Future-Proofing Diesel: 7 Advancements in Diesel Engines for Cleaner Emissions

As concerns over air pollution and climate change grow, there is an increasing demand for cleaner, more efficient diesel engines. In response, numerous advancements have emerged in diesel technology aimed at reducing emissions while preserving power and performance. 

7 Advancements in Diesel That Resulted in Cleaner Emissions

If you want to start your career in automotive and diesel technology but worry that diesel won’t be available soon, calm your fears. These advancements mean diesel will stick around.

7 Advancements in Diesel That Resulted in Cleaner Emissions

1. Cetane Additives

Cetane additives are chemical compounds that increase the cetane rating in diesel fuel, improving fuel combustion efficiency and reducing harmful emissions. For example, engines can reduce pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) that clog our air.

As a rule, cetane additives increase the compressive resistance of diesel fuel. Since there’s a direct relationship between a diesel fuel cetane number and the ignition point, a lower cetane number increases ignition delay. More additives mean that the engine performs better.

2. Common Rail Fuel Injection Systems

Common rail fuel injection systems have made a significant impact on cleaner diesel engine emissions. This system provides better control over fuel injection timing and pressure, resulting in more efficient combustion processes. Benefits include reduced Nox and PM emissions.

This technology isn’t new and has faced wide adoption in 1997 for diesel engines. Before this, diesel cars used direct injection, which caused large drops of fuel to enter the fuel chamber. This caused the black smoke and smell diesel engines are still known for well after 1997.

3. Supercritical Fuel Injection Systems

Another technological advancement comes in the form of supercritical fuel injection systems. These utilize high-pressure conditions to create a supercritical state for the diesel fuel before it is injected into the combustion chamber. This system is the most common one used today.

The result of supercritical fuel injection systems is finer fuel droplets and improved atomization, enabling more complete combustion and reduced emissions. In fact, it’s estimated that these systems increase diesel engine efficiency by 10% and reduce emissions by up to 80%. 

4. Fuel Catalysts

Fuel catalysts are an aftermarket product somewhat similar to cetane additives but work through a catalytic process to enhance diesel combustion efficiency further. They break down large hydrocarbon molecules into smaller ones for easier burning during the combustion process. 

Consequently, this leads to lower levels of soot formation and lesser exhaust gas pollution. Modern fuel catalysts are made from similar metals found in catalytic converters. This changes diesel on the molecular level (i.e., increasing oxygen to burn fuel) and leads to more efficiency. 

5. Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF)

Car enthusiasts will always drive around in classic vehicles, but they aren’t the most fuel efficient. Fortunately, drivers can purchase after-treatment systems that help them keep up with changing regulations. One of these systems includes a diesel particulate filter (DPF).

Diesel particulate filters are capable of collecting and oxidizing carbon to remove particulate matter. Depending on the filter, it can reduce levels by 70% to 90%. NOx is left over after the DPR does its job, but your fuel injection system will turn the gas into water vapor. 

6. Optimized Powertrain Functionality

It’s clear that technology plays an important role in reducing emissions. Certain smart powertrains, such as Endurant HD or Acumen, help to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. This is also an example of how to improve emissions with an old diesel engine.

Predictive gear shifting, which uses a combination of sensors, cameras, and traffic data, can tell a car to downshift or upshift based on road conditions. Since the gears change automatically, the driver doesn’t have to worry about manually shifting or potentially straining their systems.

7. Fuel-Agnostic Engines

Fuel-agnostic engines, a product spearheaded by Cummins, can reduce carbon emissions by allowing vehicles to run on low or zero-carbon fuels. While this technology doesn’t technically make diesel more fuel efficient, it does allow drivers to replace diesel with more efficient fuels. 

The fuel-agnostic engine platform is basically a common base engine, but you’ll find components for different fuel sources above the head gasket. If you place a fuel-agnostic engine in a hybrid vehicle, you’ll create one of the most fuel-efficient diesel cars on the market. 

In Conclusion… 

The world of diesel engines is making strides towards a cleaner and more sustainable future with innovative advancements that directly impact emissions. By staying informed about these developments, we can encourage others to embrace and adopt such eco-friendly technologies.