Pay the price

Better fuel, better vehicles, but who will pay for what?

Better fuel, better vehicles, but who will pay for what? Government’s decision to increase fuel standards by 2013 will facilitate the introduction of more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles, but will also come at a considerable cost that will have to be shared by refinery owners, government and the end-user, writes UDO RYPSTRA.

On 17 March, Daimler announced the arrival of a Mercedes-Benz Euro VI truck engine range in Europe, complying with the continent’s latest emission standards which are to be implemented in two years’ time.

Europe is currently on Euro V, well ahead of South Africa, which only introduced Euro II at the beginning of last year. The difference between the two standards shows the gap between developed and developing nations to get their automotive fleets in order from a “going green” point of view. And the will to catch up is there.

Ten days before the Daimler statement, the South African Department of Energy (DOE) unveiled its much-anticipated draft position paper on fuel specifications and standards which propose the phased introduction of Euro V-type fuel in South Africa as from 2013. The paper was drafted by a task team – the National Treasury, Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Transport, the Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African Bureau of Standards and the DOE – in consultation with Sapia and Naamsa.

The introduction of the new specifications, dubbed Cleaner Fuels Two, or CF2, will follow earlier improvements which commenced in 1996 and included the prohibition of lead in all grades of petrol and the reduction of sulphur levels in diesel from 3 000 parts per million (ppm) to 500 ppm. The CF2 specification now also requires the reduction of sulphur in South African diesel from 500 ppm to 10 ppm, while the allowable levels of cancer-causing benzene will have to be reduced from 5% to 1%. It also seeks lower levels of aromatics and olefins in petrol and new limitations on particulate emissions from the burning of diesel.

The move has been welcomed by car and commercial vehicle manufacturers, and leading fleet operators, who have been trying to overcome the country’s ‘dirty’, or high-sulphur content fuel, seeing it as a constraint to the introduction of newer engine types which offer lower fuel consumption and lower emissions via the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) process. They actually wanted to see the new standards introduced next year.

The ability of the SA automotive industry to go from Euro II to Euro V and VI is relatively easy. MAN CEO responsible for Africa and the Middle East, Markus Geyer, said as much at a recent lunch time media briefing at which he indicated the ability of the company (and its rival European and American competitors), to import Euro V compliant vehicles almost at will. However, in South Africa the changeover to Euro V will cost billions of rand, firstly with the refineries having to be upgraded to produce cleaner fuel for the SCR process and, secondly, fuel stations and fleet operators having to install additional tanks to add an additive to the fuel.

While CF2 has been welcomed by the petroleum industry and has provided it with a vision of government’s intentions, it has warned that the upgrade of oil refineries – Durban, which could cost R28 billion, and Cape Town at R40 billion – and might not be economically viable in the absence of a cost recovery exercise. It has also warned that the Durban-Gauteng multi-product pipeline will not be completed before the end of 2013 and that there would be additional costs involved in transporting the fuel by road.

The second costly problem for fuel stations and fleet operators concerns the need to adapt to the high-quality fuel to meet the new standards. This would require additional tanks and pumps, not only for the fuel, but also an additive to the fuel. The SCR process requires an additive called AdBlue which controls oxides of nitrogen emissions in diesel engined motor vehicles. AdBlue is the registered trademark for AUS32 (Aqueous Urea Solution 32,5%) which  is a 32,5% solution of high-purity urea in demineralised water that is clear, non-toxic and safe to handle. However, it can be corrosive for some metals, and must be stored and transported using the correct materials.

AdBlue is carried on board Euro V SCR-equipped vehicles in specially designed tanks, and is dosed into the SCR system at a rate equivalent to 3 to 5% of diesel consumption. This low dosing rate ensures long refill periods and minimises the tank’s impact on chassis space. Some trucking industry OEMs have already developed branded SCR solutions, such as Daimler’s BlueTec. All European truck manufacturers currently offer SCR equipped models, and the future Euro6 emission standard is set to reinforce the demand for this technology.

On-highway SCR systems are currently in use throughout Europe, in Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, New Zealand and Singapore. The use of SCR technology in Europe made it necessary to develop an AdBlue supply infrastructure. AdBlue is now available from thousands of service stations, which offer it in canisters of 5 or 10 litres or from separate pumps, while larger quantities can be delivered in, for example, 208-litre drums, 1 000-litre intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), and in bulk to fleet operator depots.

The DOE has indicated that government is open to discussions on cost recovery, which would occur once “a thorough determination of the costs and benefits for each refinery has been done”, according to Energy Minister Dipuo Peters. Peters told reporters that approaches which could be considered included differentiated taxes which created an advantage for high quality fuel. The plan, she said, was geared towards calibrating South Africa’s transport fuels with government’s health and environmental objectives, as well as to technological advances in the production of new, more energy-efficient vehicles.

Government officials have also confirmed that the National Treasury will play a central role in determining any possible cost-recovery mechanism and how the costs should be shared between the refinery owners, government and end-users.

The proposed CF2 has also been opened for public comment after which the specifications will be finalised, probably during the course of 2011.

Meanwhile, Europe is preparing for Euro VI, with Daimler having launched the first Euro VI range of truck engines: the Mercedes-Benz OM 47x, under the name “Blue Efficiency Power”. The group reports it is a completely redesigned range of heavy-duty engines that sets a new benchmark for fuel consumption. In order for them to meet the Euro VI emissions level, the engines are fitted with a sophisticated emission control system which involves AdBlue being added to the exhaust system. Harmful nitrogen oxides are then converted into the harmless elements of nitrogen and water in a downstream SCR catalytic converter.

Mercedes-Benz’s BlueTec technology makes it possible to optimise the combustion process and has been proved to deliver excellent fuel consumption.

“Along with a high level of environmental compatibility, one of the key aims during the development of the new engine generation was to keep its overall lifecycle costs low. First of all, this involves low fuel consumption. Despite the added complexity that was necessary to meet emissions level Euro VI, the fuel consumption on these models is excellent and will produce top figures in everyday vehicle use.

With an eye to saving resources, environmental aspects, as well as the increasing price of diesel fuel, the work of the Mercedes-Benz engineers on the new generation of engines represented a real milestone in engine development.

The first member of the new engine generation to be in the spotlight is the Mercedes-Benz OM 471, with its 12.8 l displacement. Mercedes-Benz continues its tradition as a trailblazer in terms of environmental compatibility with this new generation of engines. Like their predecessors, the new Mercedes-Benz engines are built at the company’s Mannheim plant. This plant also produces key components for the Detroit Diesel engines and complete engines for Fuso.

The new Mercedes-Benz OM 471 will be available in various output and torque versions, ranging from 310 kW to 375 kW and from 2 100 to 2 500 Nm. Its outstanding attributes, as well as the bundling of sophisticated and advanced engine technology, ensure that the OM 471 is an engine that meets all expectations in terms of performance, economic efficiency and environmental compatibility – in Europe as well as in other markets across the world.

Among the special features of the Mercedes-Benz OM 471 are its particularly broad range of four power and four torque variants, as well as two different brake power configurations. Typical of the specifically European design of the engine are the variants with enhanced power and torque, which are configured to suit typical usage here as well as to the needs of operators and drivers.

The four basic power variants, with 310, 330, 350 and 375 kW, are complemented by three variants that have been given the name “Top Torque”. With these engines, an additional 200 Nm of torque is released in the highest gear of the automatic transmission when used in trucks, for example.

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