BY MIRANDA VIGLIETTI
Diesel fuel soon may clear the smog from its name.
New advances in clean diesel technology have enabled the fuel to be more energy efficient and reduce the emission of air pollutants.The Green Car of the Year Tour spotlighted clean diesel technology at Argonne National Laboratory on Friday.
The tour, put on for the first year by the Green Car Journal, focused heavily on clean diesel because vehicles using the technology nabbed the magazine's Green Car of the Year award two years in a row .
The event featured the Audi A3 TDI, winner of the 2010 award, as well as the VW Jetta TDI, the 2009 winner, which are both diesel powered and achieve more than 40 miles per gallon in estimated highway fuel efficiency.
Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of the Green Car Journal, said the tour hoped to highlight future technology, such as hydrogen and natural gas fuel, along with green vehicles already available on the auto market.
"We're opening the eyes of the public to what's possible and what's out there," Cogan said.
Tours of Argonne's Advanced Powertrain Research Facility also were given during the event. The facility allows researchers to test criteria such as the emissions output and fuel economy of vehicles, and also includes a special testbed that evaluates specific technology, research engineer Henning Lohse-Busch said.
After testing and evaluating new technology, Argonne informs policymakers about what is feasible and ready to use, said Don Hillebrand, director of transportation research at Argonne.
"We're professional skeptics of the tech world," Hillebrand said.
Argonne's Center for Transportation Research uses controlled laboratory settings to get familiar with alternative fuels such as hydrogen and become more comfortable utilizing them, he said.
"Gasoline is a danger we're used to," Hillebrand said. "A lot of these new technologies are dangers we're not used to."
Even though diesel technology has seen a 30 percent increase in fuel economy, diesel-powered vehicles remain more widespread in Europe, he said.
"That's a huge apple hanging low on the tree," Hillebrand said. "We have to make sure to pick it."
Steve Ciatti, a combustion researcher at Argonne, said clean diesel used to be an oxymoron 20 years ago.
While diesel fuel can create smog as a result of nitrogen oxide emissions, clean diesel technology has reduced those emissions to nearly zero, he said.
Steve McConnell, the lead fuels engineer for Argonne, said diesel engines have always performed well when it comes to fuel efficiency. Clean diesel technology now measures emissions per mile by the milligram instead of the gram, he said.
Clean technology for both diesel and spark-ignited engines continues to advance, he said.
"It's really exciting," McConnell said. "From the engine all the way out the tailpipe, things are changing radically."