With automakers under pressure to boost fuel efficiency, diesel engines are beginning to look like a good bet.
Diesel fuel offers approximately 10 percent more energy per volume than conventional gasoline. It also provides about 25 percent better fuel efficiency. Yes, diesel’s long-chain hydrocarbons are more expensive to extract from a barrel of crude, and diesel engines are more costly to build, but these days, that’s mattering less and less.
As a result, automakers are more frequently looking to diesel engines. Two weeks ago, Chevrolet officially rolled out its compact Cruze Diesel. And earlier this year, Volkswagen showed off a diesel hybrid powertrain.
We’ve collected photos of recent entries in the diesel arena. From Audi and BMW to Chrysler and General Motors, we offer some of the best of past months.
Click on the photo below to start the slideshow.
A few weeks ago, Chevrolet rolled out the Cruze Diesel, said to be the first American-made diesel compact since the 1986 Chevette. The Cruze will be big on torque, offering 258 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm, compared to 150 lb-ft for the Cruze’s gasoline-burning version. (Source: Chevrolet)
It is true that gelling may occur at lower temperatures, but a few ounces of diesel fuel conditioner (Howe's Lubricator or similar) should mostly eliminate gelling. I know it gets bitterly cold in parts of Europe and unless we are talking about huge transport vehicles, it shouldn't pose too much of a problem. I do remember a long-haul trucker keeping a shallow barbecue pan, charcoal briquettes and charcoal lighter in his truck during runs to the North, just in case hard starting became an issue. Just start as you're going to barbecue, wait for nice hot coals to form, and then slide under the engine to warm up the oil, battery and fuel in the lines. The closed hood holds the heat for maximum effect! Otherwise, parking a passenger car in a garage, employs some kind of dark magic. One diesel vehicle at -30 outdoors and one -30 in a garage; the one in the garage will start much more easily.
I just drove through Belgium, Holland and Germany in a Ford Focus diesel, six speed with start-stop. I always insist on a diesel when I go to Europe. Unfortunately I didn't calculate my "gas mileage", but the driving was great. We could hear engine noise with the windows open from reflecting surfaces, but it was quiet inside otherwise and no "diesel smell". Didn't have too much high end power but kept up on the autobahns. The low speed torque was amazing.
The American anti-diesel mindset is ridiculous. I'm sure there are many to blame, starting with the politicians and oil companies.
"Finally, I would challenge the assertion by the author that "diesel's long-chain hydrocarbons are more expensive to extract from a barrel of crude"."
YES!! I sent a good deal of time studying fractional distillation, and I shake my head in wonder every time this argument is trotted out. I guess, like everything else, they've got the distillation towers turned upside down...
"....the state of California gives diesel cars a free pass on the biennial smog inspection program." This is not true. Californians are penalized for owning and driving Diesel vehicles. Not only do they pay the highest prices for fuel than anywhere else in the country, they now have to pay about $75 annually for a 5 minute "smog check". All they do is visually verify that nothing has changed from the factory defaults. There is no emissions test. They don't measure anything. They are looking for modified intake and/or exhaust systems.
Oh, and another thing, fine particulates in Diesel exhaust (mostly carbon) are much heavier than air, quickly settling out. I hardly call this "directly threaten public health". A much bigger risk to your health would be simply driving a car.
Finally, I would challenge the assertion by the author that "diesel's long-chain hydrocarbons are more expensive to extract from a barrel of crude". Oil comes out of the ground as long chained hydrocarbon molecules. Heavy fuels, such as Diesel, are some of the easier to get and least refined products (read cheaper) from crude oil. Gasoline, on the other hand, is farther up the distillation column so there is less of it in a barrel of crude. One of the added (and more expensive) processes is sending longer hydrocarbon chains into a cracker so they can break them into smaller hydrocarbon chains (like gasoline). Gallon for gallon, refining and storage costs for Diesel fuel should be considerable less than gasoline.
I know in the midwest itgets cold enough that quite often diesel engines are left running outside. If you turn them off, they will gel up and you're stuck. This may be something that needs to be worked on to make this all work. I know they have engine/tank heaters that can be used to help. But then you are using electricity to keep the vehicle operational.
Being in the midwest I can tell you there are lots of biodiesel plants which produce diesel fuel from soybeans. I don't know the details of their profitablity, but I can tell you they must be doing something right because they are still open. Of course, it could be due to government subsidies.
Really informative post Charles. My only experience with a diesel was not a very good one but, that was about 25 years ago AND, it was a used car. It's very obvious from your slides; the technology has certainly come a long way. My diesel was a smoking machine and tough to start on cold mornings. I'm sure the more recent engines perform in a competitive fashion compared with "standard" fuel. I will have to say I'm a fan of natural gas as a viable alternative (or complement) to gasoline. I think it might be the "fuel of the future". Again, great post.
No doubt these days diesel engine is becomming very popular but the question whether to buy a dieles engine car or petrol engine car is really very complex. According to me it varies with person to person usage .If ones usage in terms of milage is not that high then investing on diesel engine car is no worth it but if somes milage is too much than one should go for diesel engine car .
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