Where are the Diesels?

Well, the new “low sulfur” diesel fuel is now universally available making “clean diesel” technology a reality. But where are the diesel powered cars and SUV’s?? Where are the 2008 model VW TDI’s?? Where are the diesel hybrids? What’s going on backstage that keeps diesel passenger vehicles out of the U.S. market. The trucking and construction industries seem to have a strangle-hold on diesel powered vehicles…Is this about air quality or politics?

I firmly believe it’s politics. Diesel would mean better gas-mileage…thus less sales…which equals…less PROFIT. The technology is there…has been there for years. Nothing has to be invented. Diesel vehicles are selling very well in Europe and South America

Why jump on politics? Ask the average non-mechanic. Most people still think of diesels as noisy & belching soot.

My neighbor loves her VW Jetta wagon & figures on trading it in on another Jetta wagon when they are available again. I mentioned diesels to her & she ignored it.

I think it’s just ignorance of current diesel performance as well as the idea of having to find a truck stop to get diesel fuel until more gas stations add diesel tanks.

The perception that diesels are good for the environment is simply a misperception in my view, fostered by the fact that diesels don’t have to comply with the same emissions tests as gasoline engines. Diesel engines still cannot pass the emissions requirements that gas engines do, and until they can I’ll remain in favor of gas engines. Although they’ve come a long way with vastly improved fuel metering, diesels still put out high NOx emissions. I read numerous articles on this subject in Automotive News and Autmotove Age magazines (trade journals), and while I admit to not being first-hand knowledgable of diesels, ever article I’ve read summarizes with basically the same results…diesels simply cannot meet current gasoline emissions standards. At least not without adding industrial scrubbers.

The fact that diesels don’t have to meet the requirements has far more to do with the national trucker’s association and petroleum industry lobbies than it has to do with the technology of diesels.

While it’s true that diesel cars in America have been slow to catch on, the reason you haven’t seen a new VW TDI is that they [VW] were too slow in implementing hardware that met with the US’ stringent new diesel emissions laws.

I live in Maine, and Diesel cars are still illegal to sell new in the state (air pollition standards I guess), we have to go to NH or MA to buy one.

Most people I know you like diesels are the technical type, I don’t know anyone who likes them that is non-technical…so maybe it is more supply & demand that is driving it.

I’ve heard that Jeep is going to offer a diesel engine. That would be sweet if they put a diesel in the Wrangler Rubicon:)

Just wait a little while; the new and cleaner disels are on their way. Mercedes has just introduced their latest Blue Tec version in North America, and Consumer Reports rates its performance well. Volkswagen can now bring the European versions here as well. Chrysler used to offer an older model Mercedes diesel in their Jeeps, because the US fuel had not reached the quality levels yet. That is no longer the case, so expect the newer type soon, Even BMW is introducing a diesel in the 500 series. All the new diesels require “particulate traps” on their exhaust systems, which is another maintenance item. Since almost half the new car sales in Western Europe (where gas is $7/gal.) are diesels, I believe it to be a cheaper and better solution to improving gas mileage than going hybrid. The latest test coparing the Lexus hybrid with the Mercedes diesel is a real eye opener, with the E type Mercedes averaging 29 mpg and the Lexus GS 450h getting only 23 mpg. Price-wise, the Lexus sells for $60,172 while the Mercedes goes for $55,415. In other words, if Toyota put a small turbodiesel in the Corolla, it would sell for a lot less than a Prius, and likely be more reliable. Honda will bring out a diesel within the next 2 years, and Nissan and Toyota have offered diesels overseas for many years. I believe the American public will go for diesels if gas prices reach $4.00/gallon and stay there.

Don’t expect them until at least the 2008 models and I believe some of them will be late coming out (like maybe summer of 2008. The fuel is now available and the car companies (Mercedes BMW and VW that I know of) have models undergoing testing (EPA), but it takes a while. Once approved then production schedules need to be setup.

I’m not sure about VW, but benz currently offers diesels on about four platforms, I don’t know if they are planning any more in the near future.

I live in Maine, and Diesel cars are still illegal to sell new in the state

As I understand it, They are legal, if they meet the California standards. Further this is the first year they did not sell them. I believe it is likely they did not want to pay all the cost of certifying them for one year when in 2008 they will have a new 50 state standard and you can expect to see them in Maine. While I may be wrong, I believe it was only VW that has been blocked.

I might be wrong, but I think today, right now, NO diesels are being offered to the public except in Heavy Duty Trucks.

What about THIS rumor: If gasoline powered vehicles are substantially reduced by being replaced with diesels, the oil refineries would have serious trouble supplying the increasing demand for diesel type fuels. Our refineries are optimized to produce GASOLINE and SOMEBODY has to buy that gasoline…Something about keeping the market balanced…

Right now, in Denver, diesel fuel is selling for .20 cents more than gasoline, so there might be something to this refining story…

“I might be wrong, but I think today, right now, NO diesels are being offered to the public except in Heavy Duty Trucks.”

You can buy a benz diesel at you local dealer in CO:


There are about 7 states with emissions limits that currently exclude the sale of new diesel cars, although you can register used diesels in those states. I believe they are CA, NY, and most of new england.

EDIT: AFAIK, there are also a bunch of domestic diesel pick-up available.

You may have missed it in the business news but GM has just bought 50% of VM Motori a major diesel manufacturer . As far as not being able to buy diesel cars blame states like California with their ridiculous environmental laws .

That’s interesting, VM Motori was also tied into detroit diesel and DC (prior to benz dumping chrysler). They were the engine supplier for the diesel jeeps in the U.S. I believe the jeeps will eventually get benz diesel engine under some new agreement. I wonder what GM is planing on doing with them?

I’m involved in diesel emissions, and here’s what’s happening.

Those auto manufacturers that have a long history with diesel engines are ahead of those who don’t have that history when it comes to diesel emissions. So they’re a little hesitant in coming out with vehicles with new diesel engines along with the emission requirements.

The two main polutants that must be addressed when it comes to diesel emissions are particulate matter or soot, and oxides of nitrogen or NOx.

The particulate matter is collected in what are called DPF’s, or Diesel Particulate Filters. As the filter loads with soot, the exhaust restriction increases. So, you have to come up with a way to clean out the soot. There are two ways to do this. One is called Passive Regeneration. Passive regeneration occurs when the exhaust gas temperature reaches a point high enough to where the soot inside the filter ignites. When this happens, the soot keeps burning until it turns to an ash. Once it turns to an ash, the restriction goes down because ash is less restrictive and some of the ash passes through the filter media.

The other method is called Active Regereation. This involves having a diesel fuel injector in the exhaust stream pointing at what is called a Diesel Oxydizing Catalyst, or DOC. How this works is, as filter loads with soot, and the program reaches the maximum backpressure, the injector turns on spraying fuel into the DOC. The DOC converts this fuel into heat. After the DOC is the DPF. The heat from the DOC burns the soot out of the DPF. This application is used in the heavy duty diesel engine industry.

Now all diesel engines must meet the NoX emission requirements. And to do this it requires a Secondary Catalyst Reduction, or SCR. This involves the use of a specially treated catalytic converter where urea is injected into it. After the regeneration step occurs in the DPF, a lot of heat is generated. And high heat=NoX. When urea is injected into an SCR system, it converts to amonia. This amonia then reacts with the SCR catalyst and converts NoX to No as the hot gasses pass through it. The BLUE-TEC system is just an SCR with urea sprayed into it.

So the technology is there. The problem is, the American people still think diesel engines are noisy, dirty, and unreliable. Thanks to GM and their attempt to turn gas engines into diesels. So, that’s what the automakers are waiting for. Are the American people going to embrace diesel engines, and the cost for this new emission technology? Or do they spend millions doing so, and fall flat on their faces?


That’s a very good explanation of the emissions issues. I think that only those manufacturers with a worldwide diesel market are going to invest in the required technologies. As I understand it, the benz system (blue-tec) and the honda system are really the only two currently available to meet these standards. I believe VW is licensing blue-tec, but I’m not sure. I suspect everyone else who want to get into the market will just license one of the two systems. The other obstacle is cost, just the diesel drive-train costs a premium, and the emission systems may double that premium, so we may be looking at several $1000 cost difference between the gasoline and diesel version of the same car. The economics may work in the $50-60K price range (E320 diesel), but it may not work for a $20 car.

As a former half million mile diesel owner, I fail to see the great advantage at this point in time. Diesel is way higher in price compared to regular and for sure E-85, and may get better mileage, but not enough to make a substantial difference in cost. Throw in higher initial cost, higher maintenance, winter issues yet, and a few other things, and it just doesn’t seem like its a great value. Back in the 80’s if you needed a big car with acceptable mileage in the mid 20’s, you had to get diesel. Its just not the case anymore.

I also probably wouldn’t by a new diesel. For me, the simplicity of the old ones is the key to their longevity (my 82 is going strong with 405K miles). The new ones offer much better performance and economy, but they have become as complex as gassers. Besides, it’s a little silly to pay $60K for a car and then worry about the cost of fuel. Besides, I can replace the engine in mine (long block from the dealer) for about 10% the cost of a new one.

Regarding the price of fuel, it seems to stay between the cost of regular and premium gasoline, so it’s just about a wash.

We still have our third diesel car, an older VW diesel. When it is done, that’s it; I expect that we will then see no more diesels in our driveway. I agree with most of what Bing said except I would add that the economic advantage of running a proven diesel over an ordinary compact car was already lost when VW went to their TDI. 25 dollar fuel filters every 20,000 miles plus expensive special synthetic (not ordinary synthetic) engine oil plus the buying price premium plus 120,000 mile turbo life plus the rubber cam timing belt makes an ordinary compact car a better deal than a VV Golf or Jetta diesel. The only apparent remaining advantage of running a diesel car is that it is unique and VWs have their German style steering.

Unfortunately, I agree. The TDIs are just as disposable as any other “modern” car (I would never buy anything with a timing belt). Other than the fuel mileage, you might as well just buy a VW gasser or some ricer. If it’s in good shape, I would just keep rebuilding the old VW diesel and drive it forever.