WASHINGTON – Federal officials Tuesday showcased new hybrid and fuel-efficient commercial diesel-powered trucks they said will save fuel and improve air quality.
At a news conference and display of six new trucks,a minivan and a bus,Jeffrey Holmstead,Environmental Protection Agency assistant administrator,said the new vehicles will mean “black puffs of smoke we see from trucks will be a thing of the past.”
Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman rode to the event on the Allison Transmission hybrid electric bus that is projected to save 1,500 gallons of fuel every year.
“Ultimately,we seek safe,secure,and environmentally friendly trucks and buses that use sustainable and self-sufficient energy sources to enhance America's global competitiveness,” Bodman said.
The National Resources Defense Council,which has criticized the administration's energy policies,generally approved of the clean fuel technology on display.
But Richard Kassel,NRDC's director of national vehicles and fuels project,asked about the ability to integrate the new fuel in a timely manner. “Once the fuels are on the market,how long will it take” to get dirty diesels off the road and clean ones “onto the highway?” he said.
‘Ten years ago the only clean bus was a natural gas bus. … The good news is now we have options,” Kassel said.
Manufacturers whose heavy-duty trucks or components were on display as part of the 21st Century Truck Partnership – Caterpillar,Cummins,Eaton,International,Oshkosh,Ford and Volvo – said vehicles driving 40,000 miles a year could save up to 2,000 gallons of fuel.
Volvo representative Scott Cress said new anti-idling technologies will reduce pollution when trucks sit still with their engines running.
The companies said they have some details to resolve before the new technology can go on the market,perhaps in a couple of years,after receiving government approval.
The government has plans to lower emissions from diesel-fueled vehicles with more strict diesel fuel regulations that would go into effect in 2007 and 2010. In February,the Department of Energy selected 12 projects designed to increase the energy efficiency of trucks and buses while maintaining low emissions. The projects are worth $175 million,with industry contributing about half,as part of the partnership.
Allen Schaeffer,executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum,which represents engine manufacturers,said the event was not a competition between clean diesel and hybrid vehicles,which are powered in part by electricity. Both are noted for their fuel efficiency. He said both should be available and consumers should be able to choose which vehicles they prefer.
Schaeffer called the event “a great day for diesel,” adding that “this is a technology for the future that can be both clean and energy efficient at the same time.”
Company representatives stood by each of the vehicles giving background on their effectiveness and how the new vehicles improved on current fleets.