Just as new electric semi-trucks show promise, diesel industry leaders are lauding the fuel that seems to have it all: near zero emissions and high performance.

Innovations in clean diesel technologies have been the key contributor to air quality gains in the United States over the last four decades, according to the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF). The diesel fuel advocacy group credits advances in engine efficiency coupled with cleaner diesel fuel and advanced emissions control systems for propelling diesel technology to near-zero emissions.

“The emission reductions achieved by the one-third of the U.S. commercial vehicle fleet that have upgraded to the newest generation (2011 and newer) clean diesel technologies equates to reducing NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions from all cars on the road for six years, reducing PM (particulate matter) emissions from all cars on the road for 30 years, and a carbon sequestration in a forest the size of Ohio,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of DTF.

The latest generation clean diesel technology was developed and deployed to meet near-zero emission standards for commercial vehicles under the 2010 Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA). The newest models of clean diesel technologies reduce emissions by 98 percent relative to trucks manufactured in 1988. According to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency, replacing one pre-1991 truck with a new clean diesel truck can reduce NOx emissions by 1,282 pounds and is equivalent to taking more than 400 cars off the road.

“The U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation estimate that clean diesel technology is the most cost-effective investment strategy when it comes to reducing NOx emissions,” said Schaeffer. “Encouraging more vehicle and equipment owners to replace or repower with clean diesel technology will do the most to deliver further benefits to communities across the country at least cost.”

In 2016, American manufacturing facilities in 14 states produced more than 740,000 heavy-duty diesel engines that can be found in everything from commercial trucks and buses, construction machines and agricultural equipment, to locomotives, marine workboats and industrial engines. The manufacture of these vehicles and equipment helps sustain more than 1.3 million U.S. jobs and generates more than $455 billion in U.S. economic activity, the industry says.