JAKE LINGEMAN

Diesel with no NOx emissions? It may be possible

Loughborough University may have found a true clean-diesel breakthrough

Professor Graham Hargrave, left, and Jonathan Wilson from Loughborough University's School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering are working on the ACCT system for diesel engines.
Jake Lingeman is Road Test Editor at Autoweek, an affiliate of Automotive News, reviewing cars, reporting on car news, car tech and the world at large.

A British research team at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England, claims it has a new system for reducing, and possibly eliminating, dangerous NOx emissions from diesel engines. The team says with proper support (read: money) the technology could reach the market in two years.

This system is called ACCT, for ammonia creation and conversion technology, and it converts AdBlue, the readily available so-called diesel exhaust fluid used by most diesel vehicles, into an ammonia-rich solution that deconstructs oxides of nitrogen, leaving harmless nitrogen and water. The key is that ACCT can work at low temperatures while AdBlue needs to get up to normal operating temperatures to work properly.

Preliminary reports, based on a study of Skoda taxis, show it can capture 98 percent of NOx, compared with 60 percent with the current system.

Professor Graham Hargrave, one of the study’s leaders, says that NOx is only the first step. “NOx is serious,” he said, “but it’s really a point-source problem. It only matters in a tiny minority of locations. Solve it and you can get on with reducing CO2, which is important everywhere.”

The team says it would like to partner with a major supplier on this, and not just one manufacturer, to speed proliferation.

This research is timely considering cities and countries alike are trying to figure out how to clean the air. Rome, along with Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens, Greece, have plans to ban diesel either within city borders or within city centers. Porsche is sticking with the fuel for at least another generation of Cayennes while FCA plans to ditch it by 2022. Ford, however, just added a new Power Stroke V-6 to its F-150 lineup. Regardless, all manufacturers will be paying attention.

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