By Laura Coyne, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State now has the nation’s most advanced facility for testing commercial vehicle emissions, according to David Klinikowski, director of the Center for Bus Research and Testing at the University’s Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute.
The emissions testing facility is housed in the 10,000-square-foot Vehicle Testing Laboratory at the Larson Institute’s test track. The lab provides capability for testing heavy-duty diesel and alternative-fueled buses for a variety of tailpipe emissions including particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide.
The overall goal of the facility, which began operating in December 2009, is to provide emissions data that will compare new and different models of buses and other medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles. The research will include studying alternative, cleaner-burning fuels for the future.
Fuels that can be tested include diesel, gasoline, compressed natural gas, propane, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, ethanol and hybrids. Staff at the facility also study fuel consumption and perform pre- and post-catalyst tests to evaluate the performance of catalytic converters.
The laboratory’s four test and maintenance bays offer ample space for vehicle maintenance and testing. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, provided funding for the $3.1 million lab’s construction.
“Several other facilities of this type do exist, but Penn State has the only one approved for testing by the FTA,” Klinikowski said. “This unique facility augments the institute’s considerable test track and vehicle research capabilities.”
Vehicles are tested during simulated driving cycles on a 350-horsepower, large-roll (72-inch diameter) chassis dynamometer. The computer-controlled dynamometer can simulate over-the-road operation for a variety of vehicles and driving cycles, including climbing and going down hills. The facility also includes a heavy-duty diesel and gasoline dilution tunnel and related emissions measuring equipment.
In an alliance announced earlier, the Volvo Group has chosen Penn State as its first academic preferred partner in North America to explore and resolve some of the issues in commercial transportation markets around the world. One goal includes developing technologies to reduce emissions.
The first research project under the Volvo partnership was initiated by the Larson Institute this past spring, with Klinikowski and Suresh Iyer, research associate in mechanical engineering, leading the effort. The project tests a 2010 Mack truck with conventional diesel and biodiesel. Andre Boehman, professor of fuel science, is involved in analyzing fuel and oil samples.
“There’s great potential for industry, whether it’s for buses, heavy-duty trucks or off-road equipment, with this state-of-the-art testing capability,” noted John Siggins, associate director of Penn State’s Industrial Research Office. Penn State offers an unbiased account of the bus testing and reports problems to the FTA, he said, “and companies that might fail a test have the chance to come back with a new design and get tested again.”
According to Siggins, the federal Environmental Protection Administration could start “cracking down” more on commercial vehicles. More emissions testing of major construction equipment could be coming.
The Larson Institute is a major interdisciplinary research center of Penn State, administered through the College of Engineering. The institute’s annual activities have included more than 150 projects and $8 million in external research expenditures, for contracts valued at more than $40 million.