Auto supplier believes in diesels


Veteran Member
Dec 16, 2002
Ottawa Canada
2003 Golf
Detroit News Article 02/15/2005

Auto supplier believes in diesels

Exhaust system maker based in Novi wants to change public's perceptions.

By Barrett Kalellis / Special to The Detroit News

For years, diesel-powered cars have been very popular in Europe, where the cost of gasoline is three times higher than it is in the United States. Even though U.S. gasoline prices have climbed and now hover at $2 or more a gallon, skeptics of diesel technology believe that, with the possible exception of large SUVs and light trucks, diesel engines still make no sense in the U.S. market.

Eberspaecher North America, a major exhaust system provider based in Novi, hopes to change that perception by developing technologies to overcome diesel's shortcomings, notably better emissions control.

The company's German parent, Eberspaecher GmbH, has a long history developing diesel cars and is now engineering exhaust systems for the diesel version of a popular U.S. sedan for the European market.

Martin Romzek, vice president of development for Eberspaecher, said strides made with diesel engine technology and cleaner fuel, coupled with increasing federal fuel efficiency mandates, are going to increase U.S. consumer appeal for diesel cars. Every automaker has diesel engines in development for the U.S. market, he says.

"Passenger car diesel engines were unsuccessfully introduced in this country decades ago," said Romzek, "in a day when fuel sulfur content was extremely high, regulations were too lenient, and diesel engine technology hadn't been fully developed.

Over the past 15 years, driven by more stringent emissions mandates, oil refineries have reduced the amount of sulfur in diesel fuel. Engine makers have improved and optimized diesel combustion, and found more efficient ways to compress fuel injection. Now suppliers and automakers are focused on emissions reduction.

There are several different NOx reduction mechanisms that manufacturers are considering, according to Romzek. But they still face the same challenge: As NOx is decreased, particulate matter increases.

Eberspaecher is developing after treatment exhaust systems that meet the emissions requirements needed by automakers to meet federal mandates. The increased particulate matter requires after treatment -- filtration of the soot particles after they leave the combustion chamber.

Eberspaecher has become a specialist in designing diesel particulate filters, or NOx traps and other devices that complement engine combustion technology by removing soot.

But automakers still face a dilemma. More stringent fuel economy rules are pushing them to add diesel engines, but tougher standards covering NOx standards coming in 2007 will require more efforts to meet both mandates.

"Over the last 10 years, we've seen a real revolution in diesel engine technology," says Graham Hoare, director of powertrain research and advanced engineering at Ford Motor Co. "Not only do diesels deliver about 25 to 35 percent better fuel economy, but they now have fabulous driveability for both passenger cars and trucks."

Barrett Kalellis is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.