You are on page 1of 10

# 4.

Diesel Engines
Since our design is very futuristic, I think we should start with something basic. Currently,
buses run on diesel engines. In my first question, I will be examining why diesel engines are
used on buses by focusing on the efficiency of internal combustion engines. Next, I will be
proposing the addition of a diesel particulate filter to reduce the amount of pollution emitted by
diesel engines.
4.1 Why are diesel engines more suitable for buses than other internal combustion engines?
Buses currently use diesel engines, so this question is used to assess the efficiency of this
current technology and compare it to other internal combustion engines. First there will be a brief
introduction to internal combustion engines and a comparison between diesel and gasoline
engine. Then this comparison will be elaborated to explain why diesel engines are more efficient
using gay-lussacs law.
Internal combustion engines use the combustion of fuel in an internal combustion chamber to
transform chemical energy into mechanical energy. The two main types of internal combustion
engines used in automobiles are gasoline and diesel. Figure 1 below is a diagram showing the
different phases of a four stroke cycle in a gasoline engine.

## Figure 4.1: Four stroke cycle of a cylinder in a gasoline engine [1]

In the intake phase, fuel and air is drawn down into the combustion chamber through the intake
valve [2]. Next, the piston moves back up to compress the air and gas mixture in the compression
stage [2]. Compressing the mixture concentrates the fuel so that more energy will be released
when it is ignited [3]. Once the piston reaches the top, the spark plug ignites the fuel, expanding
the fuel which knocks the piston back down [2]. Finally, in the exhaust phase, the piston moves
back up to push the exhaust fumes out through the exhaust valve [2]. Note that the crankshaft
movement is rotational to turn wheels of the vehicle. To contrast between diesel and gasoline
engines, below is a diagram of the four stroke cycle of a diesel engine.

## Figure 4.2: Four stroke cycle of a cylinder in a gasoline engine [4]

In a diesel engine, air is compressed until its temperature is high enough to ignite the fuel [5].
Fuel only gets injected in the power phase where it is ignited by the compressed air [5]. To
summarize, diesel engines and gasoline engines differ in the way the gas is ignited. A diesel
engine uses the compression of air to ignite the fuel while a gasoline engine uses a spark plug.
Now that we know the basics of internal combustion engines, we can proceed to explain why
diesel engines more efficient than gasoline engines. This can be explained using gay-lussacs
law. Gay-lussacs law states that the pressure of a gas is proportional to its temperature [6]. Since
high temperatures are required to ignite the gas, then high compression is needed as well. Higher
compression of air means more oxygen can react with the fuel which results in more powerful
explosions to drive the piston [3]. Another reason has to do with direct injection. Since fuel is
only injected when the piston is at the top, diesel ignitions are much more controlled and
powerful. The gas fuel mixture in a gasoline engine could combust before reaching the spark
plug due to high pressure [7]. This phenomenon is called engine knocking and results in
inefficient performance [7]. Diesel fuel also has a higher energy density than gasoline which

means more energy is released when it is burned. One gallon of diesel has 113% of the energy of
one gallon of gasoline [8].
Buses and other large vehicles typically use diesel engines over gasoline engines [3]. These
heavy duty vehicles use diesel because they benefit from the efficiency, power and reliability of
diesel engines. Diesel engines are not very suitable for smaller vehicles such as cars since they
are dirtier and louder than gasoline engines [3]. Diesel engines emit diesel particulate matter
which contribute to more global warming than carbon dioxide emissions [9]. However, diesel
engines are improving; they run on cleaner low sulfur diesel and the particulate matter can be
filtered out using a diesel particulate filter [3]. This issue is examined in more detail below.
4.2 How does a diesel particulate filter work?
If we are going to continue using diesel engines, there should be some improvements made.
One problem that needs to be fixed is diesel particulate matter emission. Diesel particulate matter
is a component of diesel exhaust which can cause environmental problems such as smog and
health problems such as lung damage [10]. The latter issue is especially important for buses since
there will be people waiting at the bus stops potentially breathing in the particles. A diesel
particulate filter can be used to filter out up of 80% of diesel particulate matter and burn them
away using combustion [11]. Figure 1 below shows a diagram of a diesel particulate filter
showing its various components and stages of filtration.

## Figure 4.3: Diesel particulate filter (adapted from [12])

First, the exhaust emissions enter the filter. This exhaust emission may have been treated by
a catalyst to make the gas more reactive so that the particles can be burnt off at a lower
temperature [13]. Normally, the temperature required to burn off the soot is around 600o C but
using a catalyst can reduce this temperature to around 350oC [13]. Using a catalyst is essential
since engine exhaust temperatures rarely reach 600o C [13]. Next, the exhaust emissions enter the
filter chamber which contains a wall of filter elements. These filter elements are porous to allow
gaseous emissions to flow through while trapping the particles.
The process at which the diesel emission particles are burnt off is called regeneration. There
are two types of regeneration, passive and active. Passive regeneration occurs when exhaust
temperatures are naturally high enough to combust the soot [11]. This process is controlled by
the use of a catalyst to lower the combustion temperature of soot [11]. A vehicle typically needs
to drive at speeds above 64 km/h for passive regeneration to work [11]. This may be a problem

for buses since they need to start and stop to pick up and drop off passengers. This is when active
regeneration comes into play. Active regeneration occurs when the filter is above 45% full and
passive regeneration is not possible [11]. The engine will try to force a regeneration by injecting
more fuel to raise exhaust temperatures [11]. This is controlled by the ECU (Engine Control
Unit) which monitors the fuel injection of the diesel engine [14]. Passive regeneration will be
used primarily while active regeneration is used as a backup. If the filter reaches 75% capacity
and regeneration is still not possible, then the filter will need to be taken for replacement [11].
There are two sensors used to monitor the regeneration process, a pressure sensor and a
temperature sensor. The pressure sensor is used to measure how full the filter is [14]. As the
filter gets more clogged up, the pressure within the filter increases since the air flow decreases
[15]. A temperature sensor is used to determine whether exhaust temperatures are high enough to
successfully initiate a passive regeneration. If not, then active regeneration may be required.
Diesel particulate filters work best in conjunction with ULSD (Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel)
[13]. High amounts of sulfur in diesel fuel (>15ppm) is detrimental to diesel particulate filters as
it may hinder the catalyst or react with the exhaust emission to form more diesel particulates
and marine applications, must be ULSD [16].
4.3 Summary of Findings
This concludes the analysis on the subtopic of diesel engines. There are 2 reasons why diesel
engines are more efficient than gasoline engines. In a diesel engine, the gas is compressed more
and the ignition is more controlled due to direct injection. Diesel fuel has a higher energy density
than gasoline fuel so more energy is released when it is burnt. Diesel particulate filter can be
used to filter out up to 80% of diesel particulate matter and burn it off using a process called

regeneration [11]. Two methods of regeneration were examined, passive and active. Passive
regeneration uses a catalyst to allow the particles to be burnt away at a lower temperature.
Active regeneration is a forced regeneration where more fuel is injected to raise exhaust
temperatures. The only problem with using diesel particulate filters is that it might clog due to
the start and stop tendencies of buses. This should not be a problem for a series diesel-electric
hybrid bus because the diesel engine shuts down when the vehicle is travelling at low speeds
[17]. The vehicle will switch to operate only on electrical power [17]. My colleague Ville
Tiukuvaara will examine the electrical portion of a diesel in more detail.

References
[1] Four Stroke Cycle, http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-83315/An-internal-combustionengine-goes-through-four-strokes-intake-compression. Accessed November 8, 2014.
[2] M. Keveney, Four Stroke Engine, http://www.animatedengines.com/otto.html. Accessed
October 11, 2014.
[3] Just the Basics: Diesel Engine,
http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/basics/jtb_diesel_engine.pdf. Accessed
September 21, 2014
[4] Diesel Engine, http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-167213/The-typical-sequence-ofcycle-events-involves-a-single-intake. Accessed November 10, 2014.
[5] M. Keveney, Diesel Engine, http://www.animatedengines.com/diesel.html. Accessed
September 21, 2014.
[6] Gas Laws:
Overview, http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Physical_Chemistry/Physical_Properties_of_Matter/Ph
ases_of_Matter/Gases/Gas_Laws. Accessed September 21, 2014.
[7] Knocking, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/320471/knocking. Accessed
November 8, 2014.
[8] Alternative Fuels Data Center-Fuel Properties Comparison,
http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/fuel_comparison_chart.pdf. Accessed November 8, 2014
[9] M. Z. Jacobson, Despite lower carbon dioxide emissions, diesel cars may promote more
global warming than gasoline cars, http://news.stanford.edu/pr/02/jacobsonJGR1023.html.
Accessed October 4, 2014.
[10] Questions and Answers on Using a Diesel Particulate Filter in Heavy-Duty Trucks and
Buses, http://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/documents/420f03017.pdf. Accessed September 21,
2014.
[11] Diesel Particulate Filters, http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/fuels-andenvironment/diesel-particulate-filters.html. Accessed November 8, 2014.
[12] Diesel Particulate Filters, http://www.motoringassist.com/motoring-advice/carmaintenance/engine-and-transmission/diesel-particulate-filters/. Accessed November 8, 2014.
[13] Catalyst-Based Diesel Particulate Filters and NOx Absorbers: A Summary of the
Technologies and the Effects of Fuel Sulfur. Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association.
Washington, DC, August 14, 2000.

[14] How a Fuel Injection ECU System Works, http://www.carsdirect.com/used-carbuying/how-a-fuel-injection-ecu-system-works-engine-control-unit. Accessed November 8,
2014.
[15] Delphi Differential Pressure Sensor,
http://www.delphi.com/manufacturers/auto/sensors/engine-and-transmission/diesel/differentialpressure/. Accessed November 8, 2014.
[16] Diesel, http://retail.petro-canada.ca/en/independent/2060.aspx. Accessed November 8,
2014.
[17] How Hybrid Cars and Trucks Work, http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/smarttransportation-solutions/advanced-vehicle-technologies/hybrid-cars/how-hybridswork.html#.VF3y3clnaQI. Accessed November 8, 2014.
[18] Energy density, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/energy%20density.
Accessed November 8, 2014.
[19] Catalyst, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catalyst. Accessed November 8,
2014.
[20] Spark Plug, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spark%20plug. Accessed
November 9, 2014.
[21] What are diesel emissions?, http://www.nettinc.com/information/emissions-faq/what-arediesel-emissions. Accessed November 9, 2014.

Glossary
Catalyst-A substance that causes a chemical reaction to happen more quickly [19]
Diesel Particulate Matter-A complex combination of liquid and solid material generated in the
engine cylinder by combustion. The majority of the makeup is carbon particles, or soot [21]
ECU (Engine Control Unit)-An on-board computer system which monitors the amount of fuel
and air the engine needs by using data collected by sensors [14]
Energy Density-The amount of energy per unit volume [18]
Engine Knock-The metallic sound an engine produces due to improper combustion [7]
Regeneration-The process at which soot is burnt off at high temperatures to clean the filter [11]
Series Diesel-Electric Hybrid-A type of diesel electric hybrid which uses electric motors to turn
the wheels. The diesel engine just runs a generator to supply more power [17]
Spark Plug- a part that fits into the cylinder head of an internal combustion engine which carries
two electrodes separated by an air gap. The current from the ignition system discharges across
the gap to form the spark for combustion [20]
ULSD (Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel)-Diesel fuel containing less than 15 ppm of sulfur [16]