A Future for Diesel Passenger Vehicles

todd-kaho-leftDiesel haters seem to be overly anxious to pile-on and shout ‘death to diesels’ these days. It’s human nature to take offense at being fooled and the diesel market certainly is paying the price of the recent emissions scandal. Serious deception took place and it’s far from forgotten, even as corrections are underway or being explored. The green car market is very competitive so it’s not surprising that some supporting alternative transportation technologies are quick to point the finger.

Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum, responded to a story entitled “The Dirty Truth About Clean Diesel” in The New York Times with the following statement, which the Times ran in its Opinion pages. “Here are the facts about diesel straight from the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board: Clean diesel technology and fuels have reduced particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 98 percent, and sulfur content by 97 percent. The American Lung Association cites clean diesel fleets as one of the two primary reasons for improved air quality in the United States.”

Personally, I’ve owned a diesel powered Ford pickup for many years and its overall capability and economy are simply hard to replace. Consider that nearly every product we touch on a daily basis – from the food on our table to the consumer products we all rely on – are harvested and/or transported by diesel powered trucks, trains, and ships. Diesel is an important part of our infrastructure and without it the cost of all goods and services would certainly increase.

I don’t mind admitting I’m still a fan of advanced diesel. I find it discouraging that just as smaller next-generation diesel passenger vehicles were gaining momentum in the North American market, this distrust has many questioning diesel’s place in the automotive landscape. As far as the driving experience goes, it is tough to beat the satisfying torque that a modern diesel delivers. When combined with advanced transmissions they are quite fun to drive.

With EPA federal rules requiring significantly better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions by 2025, next-generation diesel should be a key player in achieving these goals. A primary advantage of diesel has always been superior fuel economy. A diesel will generally deliver 30 percent higher fuel economy than a comparable gasoline model. That huge bump in mileage also brings a significant decrease in CO2 emissions.

b20-powerstroke-emblemPlus, it’s important to note that the more advanced diesels on the road, the greater the potential use of even cleaner-burning biodiesel, a renewable diesel fuel replacement that has experienced significant growth over the past decade.

The road back to diesel acceptance will likely come first in the light truck and sport utility vehicle market with more light-duty diesel pickups and luxury SUVs moving forward. Good examples are the recent introduction of the 5.0-liter V-8 Cummins turbo diesel in the new Nissan Titan and 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder turbo diesel in the mid-size Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Want something a little more exotic? Land Rover and Range Rover are now offering models with their Td6 next-generation diesel, with other automakers also introducing newer, more efficient, and cleaner diesel models as well.

We hope to see lower-priced, high mileage next-generation diesel models in the near future to fill the void in the small car market.