By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
While everybody and their cat scrambles to develop hybrid, electric and other alternate fuel technology and products, a quiet ground swell is developing in the background to use existing technology to meet stiff new fuel efficiency standards.
Diesel powered passenger cars are the norm in many European markets (where petrol is way-more expensive) but have never really caught on in this country. Recent statistics show that diesel propulsion accounted for about one or two percent of 2010 passenger car sales, and all of the cars sold came from German carmakers. One argument says most OEMs don’t sell them because customers don’t want them, but the other side says many buyers want the efficiency but can’t buy them if they’re not offered for sale.
In the U.S. pump-grade diesel fuel is perhaps 15 to 18 percent more expensive than gasoline, but can achieve 20-25 percent better fuel mileage in otherwise-common vehicles. Are customers willing to pay a little more and get a lot more?
Many in the industry are looking at diesel as a simpler way to achieve 40-50 mpg without stunningly high development costs for all-new vehicles and engines. Additionally, some OEMs here and abroad are looking into diesel units mated to hybrid electric propulsion systems, again for their efficiency.
As well, the emissions and soot arguments against diesels have been virtually made moot in the past ten years as stiff new controls became effective. The companies have done their engineering homework; diesels in passenger cars today have no engine clatter and meet every tailpipe spec put up to them. Most everyday drivers dropped into an unfamiliar car wouldn’t know the difference if no one told them.
Chevrolet is already talking about a diesel Cruze model (possibly achieving 50+ mpg), Mitsubishi has ballyhooed a diesel Evo hybrid in a year or two, Ford has said a turbodiesel Fiesta is a possibility but “depends on market demand,” and Chrysler now offers a Jeep Wrangler with a 2.8L turbodiesel – in Europe only.
We say: keep an eye on this trend. Diesel makes a lot of sense for many applications. You may not need that spark plug wrench quite as often in coming years.
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