Engine Technology Today and Tomorrow

By Chris Crowel,
Manager of Specialty Vehicle Sales
and Support, Cummins, Inc.

As everyone in this industry is well aware, the rules and regulations governing emissions for all types of vehicles and power equipment-including engines used in emergency vehicles-changed rapidly during the past decade. This has resulted in the introduction of new aftertreatment technologies, modifications to maintenance procedures, and the need to train operators. Compared to the hardware and aftertreatment systems changes that occurred in conjunction with 2004, 2007, and 2010 emissions regulations, the 2013/2014 regulations do not result in any new aftertreatment technologies. In fact, for anyone who has purchased an apparatus with a model 2013 engine, it is likely that the product already meets the 2014 compliance requirements. Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) member companies, both engine and apparatus representatives, have worked collaboratively to deliver one product launch in 2013 that meets both new regulations. That being said, there are still some important items worth noting.

There are two main drivers for the 2013/2014 regulations: new federal requirements for onboard diagnostics (OBD) for all on-highway engines and new regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and corresponding fuel efficiency standards. It is important to note that in our industry, GHG and fuel efficiency are treated as a symbiotic relationship-improved fuel economy results in reduced GHG. This is great news for customers as it leads to improved engine efficiency. Because the OBD changes were required to be implemented in 2013, most engine manufacturers decided to combine the OBD and the fuel economy improvements into a single design release for customers a year early.


OBD is the industry term for electronic messages that allow a technician to determine if there is a potential engine or emissions system fault. OBD will continuously monitor the performance of all emissions-related systems during operation. A new dash lamp, known as the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL), will illuminate if the OBD system detects a malfunction in the engine or emissions system.

A less obvious change with OBD is the reclassification of many items under the hood into the “emissions component” category. Nonengine components that can impact emissions are also included in the OBD approach.

Fuel Economy Improvements

Up until now, emissions regulations have been almost exclusively designed to measure oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). But that changed when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and United States Department of Transportation introduced new regulations to regulate GHG emissions and fuel efficiency that will take effect in 2014.

Robust electronic engine controls and ongoing improvements in selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology, first introduced to the North American on-highway market in 2010, have made it possible for engine manufacturers to achieve the fuel economy gains and lower GHG emissions necessary to meet these new regulations. SCR technology provides a strong foundation for manufacturers to meet further GHG targets in the future. Lower rolling resistance tires also play a part in lowering GHG emissions and improving fuel economy.

DEF Fluid Level Derates

SCR-equipped engines require diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). Because DEF is required for proper SCR performance, earlier SCR-equipped engine performance could be derated if DEF levels became too low. Cummins and other engine manufacturers worked closely with industry organizations such as FAMA, regulatory bodies including the EPA, and chief’s associations to determine the best solution for customers based on regulations issued by the EPA.

In addition to education and outreach efforts, some engine manufacturers chose to implement a new solution for 2013, eliminating all performance- related derates for 2013 fire and emergency vehicle engines through a new software calibration. What this means is that the in-cab warning lamps will still function to alert the operator, but there will not be a performance derate initiated by the engine that could reduce the ability to respond to an emergency situation. These revised calibrations are also available for specific earlier SCR-equipped engines in fire and emergency vehicles.

A Look in the Crystal Ball

So what can fire equipment users expect in the years ahead? The drive to continually improve engine systems and diagnostics capability will result in incremental improvements to engine technologies and tools. Specifically, we expect to see reductions in the parasitic load on the engine and diagnostic capabilities.

Parasitic loads reduce the amount of horsepower available to the pump or drive wheels. Components including coolant pumps, alternators, air conditioning compressors, cooling fans, and air compressors all contribute to parasitic load.

Efficiency improvements can come from modest changes in how components are designed or from the development of new technologies. Components that are powered by drive belts today could potentially be powered by electric motors tomorrow. Today’s 12-volt electrical system may be supplemented or replaced with higher voltage systems. Tomorrow’s engines may even deliver efficiencies by using the heat generated by the engine in new and innovative ways.

Beyond engine technology improvements, it is likely we will see advances in engine diagnostic capabilities as well. Trained technicians will be able to pinpoint and diagnose potential engine faults with even greater ease and accuracy using more advanced electronic tools. Expert diagnostic systems and the ability to remotely diagnose issues are starting to evolve, providing technicians with even better guidance on the most appropriate repair.

FAMA Involvement

This topic is a classic example of how the FAMA technical committee can bring together engine, transmission, controls, and apparatus manufacturers to collectively address issues for the good of the whole industry. Although we don’t know the specifics, if history is our guide, we can be confident that there will be more regulatory changes beyond 2014. The initial indication is that these will be GHG- and fuel-efficiency-based, meaning improved fuel economy and overall efficiency for customers. In the meantime, FAMA will continue to monitor EPA activity and remain vigilant in reviewing those initiatives that impact the ability of firefighters to respond efficiently, effectively, and with the apparatus they need.

CHRIS CROWEL was recently named manager of specialty vehicle sales and support for Cummins, Inc. He has been involved in the global service and support of Cummins products for more than 25 years and currently serves on the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) chassis and statistics subcommittees.

No posts to display