Like cars and trucks before them, the gasoline and diesel-powered engines on everything from leaf blowers to speedboats will soon have to pass U.S. federal requirements for emissions control to improve air quality.
But the early rounds of those standards are only the beginning, said Ken Carter, an engineer with Deere & Co. who is overseeing the equipment maker's transition to the new requirements.
Future regulations already are under consideration that would look at the entire fuel system and potentially take off-road emissions-standard requirements to the same level as today's strict partial-zero emissions levels in California, Carter said during the Society of Plastics Engineers 2010 Annual Blow Molding Conference, held Oct. 5 in Atlanta.
Under Environmental Protection Agency clean-air standards, off-road motors have been gradually increasing their requirements. The current rules will require companies like Moline, Ill.-based Deere to reduce particulate discharge by 90 percent compared to 1996 levels, and nitrous-oxide levels by 50 percent, with a 2013 deadline.
Deere is busy looking at how its entire fleet of products, from backyard mowers to combines and other heavy agriculture equipment with 3,000-gallon tanks will meet those standards as well as higher requirements the company expects to be phased in 20 years from now.
We have 29 fuel systems to convert by 2013, so as you can tell, I'm busy these days, Carter said.
Tank makers and their customers have been investing in a variety of approaches to meet the first round of emissions controls.
Nylon suppliers have introduced a variety of new resins that provide additional emissions control in monolayer tanks, which are an option for some companies.
Other firms are opting for multilayer tanks, similar to the ones used in the auto industry. Off-road engine makers cannot typically just buy from existing auto suppliers because the tanks used in their products are smaller and more exposed than a car's tank.
AgriIndustrial Plastics Co. of Fairfield, Iowa, has supplied single-layer blow molded tanks to the agriculture industry for more than 25 years, but began investing in coextrusion multilayer production in 2005, said sales engineer Brian Burroughs. The company just installed its third multilayer line from Kautex Machines Inc. of North Branch, N.J., for its new business.
Deere currently uses both blow molded tanks for its smaller products and rotational molded tanks for its largest pieces of equipment. Because its equipment is used in a wide range of climates, it requires higher performance standard than most monolayer emissions solutions can meet.
John Deere designs our equipment for 10 years, Carter said. I want a tank that's going to last, and what is status quo today is going to be obsolescence tomorrow.
The company also expects higher standards will push for complete fuel-system regulations, not just tank solutions, he said. Deere hopes to partner with firms that are willing to design and deliver complete systems including valves, hoses and other components, and invest in the emissions testing the firm expects will only increase.