The federal government is funding research at Peoria-based Caterpillar, Inc. that the Energy Department hopes will make diesel fuel stretch further in trucks. Ed Owens is a Supervisor of the Hybrid Electric Systems and Materials Technology Program for the Energy Department.
"We're looking for higher strength materials without a substantial increase in cost that will allow engine designers to build engines that have higher cylinder pressures that can operate at higher temperatures and as a result achieve greater fuel efficiency."
Caterpillar will match the $3.5 million in federal money with $1.5 million of its own money. Owens says diesel engine efficiency has risen 10% in the last two decades, but further improvements will trail off in the next few years as the cast iron engine blocks reach limits on strength. Owens says new alloys Caterpillar will study could boost diesel efficiency another 28% at the same emissions standards.
"There's some limitations of what can be achieved because of the materials. So this is an attempt to put in place the technology and the materials to allow diesel engine companies to continue to improve fuel economy."
He says higher fuel burn temperatures could eventually lead to 55% diesel efficency instead of the current 43%.
"The hope is that you'll see either reductions in the use of diesel fuel or at least a greater amount of work done for every gallon that's used in transportation."
Owens says new alloys are working well in the lab, but are years away from the marketplace.
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