Home Articles Natural Gas Engines May Resolve California’s Clean Air Issues

Natural Gas Engines May Resolve California’s Clean Air Issues

Exhaust with fire coming out.

While California is making steady progress toward reducing emissions from heavy trucks and automobiles, diesel trucks still continue to contribute significantly to statewide levels of greenhouse gasses (GHG), diesel particulate matter (DPM), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Even with major progress in emissions reductions, experts predict that unless current levels of NOx are reduced to 10 percent of today’s levels, the South Coast Basin will fall short of mandatory emissions reductions levels by 2036.

In response to the need for drastically reduced NOx emissions, Ricardo and Gas Technology Institute (GTI) have announced that they will be working together to provide a clean alternative to power California’s medium- and heavy-duty commercial trucks by equipping them with natural gas engines.

To reach their goals, Ricardo and GTI along with the Southern California Gas Company will seek to decrease emissions levels through two separate projects. The first project will explore and evaluate several ideas for natural gas ignition systems.

The second project will look at ways to develop super low emissions natural gas engines for medium- and heavy-duty commercial trucks. These heavy trucks are among the top ten offenders when it comes to NOx emissions, and replacing them with new ultra-low emission vehicles has the potential to significantly improve California’s air quality. If the project is successful, these new heavy truck engines could emit 90 percent less NOx than their current counterparts, helping California meet or exceed federal clean air standards.

Most vehicle manufacturers are meeting the challenge of cleaner air by introducing electric or hybrid engines; however, heavy trucks are not easily converted to electric due to their need to produce much greater amounts of power to haul their heavy loads. Since commercial vehicles make up more than half the traffic on California’s highways, replacing diesel fuel with natural gas is a promising way to promote cleaner, healthier air without sacrificing the performance of heavy truck engines.