Carmakers welcome US proposal for low-sulfur gasoline

Article by Anita Panait, on April 3, 2013

With the Obama administration proposing the use of low-sulfur gasoline, carmakers trying to comply with stricter emissions standards are getting some headway. Low-sulfur gasoline would allow these carmakers to develop lean-burn direct-injection engines with higher fuel economy than current engines. The administration’s proposal, which was released by theUS Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, is considered as a lobbying victory over the oil industry, which would have to refit their refineries to remove more sulfur from gasoline products. Carmakers like Ford Motor Co., BMW AG and Daimler AG, are developing lean-burn direct-injection gasoline engines.

However, early models marketed in Europe have produced more tailpipe emissions than allowed in the US. Carmakers hope that low-sulfur fuel will turn direct-injection gasoline engines into a viable option in the US. Edward Cohen, vice president of government and industry affairs at American Honda Motor Co., told Automotive News that knowing that low-sulfur fuel “is going to be there” enhances the flexibility of how they “beat the standard."

The EPA's proposed rules include cleaner gasoline as well as stricter restrictions on pollution from the tailpipes of light vehicles, despite opposition from the oil industry. The rules, dubbed as Tier 3, have received support from carmakers since they would align US standards with those of California, where gasoline should contain less sulfur content to help cut tailpipe emissions.

Carmakers aim to sell the same light vehicles in all 50 states across the US, employing advanced catalytic converters and other new features to comply with California rules that will take effect in 2017. Lean-burn engines operate with high air-to-fuel ratios and need sophisticated emissions controls. However, those controls are sensitive to sulfur, executives from Honda and carmaker trade groups told White House officials in March 2013.

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