The year was 1970, Richard Nixon was president, and on January 1 a historic bill known as the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) was signed into law. The stated purposes of this statue reflected the high-minded idealism of the times:
• "To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment."
• “To promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man."
• "To enrich our understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation."
While many thought that the passing of this Act would be primarily symbolic, that proved not to be the case. The most obvious illustration being the formation that same year of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which 40 years later is the driving force for future technology on land, in the air, and on the water.
As a diesel engine manufacturer, MTU’s product portfolio has been and continues to be shaped by the requirements set forth by EPA and its counterparts in countries around the world. These requirements challenge us to continually improve—to reduce our impact on the environment and still provide the power necessary to move 400-ton (363-t) haul trucks and propel military vessels at speeds of 28 knot (52 km/h) and beyond.
At the Bauma earlier this year, MTU introduced our full line of diesel engines up to 730 kW (980 hp) that meet EPA Tier 4 Final requirements, the most stringent yet, which take effect for off-highway applications such as construction, industrial, and oil and gas, beginning in 2014.
These engines use a variety of technologies such as selective catalytic reduction (SCR), exhaust gas recirculation, and/or diesel particulate filters—technologies that have been developed, refined, and nearly perfected thanks to the catalyst provided by EPA and other regulatory bodies around the world. These engines will have a 90% reduction in NOx and particulates over the engines of today.
Just as the formation of the EPA pioneered the environmental movement, MTU is pioneering emissions-related engine research and development for a cleaner tomorrow. Already MTU has practical experience with SCR-equipped Series 2000 marine engines operating in San Francisco Bay that exceed existing EPA requirements for marine engines by 85%. And in Alaska, SCR-equipped Series 4000 engines provide prime power for a goldmine operation that meets the strict air quality regulations for an EPA non-attainment area.
Tier 4 Final is the name given to the last stage of known EPA diesel emissions requirements, but “final” may be a misnomer. In my mind, there is little doubt that the agency designed some 40 years ago to protect the environment will continue to challenge our industry to develop new, cleaner technologies upon which future innovation and growth will occur.
Matthias Vogel, CEO, MTU Detroit Diesel, wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering.