Rochester company revolutionizing diesel engine by increasing mileage, decreasing emissions

Environment

FARMINGTON, N.Y. (WROC) — The single highest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States is transportation. SPI Systems Ltd. is working to change that one truck at a time with a new device that is starting to make waves on the diesel truck market. 

Jack Schickler is a Rochester native who grew up on a produce farm outside of Rochester. He went to Mcquaid and then worked at General Motors for over 30 years, earning degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering along the way. 

“I became an engine whisperer pretty early in my career,” said Schickler. His focus was always on emissions and reducing greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles. In 1992 he decided to retire early and start SPI.  

The most recent invention has been the SPI Exhaust Reaction System, or SPIER system, that helps increase miles per gallon in diesel trucks. “We are using gases that are already in the engine, and bringing them back into the engine rather than letting them escape to the exhaust.” The device saves fuel and cuts emissions while giving the truck a bit more power. 

Millions of gallons of diesel fuel is burned every day on American roadways. The internal combustion engine has barely changed, only allowing around six miles per gallon on a semi-tractor trailer pulling the typical 80,000 lb load.

This device, made in Rochester, could change that. 

“The baseline on the trucks we’ve been testing here at Leonard’s Express are around 7, 7.5, we’re now getting 8.5 and getting up into 9,” said Schickler. 

This makes a huge difference when traveling far distances and can help companies save thousands. Schickler says trucks can average a savings of $10,000 per year when driving over 100,000 miles within that year. 

Leonard’s Express is a trucking company out of Farmington with 400 long-haul trucks. Many of those are equipped with the SPIER device. The chief executive officer Ken Johnson was skeptical at first, but figured he would try it anyway.  

“I looked at it, and I said, well, all right we’ll see how it works and I was surprised. In my mind it’s more in the chemistry,” said Johnson. The trucks also get more power as the diesel fuel is used more efficiently. Drivers on the road have noticed that, and it can be a major selling point according to Vanessa Felice, a truck driver since 2002 that helps sell the product across the country. 

“It seems to pull a little better on the hill,” said Felice. “You can dance with the truck a little bit nicer. It’s more power through the gears.” 

The system was independently approved by the team at RIT’s Institute of Sustainability. They found an improvement of 18 percent in fuel efficiency.  

The entire project will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions across diesel fleets. When asked about how this might impact the electric vehicle and electric truck industry, Schickler said this is something that can be done immediately, as install only takes one day. “It’s going to take a long time to get EVs on these trucks. We don’t know if we can get enough battery power, and motor power to be able to accomplish that yet, much less provide the electricity to keep them charged up.” 

There are already so many diesel trucks on the road that will continue to run no matter how the battery industry grows. That may be why getting this product on trucks as fast as possible will be just as important as continuing to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. “Even if they do, diesels are going to be around a long time, because you need so much power to pull these loads, that only at the moment a diesel has the horsepower to do it, and we’re enhancing that horsepower,” said Schickler. 

The company plans on expanding their production and will hire 60 new positions by 2022. 

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