In America the diesel engine still has the bad reputation of being loud, noisy, offering not much dynamic power, and having a very bad emission behavior. Plus based on some unsuccessful introduction attempts decades ago the diesel engine is also believed to be very unreliable and to easily break down compared to a gasoline motor. Unfortunately the countrywide diesel image in America seems to have stopped with this negative experience.
Not many people seem to realize or followed the tremendous success story of the diesel engine in Europe over the past decades. Today’s turbocharged and direct fuel injected diesel engines don’t have to fear the comparison with any high end gasoline motor in terms of power, performance, quietness and comfort. Plus year of experience in Europe seem to have proven that a well engineered diesel engine is normally at least as reliable and rugged as its gasoline peers. Often diesel engines actually run many more miles over lifetime than a comparable gasoline motor.
So it is a pity that, in the U.S., people do not yet see the benefits and values of a diesel engine which could show their strengths, especially in the very common long-distance highway commutes.
Encouraged and supported by the recently released highly efficient “clean diesel” generations, like the BLUETEC concept from Mercedes, many European manufacturers are now trying again to enter the American market with their most recent diesel fleets. The efforts and improvements on emissions due to improved filter and exhaust technologies make the diesel comparably clean and environmentally friendly to gasoline cars—meeting the more stringent regulations of states like California. But still it will likely take quite some marketing efforts, promotion campaigns, and very credible advertisements to convince the population of diesel engine efficacy.
But if the U.S. market and car buyers indeed pick up the new trend and start valuing the benefits and the performance of modern European designed diesels, then suddenly North America could indeed become the next huge market for diesel cars. This on the other hand could lead to a major push back on the penetration ratio of HEVs in the market.
At least one big obstacle that can prevent the introduction and penetration of diesel engines in less developed/emerging countries should not be a problem for the U.S.—namely the availability of high-grade clean diesel fuel.
As will be explained later, modern diesel engines draw their performance out of a sophisticated motor control strategy that is based on high pressure fuel injectors. These highly precise masterpieces of electro-mechanical engineering can be contaminated or clogged by unsuitable fuel. So the availability of quality fuel and the corresponding infrastructure of fueling stations could become a major decision criterion whether a diesel engine may or may not be penetrating a country's market.
The HEV introduction and penetration in emerging countries like China or India is probably quite fast and not too much endangered by diesel since there are still some limits to a broad countrywide availability of clean fuel. These countries need environmentally friendly transportation means but the infrastructure and the availability of higher grade fuel seems to be problematic, especially when you look outside of the metropolitan areas. So countrywide improvements in the fuel supply chain would be needed, which now puts the diesel solution on par with electric vehicles—which themselves need major improvements in the electric supply infrastructure.
Coming back to the U.S., availability of clean diesel fuel is not an obstacle. This fact could give diesel an additional advantage vs the electrical infrastructure improvements that are required if the country wants to be ready for charging a major volume of plug-in hybrid or fully-electric vehicles. Therefore diesel seems to be a very logical and reasonable solution for our highway-driving nation. The diesel engine just needs to overcome the prejudice in the U.S. market.
This is certainly quite a surprising data to me. Who knew that the old diesel engine could be comparable to hybrids in terms of fuel efficiency. A driver that is looking to save money on fuel costs in the long term will certainly take this into account. Still, the amount of emissions that a diesel engine emits is largely over a hybrid engine, so in a way, hybrids are still better.
Peter - http://www.pmwltd.co.uk/
Get your facts straight first. Current new diesels are extremely low in emissions now 2011 are availabe from many manufacturers with low sulfur diesel or biodiesel it is much easier now to meet the emissions. most manufacturers have met the federal requiremnts years ahead of schedule in order to meet the stricter Cal. requirements. I agree it is rather stupid to require older vehicles to comply with standards that they were not designed to meet. Diesel hybrids
would require much smaller diesel engines since acceleration could be from battery power and diesel power combined and then recharge when power is not needed. Box trucks could be powered from a small direct injection turbodiesel. California is a bit out of hand with their emissions laws. They seem to mandate things that are difficult to achieve but then the rest of the country does not have a legendary smog problem as they do.
i would think that you also need to include the mass of waste per mile in the calculation. A lightweight hybrid that is scrap metal after 100,000 miles or a solid diesel that is still working just fine at 300,000 miles are going to be different in the amout of total pollution generated per fucntional passenger mile.
The total energy bill, of manufacture, operation and disposal should be considered when looking at efficiency of the car as a system.
@Majestek: "More fuel burned = more emissions", sorry but this is not true. Quality of fuel and combustion type are way more important factors. And care has to be taken when speaking generally of "emissions". One thing is C02 emission, which is heavily (but not exclusively) linked to the amount of fuel burned; one other thing are pollutant emissions, which are higher in diesel engines, no matter how you measure it. A typical gasoline car has no particulate emission whatsoever, and HC/CO/NOx are quickly removed with a catalitic converter, while diesel engines require expensive exhaust treatment, subjected to maintenance and failures, and still leak some particulate. Moreover, while CO2 emissions are size-dependent, this is not the case for pollutant emissions: a recent huge SUV may well have lower pollutant emissions of an older compact.
@ Steve Ravet. You can't look blindly on the data. It may appear that diesel has higher emissions. But consider this. As others I drive the TDI Jetta. I manage to make a tank last two weeks before fill-up commuting to work. I would use twice the amount of gas which would cost me twice as much and I would burn up twice as much fuel. See where I'm going? More fuel burned = more emissions.
I see two problems with the way we "quantify" things.
1. MPG is ok but it needs to be more like MilesPerDollar/Gallon.
2. When comparing emissions MPG should be taken into consideration
@nando basile: Autonomy? You have poor information. HEV's don'T EVER need to be plugged in. You simply put gas in like any other car. With my commute, I travel about 500 miles/week in my civic hybrid. I put about 10.5 gallons on Monday's. I also occasionally drive from SF to Mesa, AZ to work on our rental. Almost 800 miles. I have to stop for a body break more than to get gas (one gas stop does the trick for my 12+ hour trek).
I have to disagree with the author on one fundamental point. The city driving advantage is due to recovering the energy during the stop, not from stopping the engine. Simply shutting off the engine at stop signs is likely to provide marginal benefit. If you calculate the energy used to accelerate, being able to recover that dwarfs other effects.
What has held diesels back, at least here in California, is not prejudice, but emissions. When diesels can meet California's strict emissions standards, then they will be sold in the state. Until then, they can't be sold here. No prejudice--just cold hard numbers. Their are a few cars that now meet this and more are coming.
What about an HEV powered by a diesel engine?--roldan
Great idea. Haven't they been doing that with trains for decades now?