A diesel engine solution that works for both manufacturers and operators

Today, our off-highway diesel engines are some of the cleanest and most sophisticated power plants ever created. Since January 2015, all compact equipment using 75.1-hp (56-kW) engines and larger must meet U.S. EPA Tier 4 Final emissions standards. Diesel engines below 75 hp have been required to meet Tier 4 Final since 2014. Over the years, engine manufacturers have been hard at work redesigning their engines to meet the latest standards, which have reduced oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter by more than 90 percent and sulfur levels by more than 99 percent.

Several different design and engineering strategies have been utilized by leading engine developers to successfully meet these emissions standards, but some common approaches have been embraced by the industry. For more than 14 years, Perkins has been tailoring engines to fit into highly integrated customer machines with an eye on meeting Tier 4 Final emissions standards. As diesel engine experts, how are we accomplishing this decades-long challenge? It’s by working with customers and OEMs. It sounds simple, but it’s not as easy as you might think. Our engineers have worked to develop a deeper understanding of our customers and their machines, even setting up a dedicated resource at our facility in Peterborough, England, to support this effort.

After many hours of face-to-face interviews with machine manufacturers, machine owners, rental professionals, industry experts and machine operators, a few key requirements came to the fore. A good example: They have driven the design of a new 67-hp (50-kW) 2.2-liter engine. Many of the people we interviewed spoke of the need for an engine to “just work,” a concept that goes far beyond the engineering definition of reliability. For a customer, for an engine to “just work” or be dependable means that not only should it not break down, but also that it should have long service intervals and start easily and quickly on a cold day, requiring little operator training.

Perkins and diesel OEMs as a whole needed to translate this “just work” requirement into its technology choices on its new generation of compact engines, one of which was eliminating a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to avoid the need for regeneration. As an experienced engine manufacturer, we know that DPFs work very well, and on larger machine equipment they are usually the best choice for productivity and fuel economy. But, on smaller equipment that is used for such a wide variety of different tasks, a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) is often the approach that makes the most sense.

Perkins engineers working to better understanding customer requirements.

Perkins engineers working to better understanding customer requirements.

Another technology choice was to ship the engine with dedicated filtration. This decision recognizes that in some parts of the compact equipment market there is a real problem with non-genuine filters that don’t provide the protection needed by modern fuel systems. Supplying engines equipped with filtration that is proven to work can help keep customer machines running.

Compact equipment customers are increasingly looking for machines that are intuitive to operate. This is evidenced by the strong trend to replace traditional lever-controlled hydraulics with joysticks and electronic controls. To support this trend, OEMs are asking for the right electronic engine software features to integrate with these new hydraulic systems. This approach is not about providing gadgets for machine owners; it’s borne out of genuine technical and economic reasons for such integration. For example, it can help an OEM downsize to a much smaller engine than would have previously been required, reducing both cost and size.

The first product to come out of our program is the 404F-E22TA, a 2.2-liter engine that meets Tier 4 Final emission standards. It’s a DOC-only engine with extended maintenance intervals that ships with proven filtration technology and flexible control software in a package optimized for compact equipment applications.

While engine manufactures like Perkins can look back at their efforts to meet Tier 4 Final with a sense of accomplishment, it will only be a brief celebration, as we realize our work isn’t done. With talk of Stage 5 in Europe, which will continue to reduce emissions in off-highway diesel engines, engine manufacturers will need to work with their customers (with the end-user in mind) to meet these new standards, but we and the industry are up for the challenge.

Oliver Lythgoe is a product concept marketing manager for Perkins.

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