Frankfurt auto show unveils new diesel options

By | October 14, 2009
The 63rd International Auto Show in Frankfurt, Germany, began Sept. 15 with several interesting diesel debuts from BMW AG and several other European manufacturers, said Dirk Arnold, BMW product communications manager.

BMW only offers two diesel models in the U.S.-the X5 xdrive35d and 335d models-but the automaker has a wide portfolio of compression-ignition motors available in Europe. Earlier this year, BMW announced the introduction of a 3.0 liter twin turbo diesel engine and is introducing the 740d in Frankfurt for sale in 2010, along with the 320d EfficientDynamics edition, which emits only 109 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. "We have several new diesel offerings in Europe, where they are selling quite well," Arnold said.

The BMW Alpina line showed the D3 Bi-Turbo in Frankfurt, featuring a 2.0 liter, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine with an aluminum block, even though less than 2,000 of these cars are made annually.

Receiving a lot of attention was the Vision EfficientDynamics concept car. This futuristic vehicle is a diesel hybrid plug-in, but costs a fortune to make. The powertrain provides acceleration to 100 kilometers per hour in 4.8 seconds, and its average fuel consumption is near 62.6 miles per gallon, BMW reported. "This is a very far look into the future," Arnold said. "Maybe this would be possible for production with some completely new diesel engine or other new technology, but for the next five years the advantage of combining diesel and electric systems is relatively low compared to the tremendous cost."

One of BMW's brands, the popular sports hatchback Mini, entered the diesel market with a new model being presented in Frankfurt. "The broad range of new models is being rounded off by the world debut of the Mini One D, a new entry-level diesel consistently upgrading the Mini portfolio of particularly economical and efficient models," BMW said.

"Engineers have been working continuously with the technical aspects of biodiesel, and blends of 7 percent to 12 percent work in our motors with no problem at all," Arnold told Biodiesel Magazine on the opening morning of the show.

The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) hosts the Frankfurt Auto Show and said it expected nearly 750,000 visitors at the event. This year, VDA focused on recovery from the financial crisis and environmental sustainability, including the production of clean diesels. "These are just some of the new models that will already be on our roads in the coming months," said Matthias Wissmann, VDA president. "And most of them feature surprisingly low fuel consumption and amazingly low CO2 emissions."

Stateside, Ford Motor Co. approved B20 in its 2011 Super Duty diesel line, a move that received praise from biodiesel industry leaders and the National Biodiesel Board. Ford responded by making its 2011 line of F-Series Super Duty diesel pick up trucks compatible with biodiesel blends up to B20.

"We have a fleet advisory board and we go through a very specific process of communication with our customers, and we are always asking them what they are looking for," said Anne Marie Gattari, spokeswoman for Ford. "Biodiesel compatibility kept coming up over and over again and it speaks to fuel economy, it speaks to an environmental solution and it allows an opportunity for us to advance our technology."

For vehicles currently on the road, Ford has approved biodiesel blends up to B5, so increasing the methyl ester compatibility of its models, regarding emissions compliance, engine components and other specs, required some considerable modifications. "The new 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 turbocharged diesel will employ an aftertreatment system to help comply with 2010 federal regulations to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels in diesel emissions by more than 80 percent compared with the previous standard," the company stated.

The Ford aftertreatment system for its new clean diesel technology involves a three-stage process. First, the exhaust stream enters a diesel oxidation catalyst, which converts hydrocarbons into water and carbon dioxide. NOx is then scrubbed from the emissions after receiving an injection of diesel exhaust fluid, and passes through a selective catalytic reduction chamber, which turns the gas into water and inert nitrogen. Lastly, a diesel particulate filter traps any remaining soot, which is periodically burned off in a process known as regeneration. "The regeneration process sees temperatures in excess of 600 degrees Celsius to burn away soot," according to Ford.

"Our diesel customers account for the majority of our Super Duty sales," Gattari said. "And fleet customers who often buy hundreds of models at a time represent the largest percentage of our diesel sales-they wanted biodiesel." Approximately 65 percent of the company's Super Duty sales are diesels.

-Nicholas Zeman
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