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, dieselís long-chain hydrocarbons are more expensive to extract from a barrel of crude, and diesel engines are more costly to build, but these days, thatís 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.
Weíve 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 Cruzeís gasoline-burning version. (Source: Chevrolet)
In Europe the diesel has been a big player for a long time. Many improvements have been made and the emissions are very reasonable. There the driver has always been the much higher price of fuel. When I was there about ten years ago ir was already close to $8 per gallon. Thus the cars and engines were smaller. Lots of diesels, too. This has not abated.
The use of turbochargers on these cars is also something much more common in diesels as far as I can tell.
With the increasing CAFE standards, which are a good thing, the improvements in ICE vehicles need to be pushed hard. Cars like the XL1 show what can be done. Lighter weight and smaller, more efficient engines are key. That will be quite a culture shift here. When I was in England I had a couple of cars. One was a V6 Renault. It was a great car. I couldn't sell it when I left. No dealers wanted one (I was not buying a new car). I found no private buyer. I ended up giving it to our church. Compared to our cars in the US it was very frugal. Compared to what people were buying there, it was a hog. It even had an automatic.
Yes, naperlou, the diesel has been a big player in Europe for a long time. And for good reason, European diesels are wonderful engines. Also, there's been a real political push for diesel in Europe, using various types of fuel and tax incentives.
Yes, Rob, big things are happening with diesels. And we can expect to see more. Diesel fuel injection is very high pressure and the fuel needs to be controlled very carefully. That control can be expnsive, but I think we're going to see the prices coming down. Also, control of nitrogen oxides in diesel exhasut can be tricky and costly, but I think we'll see those costs coming down, as well.
TJ, we had a Volkswagen Jetta TDI, which had several glow plugs which heated the fuel line prior to start-up. In theory there may have been a few seconds of delay prior to starting, but i never noticed it, and this was on a car kept outside during Maine winters!
The trend in trucking is conversion from diesel to natural gas, which is cheap, plentiful, and inherently the cleanest fossil fuel. Diesel exhaust contains fine particulates, which directly threaten public health, and diesel engine, fuel, and exhaust systems must be carefully maintained to keep NOx and soot emissions from skyrocketing. Unfortuantely, the state of California gives diesel cars a free pass on the biennial smog inspection program.
The good news is that diesel engines can run on various biofuels. Overall, I have to give diesel a very conditional thumb up.
The price of Diesel in the United States is higher than gasoline these days for two reasons; 1) The Federal excise tax for on-highway diesel fuel of 24.4 cents/gallon is 6 cents per gallon higher than the gasoline tax, 2) The worldwide demand for diesel fuel is greater than in the past and the refinery capabilities have not kept pace with demand.
Diesel is a lower order distallate than gasoline which allows us to extract MORE diesel fuel from a barrel of oil than gasoline. With a "normal" maarketplace diesel would still be significantly cheaper than gas. When government intervines in the marketplace distortions occur (i.e, regulations on refineries making it not cost effective to open new ones and punative taxes on diesel.
Diesel is a superior motor fuel in nearly every respect now that there are new chemical treatment systems that can virtually elliminate soot. Natural gas is cleaner, but we have yet to see the potential issues related to explosions and fires in crashes. Natural gas does not have near the energy density that diesel has. Hopefully technology with help mitigate the down side of compressed natural gas as a motor fuel.
We all need to keep in mind our basic physics and chemistry - energy density is a key to efficient production of power - whether we are talking about motive power or electric generation. If we didn't have fosil fuels we would have to invent them - they are just that good at powering our modern society.
A half century ago, cars were still built by people, not robots. Even on some of the countryís longest assembly lines, human workers installed windows, doors, hoods, engines, windshields, and batteries, with no robotic aid.
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