Diesel cars

#1

In most recent discussions of current and future fuel-efficient cars, I see very little mention of new diesel cars. But not long ago there was optimism about the potential, including reports of meeting California emissions standards. Are models like Honda Accord/CRV and Subaru still likely to become available? And, by the way, why is diesel fuel so much more expensive than gasoline in recent months ( 50% more where I live)?

#2

The Accord and the Outback will both reportedly be available with the new blue-tech diesels in about 1 year in the US. If both manufacturers have this plan, then that is a very good indication that they know that they can meet California emissions standards.

One announcement from Subaru mentioned that their new diesel model will be marketed only with a manual transmission, owing to the incredible amount of torque from their diesel engine and their reluctance to design a new automatic trans just for the diesel models. They also mentioned that the diesel Outback will come with electric power steering in order to save a few pounds, and that is because of the higher weight of the diesel engine. Based on those announcements, it sure sounds like they have pretty definite plans to market the car in the US.

European owners of both diesel Accords and diesel Outbacks report mileage in the neighborhood of 50 mpg, which is pretty darn good for vehicles of that size and weight. As to the relative economy of a diesel-powered car when balancing greater mileage against higher fuel cost, Kiplinger’s magazine is of the opinion that a diesel is more economical in the long run as long as diesel fuel is not more than 30% more expensive than gasoline. It remains to be seen whether the price of diesel fuel comes down to that level, but if it does…diesel here I come!

#3

We have this debate here occasionally.

The reason there was optimism a while back about the diesel offerings expanding was that diesel was still cheaper than gas and gas was getting expensive. The implementation of mandatory ultra-low-sulpher diesel fuel has pushed the price of diesel beynond that of gas.

Diesel operates at high compression and high temperatures, conditions under which nitrogen atoms just love to bond with oxygen atoms creating oxides of nitrogen. While industrial scrubbers exist to clean the exhaust for stationary applications, doing so for a mobile platform the size of a car is difficult. And that adds cost.

What with the higher cost of the fuel and the excellent mileage of today’s gasoline cars I personally don’t see diesels as ever becoming more than a niche market in the U.S.

#4

Right now VW is selling all they are importing, there is a waiting list. Several other companies have plans to get their cars over here, but they need to get they all certified before they can sell them. The new fuel they needed for the new clean diesel technology is only recently been available in the US. The trucking and oil industries fought it for years.

A second problem has been the relative prices of diesel and gasoline.  There are several things happening that indicate that the price of diesel as compared to gasoline will be coming down in the not too distant future.  

Did you see the profit Exxon had last year. At least it is nice to know that it is gong for stockholders new swimming pools and air planes and not on something silly like new cleaner more efficient refineries.

Keep looking and you will see more models coming out.

#5

Yes, Honda and Subaru are both developing clean diesel engines, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more models with diesel engines in the near future. We’ll see whether or not they sell in large numbers.

#6

Right now with fuel prices as they are it makes little sense to get a diesel. Diesel fuel is more expensive,and the up front cost is significant. Routine maintence and repair are also more expensive than a gas engine. The driving experience is a little different as well, it’s a little noiser, and while the low end torque is superior the operating RPM of the diesel is lower than that of a gas engine, so if you get a manual transmission you’ll be rowing through the gears alot.

#7

Let’s not forget though, that Europe uses a larger gallon than we do in the US, so fuel mileage won’t be as high. They use 4.5 liters per gallon and the US uses 3.8 liters.

#8

Right now with fuel prices as they are it makes little sense to get a diesel.

Well with the additional mileage, I am still coming out ahead.

the up front cost is significant.

It was not much difference for me in 2002.  Right now I would guess the market would make for a bigger original cost. 

[i] Routine maintence and repair are also more expensive than a gas engine [/i] 

That is a common misconception.  Maintenance is no more and may be less that that for a gasoline equivalent.  I have owned two diesels (a 1976 Rabbit and currently a 2002 NB combined total over 250,000 miles so far) and neither had any expensive maintenance cost and neither had any repair cost related to the diesel engines.  The repair cost is less if anything in my experience.

so if you get a manual transmission you’ll be rowing through the gears alot.

I have owned six cars in my life, all were manuals and I would suggest that if anything I shift less with the diesels than the gasolines.

Note: I don’t recommend a diesel for everyone. If it is not for you, then don’t go there. However don’t be afraid. The are a large % of the total number of cars sold in Europe and most people are very happy with them.

#9

According to the EPA estimates the base model gas Jetta gets about 24 MPG overall. The TDI Jetta gets about 34. The cost for a year of fuel for the diesel car is about $1001 and about $1151 for the gas. A difference of about $150 a year. The price difference the gas vs. the diesel is about $2,000 a little more if you equip the base gas model with the equipment that comes standard on the TDI. It would take about 13 years to make up the difference fuel savings with the TDI.

If you keep a car for 15-20 years then you’ll end up ahead. However the majority of people do not keep a car that long. So for the majority of the population the diesel does not make financial sense.

The average diesel car redlines at aroud 4000-4500 RPM, yet they still have the same number of gears as their gasoline powered counterparts. And while taller gearing helps and exploits the diesels’s low end torque better, when it comes to spirited driving, you will be shifting alot more. Youtube Clarkson’s attempt to break the 10 minute barrier at the N?rburgring for an example of this.

The only reason they are popular in Europe is because of fuel taxation. If they had the same taxes on fuel that we enjoy in the U.S. you would see many more gas powered cars.

#10
I have a 2002 NB and I get low 50's in the city and low 60's on the highway, maybe 5 mpg less in winter.  The math works out well for me.  

[i] The average diesel car redlines at aroud 4000-4500 RPM, yet they still have the same number of gears as their gasoline powered counterparts. And while taller gearing helps and exploits the diesels's low end torque better, when it comes to spirited driving, you will be shifting alot more. [/i] 

You are forgetting the low end torque of a diesel engine.  There is no more shifting needed.
#11

That is true for the UK, but not for “the continent”. The mileage figures that have been bandied about on the continent are the result of converting from liters to the standard US gallon.

#12

If you keep a car for 15-20 years then you’ll end up ahead. However the majority of people do not keep a car that long. So for the majority of the population the diesel does not make financial sense.

Actually that is nearly meaningless. When you go to sell it, it will still command a higher price related to the potential remaining fuel cost savings.

#13

From what I’ve heard and read I have to agree. Diesel now is following the “money” with European nations encouraging diesel usage (lower road tax v gasoline), it will only go up in price relative to gas.

In the US, diesel is a heavy haul fuel that Pickens sees as being replaced by natural gas and leaving home heating ,jet fuel (kerosene) the domain of non gasoline products. I would have to agree. I have always been a diesel fan because of my experience with it, but see it in an ever decreasing role for personal transportation. The argument that it’s too valuable to burn in cars that are driven much of the time “irrationally”, has some merit.

I feel the push will be to leap frog diesel in favor of electric and use diesel more for trucks, larger SUV’s and commercial applications until natural gas conversions come on line. The complimentary use of jet fuel is so strategically important for this “warring” nation, non gasoline products will not be as available to the masses.
Masses will have to do with gasoline and alcohol based fuels as cheapest combustibles until EV’s take over.

#14

That’s a two way street. As far as cars go, in the US the demand still isn’t as great as it is for gas powered cars. Granted it is on the upswing, but the amount of gas powered vehicles vs. sludge burners is still very much in gasoline’s favor. As long as fuel taxation stays the way it is. Diesel will never come remotely close to overtaking gas as the fuel of choice for cars.

#15

If you can’t meet California emissions, (several other states use California standards) you will have a hard time selling diesel powered models. The emissions problems have not been solved in a practical manner…

#16

Modern light-duty diesels have much higher RPM ranges. 5k red line is not uncommon, which is about the same as a stock Chevy 350.

#17

There are many good things to say about the future of diesel, and many problems. The biggest problem is government regulation. Just how clean is clean enough? And then ethanol has been a huge fools errand especially considering how biodiesel is easier, cheaper, and consumes less energy to make than ethanol.

Manufacturers have shown the diesel can be cleaned up quite a bit, but the gasoline engine has 50 years lead on emissions control. The required controls are complex and expensive.

A tough tier of emission controls kicked in nationwide at the start of 2007. The ante gets upped again real soon now. I don’t believe diesel owners will enjoy having to buy urea for Bluetec injection, but the regulations will soon be such that most all new diesels will have to use urea injection.

I have a 2008 Ford F-250 Powerstroke in my driveway (pre-Bluetec). Ford limits biodiesel content to 5% because as yet there is no standard as to the composition of biodiesel, and with all the fancy controls and 30,000 psi direct injection they can’t handle an unknown fuel. ULSD is apparently very consistent from one source to another.

My Powerstroke doesn’t sound like a classic diesel. Doesn’t smell like one either. Smells like a big propane heater.

#18

What does a urea canister cost, and can it be installed by the owner?