful emissions, oxides of nitrogen, which produce ozone and can be harmful to humans-- so those are the two main constituents that the regulatory bodies are trying to reduce and improve.

So that space between 2024 and 2027, where the regulatory requirements are just now firming up, it's becoming pretty clear that a significant reduction in NOX is going to be mandated, both in California-- the thinking is, hopefully, one standard across the US. And then the European Union is following suit in a very similar way. We expect to see more of a convergence of standards. And so we're working on those technologies that are going to help our customers meet those ever more stringent regulations beyond 2024.

But making that even more complicated is the testing is becoming more stringent, more real world. Also, measuring at low loads. So vehicles do spend a fair amount of time idling or operating at low load, not always at full power. And it's at those times where, right now, they're producing some of their highest emissions, if you will.

ZARI VENHAUS: So that would be like--

KARL SIEVERTSEN: So they're really tightening down.

ZARI VENHAUS: --in the city?

KARL SIEVERTSEN: In the city, stop and go, those kind of things. And the regulations are really honing in on minimizing and controlling emissions during those use cases, as well, or those operating modes. And so the overall level coming down, the more real-world kind of measuring technique, and this focus on kind of closing this low load exemption is what's really driving what we think is going to be quite a technology adoption revolution as you move past 2024.

ZARI VENHAUS: There's been a lot of movement and benefit on this side already, right? Now we're taking it the next step.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: Absolutely. So diesel engines have become more and more efficient. The recent trend has been in downsizing and down speeding the engine, running it at lower RPM, running at more efficiency with less valve train and friction losses. And that's--

ZARI VENHAUS: Does that do anything to torque?

KARL SIEVERTSEN: Not in terms of its drivability down the road, but in terms of how it affects other systems in the engine, like, for example, decompression engine braking. The slower the engine is turning, generally speaking, the less power that you can derive from a decompression engine break when the truck needs to slow down and not rely on its foundation braking.

So as the vehicle manufacturers and the engine manufacturers down speed, our technology has had to improve in order to keep the level of performance the same.

ZARI VENHAUS: What you'd expect. But what other benefits do we get when we look at fuel economy in a commercial vehicle?

KARL SIEVERTSEN: So from a commercial vehicle standpoint, really, it's all about total cost of ownership, right? The more fuel that's saved, the more money that goes into the owner's or fleet owner's pocket. So it's extremely important. But like I said before, for all of us, the less fuel that's consumed, the less greenhouse gases that are emitted, and the less impact we're going to have on our total climate.

ZARI VENHAUS: So we know that the diesel engine is going to be around for a long time.


ZARI VENHAUS: So whatever we can do to make it more efficient is really important for the environment, but also for fleet owners.


ZARI VENHAUS: So when we think about electrification, talk to me a little bit about hybrids.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: Sure. So as we look at the total commercial vehicle space and we look at improving efficiencies and reducing harmful emissions, electrification is clearly going to play a role. It's going to play a role from moving to full battery electric vehicles, in some cases, especially with regard to buses and maybe urban transport and delivery.

When we think more about long haul, that becomes less practical in terms of not just the battery cost, which is coming down, but battery weight and energy density and the effect that has on the amount of freight you can carry and the amount of range you can get in a truck.

ZARI VENHAUS: And then the utility structure for enabling charging for a long haul.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: For sure. So as we think more about long haul, we still see the diesel engine becoming much more efficient in that space, but still having a huge role in that space. We can introduce cylinder deactivation to the diesel engine, which we've had for probably 15 years or more in the passenger car space. Eaton has produced millions of product that is in millions of engines on the road today.

But we can take that space from-- that knowledge, that technique, from the passenger car space, move it into the commercial diesel, and drive higher exhaust gas temperatures and lower fuel consumption in low load environments in that diesel space. So cylinder deactivation and variable valve actuation, in general, is something that we're working on. Even more efficient decompression engine braking for, again, when those vehicles become more aerodynamic, and lower rolling resistance tires, they're going to need higher braking efficiencies to stop the vehicle when needed.

So we're working on all of those technologies to work in conjunction with the diesel engine. At the same time, to your point on electrification, we're developing systems that can, in a really smart way, integrate 48-volt power into a diesel engine plus transmission kind of architecture that can allow engine-off coasting, so completely shutting off the diesel engine when it's costing. I think the typical line haul truck is coasting somewhere close to 20% to 30% of the time. That number gets higher as the aerodynamics get better.

ZARI VENHAUS: Get better.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: These technologies kind of weave together and are synergistic in a way that will produce more and more fuel efficient and more clean vehicles as we move forward.

ZARI VENHAUS: And the way that we learn about what the commercial vehicle space need is with partnership with our OEMs, really getting behind the wheel.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. We have great relationships with just about every OEM out there, as well as research partners like Southwest Research and the Department of Energy and the Super Truck 2 program, where we're building a future truck with some of our latest technologies, whether it's EGR pumping, 48-volt technologies that we've talked about, efficient transmissions, et cetera, efficient diesels. And building them together to demonstrate really what's possible and to give some real world representation of where these regulations can bring us and that the technology is there to deliver.

ZARI VENHAUS: Because seeing is believing, right?

KARL SIEVERTSEN: Seeing is believing.

ZARI VENHAUS: You need to be able to see it in action.


ZARI VENHAUS: The OEMs need to trust that all of these technologies are going to work together to bring them the most fuel-efficient diesel to lower their total cost of ownership.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: That's right.

ZARI VENHAUS: And we can make that happen today.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: Yup, that's right. And I think those partnerships and the Super Truck 2 program, in general, really help bring that to light. It demonstrates it. It brings the right players together and accelerates our move in that direction.

ZARI VENHAUS: We've made such strides already--


ZARI VENHAUS: --in making diesel engines more efficient. And one way we've done that is in automated transmissions. Let's talk a little bit about the Endurant.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: Sure so the Endurant is one of our most efficient transmissions ever, with improvements in durability and performance, low-speed performance, shift performance, and efficiency calibration. Along our broader product range at Eaton, our valve business continues to introduce new materials and technologies that allow our customers to engineer more difficult and higher performance combustion cycles that put our components in a harsher environment, if you will. But we're there stepping up and providing product that meets the challenge and, again, moving to improve efficiency.

We're introducing hydraulic lash adjustment in these diesel engine spaces that will allow better warranty cycles, less service-- let's say tear up into the engine to do these valve adjustments.

ZARI VENHAUS: Less maintenance.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: As the engine gets more complex, getting in to make things like valve adjustments becomes more complex. So the less often we have to do that, the better. Our engine braking technology is improving performance and enabling some of the down speeding that drives fuel economy. So really across our product portfolio, we've had a fuel economy focus for many years now. And our new technologies really have us positioned well for the challenges of the future.

ZARI VENHAUS: It's only going to make it better.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: Only going to make it better.

ZARI VENHAUS: Right. Well, thank you for spending the time with us today talking a little bit about emissions changes and the great things that we're doing here at Eaton to help OEMs and fleet managers. It was great having you.

KARL SIEVERTSEN: Well, thanks for coming out. It's an exciting time to be in the business, and we enjoy talking about it.

ZARI VENHAUS: Absolutely.