Why is diesel so readily available? Most gas stations have at least one pump available for diesel fuel, sometimes with a diesel option at every single pump. With diesel powered vehicles only making up one percent of new car sales in 2011, it begs the question, who uses diesel? The short answer to that question is semi trucks, industrial agricultural equipment, and some models of passenger vehicles, overwhelmingly from European manufacturers. Diesel engines have long been popular in Europe, so why aren’t they popular in the U.S.?
General Motors released an unreliable, loud diesel engine in the 1970s as a response to increased demand for diesel passenger vehicles. More than a million of these models were sold to the American public and the many failures and problems were well-publicized, eventually culminating in a class action lawsuit where the FDA said that consumers could claim 80% of the cost back from GM in the event of an engine failure. The American market for diesel hasn’t recovered since then, but demand is on the rise.
Diesel is making a comeback from its reputation of being dirty, smelly, and sooty, but it has never lost its most important traits of superior fuel efficiency and low carbon dioxide emissions. In 1999 the EPA passed a new set of stringent laws that included a 90% reduction in diesel emissions and in 2006 an ultra-low emission diesel was introduced to the U.S. that has breathed new life into the market. Also, the high sulfur content in diesel gave it the reputation of being smelly, but 98% of sulfur is now removed from fuel at the oil refinery, also removing most of the offensive odor.
BlueTec and TDI (Turbo-Charged Injection) technologies were recently developed by Daimler AG for Mercedes-Benz and by Volkswagen Group, respectively. These are both marketing terms for new diesel engine technology which both drastically reduce harmful nitric oxide emissions while maintaining or improving on regular engine performance.
Volvo is offering a brand new type of vehicle: a diesel-powered hybrid option station wagon that gets the equivalent of 127 mpg. It has not been released in the US yet and is only in it’s first year in European markets. It has market investors very interested, so hopefully it will be released in the US soon, too. It is called a “plug-in diesel hybrid wagon” with very low CO2 emissions too, its official name being the 2013 Volvo V60 Diesel-Hybrid.
If you’re in the market for a new car, consider choosing a diesel engine. Diesel fuel is widely available and attractive model are available from some fantastic brands including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, Lexus, Porsche, and Volvo.