Demystifying 2007

January, 2007. It doesn't sound nearly as ominous as October, 2002 did, does it? Even "pre-buy" doesn't sound as ominous today as it did in 2002, because the industry as a whole has built pre-buy assumptions into their business plans, and is, apparently, ready for the worst that may come.

In that vein, it came as a pleasant surprise last month just prior to the Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville, KY, to see a live demonstration of a 2007 diesel engine in operation, courtesy of Cummins Diesel.

Have you ever heard of anyone running a heavy duty diesel engine in a closed room without a ventilation tube on the exhaust? Well, that's precisely what the Cummins folks did, running a 2007 ISX engine on a stand inside the shop of their local distributor, Cummins Cumberland. The point was to demonstrate how clean the scrubbed exhaust from a 2007 diesel really is, and the point was well made. In all, the engine was kept running, at varying rpms, for nearly an hour, and at no point did the exhaust pipe emit any visible smoke or odor, and in fact, the inside of the pipe was completely free of soot.

The credit for the clean exhaust goes to the new Cummins Particulate Filter mounted on the exhaust pipe. Emissions standards for 2007 require a reduction in particulate matter (PM) from 0.1 gram per hp/hr to 0.01 g/hp-hr, and the engine manufacturers are meeting the requirement with diesel particulate filters (DPF). The DPF traps soot from the diesel's exhaust and regenerates it, cleaning the filter by oxidizing the soot. The ash that remains must be cleaned from the filter periodically (at an interval of 150,000 miles per the EPA, but up to 250,000 or 300,000, according to the engine OEMs).

The Cummins visit offered the first glimpse of the machine that will actually clean the ash from the filters. The machine runs off of shop air and a 120V circuit, but it's big, its cost is unknown, and if you keep your trucks for over 250,000 miles, you may have to purchase it.

Despite those unanswered questions, Cummins' presentation went a long way towards demystifying the 2007 engines, and the other engine OEMs are following suit. It's a promising sign that 2007 will be a whole lot better than 2002.