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Truck science

Volvo's new lab helps cut emissions

Volvo's new lab helps cut emissions

September 16, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Precision is needed to meet upcoming federal emissions mandates, a Volvo Powertrain official said Friday as the company dedicated its new Washington County test lab.

When it comes to testing for tiny particles, "We are, more or less, measuring nothing," said Sten-ke Aronsson, Volvo Powertrain North America's senior vice president.

Aronsson led a tour on Friday through the company's new engine development laboratory, part of Volvo Powertrain's $150 million upgrade of its plant north of Hagerstown.

At the lab, Volvo Powertrain will work to meet tighter standards that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is phasing in.

Engines must produce 90 percent less particulate matter, or soot, and about 50 percent less nitrogen oxide, another pollutant, by January, Mack Trucks spokesman Bob Martin said. The standards will be stricter in 2010, he said.

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At its plant off Pennsylvania Avenue, Volvo Powertrain North America makes heavy-duty and medium-duty truck engines and transmissions for Volvo and Mack.

Volvo acquired Mack and Renault in 2001.

EPA spokesman John Millett said in a phone interview that manufacturers must have 50 percent of their engines comply by 2007, and 100 percent by 2010.

The EPA also is phasing in a requirement to reduce sulfur in diesel fuel by 97 percent. By Oct. 15, retail stations must start carrying ultra-low-sulfur diesel, according to the EPA.

During Friday's dedication, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said the "black puff of smoke" emitted by heavy-duty trucks will become "something you read about in history books."

The four-story, 106,000-square-foot lab has nine test cells. Miller said the lab is linked to Volvo test sites in Sweden, France and Brazil.

Federal, state and local elected officials and a Swedish embassy representative helped Volvo and Mack executives celebrate the new lab, which Martin said will start up on Monday.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich thanked Volvo for its commitment to Maryland. He said the company offers high-end jobs because of its "technology dominance in the age of the knowledge economy."

"This is an absolutely world-class facility," said U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.

Paul Vikner, Mack Trucks' president and CEO, said the truck market is strong, and customers might have a "pre-buy mentality" instead of waiting for new, cleaner engines to come out.

The EPA acknowledges that the program will increase costs.

"We project that the emission reductions and the resulting significant public health and environmental benefits of this program will come at an average cost increase of about $1,200 to $1,900 per new vehicle, depending on the vehicle size," according to an EPA fact sheet from 2000, when the new regulations were decided.

"To put this in perspective, new vehicle prices today can range from as much as $150,000 for a new heavy-duty truck to $250,000 for a new bus. We estimate that when fully implemented, the sulfur reduction requirement will increase the cost of producing and distributing diesel fuel by about 4 1/2 to 5 cents per gallon."

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