Cat to offer bridge engine

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Caterpillar last month confirmed that it would continue to market heavy-duty and mid-range diesel engines beyond Oct. 1 even though it may incur penalties for exceeding the emissions levels set in the 1998 consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency. As allowed by the consent decree, Cat intends to obtain certification of engines that incorporate elements of a system it calls ACERT. These engines, which will bridge the gap between current technology and full ACERT, will incorporate changes in electronics and combustion and will add a catalytic converter.

Cat concedes that these initial engines likely will exceed the limits on oxides of nitrogen (NOx) that EPA will mandate after Oct. 1. Beginning in January, however, Cat will roll out over a period of nine months new versions of its engines that meet or exceed EPA requirements through a full implementation of ACERT.

“We will have an engine that is certified in every state,” said James Parker, Cat vice president of engine products in response to questions from journalists at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. “Will we pay penalties? Probably. What will they be? We don’t know.” Parker vowed that Cat “will ship product unconditionally. We’re going to have product there, and it will be competitively priced.” The bridge engines will look very much like today’s Cat engines and will require no changes in installation, the company says.

Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks North America last month inched closer to meeting the Oct. 1 deadline when EPA told them that auxiliary emission control devices (AECDs) intended to shut off or dampen emissions-control devices when engines encounter operating extremes “will not preclude issuance of certificates of conformity.”

More than a year ago, EPA said it likely would approve AECDs for situations like engine starting and warmup, hard acceleration and extended idle. But the agency said it needed to review further the manufacturers’ plans to protect engines in extreme cold and heat and in high-altitude operations.