Cleaning up an engine’s act
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Envirofit is operating in the Philippines now, which has about 1.3 million dirty two-stroke taxis, often consisting of a sidecar bolted onto a motorcycle, Bills says. The nonprofit has also run a demonstration project in India and plans to extend into Sri Lanka next.Skip to next paragraph
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It also is selling a second product, a line of simple wood-burning cooking stoves. Some 3 billion people use wood, animal dung, crop waste, or other biomass to cook food, Bills says, creating high levels of indoor pollution and subsequent health problems. The stoves, costing from $10 to $70, burn fuel more completely, cutting toxic emissions up to 80 percent while using only half as much fuel.
Meanwhile, direct-injection technology may change the image of two-stroke engines from that of a big-time polluter to a modern power source, says Dr. Willson, founder of the Engines & Energy Conversion Laboratory at Colorado State that developed the two-stroke conversion kit. “These simple two-strokes are some of the dirtiest and least efficient we have. But they also can be the cleanest and most efficient engines we have,” once they have been converted, he says.
The trick with direct injection, he says, is that only air, not fuel, is brought in through the intake port. Because the intake and exhaust ports open at the same time in two-stroke engines, up to 35 percent of the fuel can escape through the exhaust. “We [add] fuel directly to the cylinder late in the cycle when it isn’t lost through the exhaust ports,” he says.
In fact, two-stroke engines aren’t necessarily going to become extinct even in the United States, says Kris Kiser, a spokesman for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute in Alexandria, Va. Some companies intend to develop clean two-stroke engines that will meet the new standards, he says.
The industry has been supportive of the changes and has worked closely with the EPA on setting them, Mr. Kiser says.
“Once [the regulations are] fully implemented by 2015, EPA will have reduced our emissions by 95 percent” compared with 1997, he says – “a very dramatic emissions reduction.”
Though prices for chipper-shredders, chain saws, leaf blowers, and the like may rise, manufacturers may absorb the cost to try to preserve market share. “Our industry is very price-sensitive,” Kiser says. But even if prices do rise, he says, owners will save money on fuel in the long run.
The EPA predicts that some small engines may need to employ catalytic converters, similar to those found on cars.
“EPA’s new small engine standards will allow Americans to cut air pollution as well as grass,” said EPA administrator Stephen Johnson in announcing the standards.
The regulations, which cover small watercraft as well, are expected to trim annual emissions of hydrocarbons by 600,000 tons, nitrogen oxide by 130,000 tons, particulate matter by 5,500 tons, and carbon monoxide by 1.5 million tons – as well as save about 190 million gallons of gasoline each year, the EPA estimates.
95% Amount new EPA regulations will cut pollution from small gasoline engines by 2015 (from 1997 levels)
5.4 million Projected number of walk-behind mowers to be sold in America in 2009
2.5 million Projected chain-saw sales in 2009
51.5 million Tons of carbon monoxide expected to be cut yearly by new EPA regulations
190 million Gallons of gasoline saved each year by the new regulations
Source: Outdoor Power Equipment Institute
[Editor's note: In the original version, the photo of the man on the scooter was incorrectly credited.]