Smoke and Mirrors

Diesel Bans, DPF and EGR, and the Future of Diesel Sports

March 2015 Exhaust, Feature, News Jeffrey V. Shirts Web Exclusive

There is no doubt that diesel engines are superior to gas engines in every way imaginable. They perform better; they are more fuel efficient; they are more dependable and durable. Diesels are, and have always been, the way of the future of personal transportation, especially with growing concerns over the impact of carbon emissions on the environment and community health concerns.

The environmental impact of diesel engines promised reduced greenhouse gasses but with an increase in nitrogen oxides and other pollutants; however, with new filters and recirculation technology it was believed that the emissions could be reduced and result in a net positive increase to health and environmental impact. Unfortunately, the predicted benefits of the diesel-based emission-reducing initiatives have failed in their mission to reduce the environmental impacts of automotive transportation. 

This failure to reduce emissions has paved the way for major metropolitan cities and countries to change their approach: Instead of regulating engine emissions through diesel particulate filters (DPFs), exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), etc., certain cities and contries have adopted other environmentally friendly approaches, such as Germany and the Netherlands, among others, while a few have adopted a much more extreme diesel ban to be implemented as soon as 2020.  Currently, Paris and London have taken up the crusade against diesel engines and their urban environmental health impact. 

At the core of the controversy are the DPF and EGR deletes. Together they bypass the advances in engine emission controls through removing the mandated parts, to increase performance and fuel efficiency. With the removal of these regulatory parts installed on the engine, the predicted drop in emissions has never occurred, and further, evidence has been presented that associates diesel exhaust with an increase in the severity and frequency of chronic respiratory ailments. 

Perhaps most disturbing is that the fight over diesel regulation and banning has reached the United States. California leads the way in environmental protection laws and regulations which demand strict standards for parts to ensure adherence to their laws. The more disturbing question to ask is whether or not the trend is catching on. The good news is that the Athens, Greece, diesel ban was cancelled.   Starting in 1991, the ban was in place for twenty years before being repealed because of new technology and developments in the diesel industry, and to help spur the troubled Grecian economy at the time.  With the new trend to ban diesels in specific cities catching on, it’s worth keeping an eye on Athens to see if they readopt their old policy.

More troubling, though, are the actions of New Jersey law makers.  Recently the state passed laws specifically banning rolling coal after a member of their state congress was smoked out. This sets a dangerous precedent that could affect more than the aftermarket parts community and trucks having their EGR and DPF deleted; it could threaten the very future of diesel sports.

Currently, the light truck and diesel market in the US is thriving. The battle for the light truck superiority has started to slip into the newly revived light diesel truck arena, with the release of the EcoDiesel, the future planned release of the diesel Colorado drive train, and the speculation that the F-150 will be available in a hybrid and a diesel drive trains, it is obvious that the truck market and the diesel market are experiencing a boom. In fact, GM has trademarked the “Badlands” brand name for a new, unreleased light truck to provide more options directly in light truck market rife with releases like the new Ford Raptor, the Ram Rebel, and more. 

However, the threats to the environment and potential health impacts might directly impact the future of diesel sporting competitions, like the Northwest Truck Pulls, the Northwest Dyno Circuit, and ATS Let It Roll Dyno Day on March 15th. The market growth for diesel trucks is amazing, but the very sports that have sprung from the culture of constantly improving and modifying your truck might still be threatened. Diesel sports are still very young and are garnering more attention as the market grows. With the EPA, California emission regulations, and the rolling coal ban in New Jersey it is unknown if the diesel community will be able to carve out a permanent niche for diesel sports or not.

While the future might be unknown, today we are still in control of our actions and have the freedom to practice and be a part of the competition. Now is the time to push for legitimizing and protecting diesel sports, just as automobiles have with NASCAR, drift racing, and other events. Don’t let this opportunity pass, or it might become extinct. 

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