Emissions Regulations Still Sparking Engine Changes

This article was originally published in Diesel Progress North America's March 2016 issue.

EControls said that it has seen some OEMs address changing emissions standards by offering spark-ignited engine options over diesel in some applications. One such example is the Morbark M12RX wood chipper, which is available with either a GM gasoline engine rated 89 hp or a Tier 4 final Perkins diesel rated 74 hp.

Machine and engine builders continue working to address evolving global emissions standards. While many saw the light at the end of the tunnel with Tier 4 final and Stage 4 — at least for a while — Stage 5 in Europe is causing pulses to race once again.

EControls said it has supplied more than 750,000 sparkignition engine control systems to the industrial engine market, primarily where strict emissions regulations are in place. Tom James, marketing manager at EControls, said that in the company’s work on engine control systems, he has seen original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) addressing the changing standards by offering spark-ignited engine options over diesel in some applications to manage the rising cost of emissions compliance and application complexity associated with diesels and their aftertreatment systems.

“There is a trend toward OEMs going back to gasoline, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and/or natural gas,” James said. “The future trend is really toward higher power-density sparkignited engines for industrial equipment — mainly mobile equipment, including both gaseous and liquid fuel injection systems.”

This is not an overnight trend. The new M12RX wood chipper from forestry equipment maker Morbark Inc., Winn, Mich., is one of the latest examples. The entry-level machine aimed at rental applications is available with either a GM gasoline engine rated 89 hp or a Tier 4 final Perkins diesel rated 74 hp (see December 2015 Diesel Progress).

Additionally, Allen Engineering, the Paragould, Ark.- based manufacturer of equipment for the concrete industry, recently resurrected its twin-engine, gasoline-fueled rideon trowel. The HP 105 is driven by two air-cooled Kohler Command Pro EFI gasoline engines — each rated 26.5 hp for a total of 53 hp. Allen Engineering President Jay Allen said that the move allowed the company to provide a ride-on trowel with the right amount of horsepower but at a lower cost than one driven by a single emissions-compliant diesel (see August 2015 Diesel Progress).

In 2012, Vermeer resurrected its 9 in. brush chipper line with the BC900XL chipper powered by a Kohler Command CH1000 gasoline engine rated 40 hp. The Pella, Iowa, manufacturer noted at the time that customer research indicated that “price point was the biggest thing,” and that certain types of users were willing to sacrifice capacity in order to avoid the rising costs of diesel-driven machines (see October 2012 Diesel Progress).

James said that more recently, consideration of sparkignited power is strongest on the other side of the Atlantic.

“The biggest change we’re seeing today is in Europe, related to the Stage 5 emissions regulations that are coming out,” he said. “What they are adding is particulate number requirements, and that is really causing some concern with the engine makers in Europe and the people who supply into Europe. Just the cost of the aftertreatment, the whole regeneration cycle — we’re hearing in the market that OEMs may convert 20 to 30% of their diesel applications to spark ignition.”

James said that while the addition of the particulate number requirement for Stage 5 is making it easier for engine and equipment makers to justify a switch to a spark-ignited solution, some OEMs are using it as an opportunity to explore other spark-ignited fuel options. “In Europe, traditionally the forklifts are diesel,” he said. “And there are some that are now spark-ignited LP. But we’re seeing a trend toward CNG, as well.”

According to James, natural gas is being differentiated among different types of equipment. “We see in large engines a trend toward CNG/LNG (compressed natural gas/liquefied natural gas) fuel — in going from diesel to spark ignition — in the stationary as well as the big machinery,” he said. “Stationary equipment is going to be regular natural gas — noncompressed — and mobile equipment, such as large mining equipment and things like that, will use LNG or CNG.”

As diesel engine manufacturers expand their portfolios to capitalize upon the spark-ignited trend, James said that EControls could work with them to ensure that their base engines are optimized for spark ignition.

“Really, one of the biggest challenges going from a base diesel engine to a spark-ignited engine is the base engine change,” he said. “Nothing is optimized, so you may have to change pistons, cams, turbochargers, valve train components, etc., to try to get the best combustion recipe you can.”

James said that EControls tries to ensure that the engine manufacturer is able to offer engines that are capable of running on all available spark-ignited fuels.

“Whenever we work with an OEM engine, whether it be an automotive base gasoline engine to gaseous fuel or a diesel to spark ignition, we typically calibrate and certify to all fuels — LPG, natural gas and gasoline,” he said. “That way the engine manufacturer can get more volume and go across multiple applications and markets — address his capital expense up front.”