It seems that with every dramatic up-tick in the price of gasoline the interest in other automotive propulsion seems to spike. The most available and globally accepted alternative to gasoline is seen by many as diesel fuel. Diesel engines are general 20-30 percent higher in fuel economy when compared to comparable gasoline powerplants. A major player in the European car market, American distribution of diesel products has been lagging behind the trends of other mobile nations. In the past emissions, fuel supply and a publicly disastrous attempt by General Motors to popularize diesel engine in the early 1980s kept interest limited to a niche population of motorists. However, with clean diesel technology and time recently helping the cause, there is an increasingly gaining interest in diesel automobiles.
According the information cited by the Diesel Technology Forum (a non-profit education and promotion body for the gasoline alternative), sales numbers for the first three months of this year indicates a renaissance is underway for the gasoline challenging diesel powertrain. Averaging a gain of 35 percent in the first quarter of 2012, diesel vehicles have been outperforming the growth of sales in the overall auto industry. Acknowledging diesel might have the potential of a larger presence in the North American auto landscape, consumers are already been enticed by the promise of new diesel cars and trucks.
Presently in the light vehicle sector, the diesel market is still dominated by trucks and large vans in North America. The Ford Super Duty 6.7 liter Power Stroke V-8, the Ram Pickup’s Cummins inline-six turbo diesel and General Motors’ Duramax 6.6 liter V-8 turbo diesel are heavy work duty engines giving only sector of the consumer vehicle marketplace a taste of the alternative fuel to gasoline. Ford Motor Company is extending the use of diesel power into the United States when the European-designed Ford Transit van rolls off the Kansas City Assembly Plant.
The diesel-powered passenger car market (seen as well under-serviced compared to European countries) has for years been represented by the TDI engines of Volkswagen and recently by a select number of Mercedes-Benz products using BlueTEC diesel engine technology. With Volkswagen, Audi and Mercedes-Benz expanding their line-up of diesel products, the German automakers will once again face competition in the passenger car field from other brands.
Announced ahead of the New York International Auto Show, Porsche is entering the US diesel vehicle market with the 2013 model year Cayenne crossover. Porsche joins a growing group of manufacturers giving diesel engines new life in North America. Last year, General Motors affirmed a commitment of bringing a diesel-powered Chevrolet Cruze to the United States in 2013 becoming the brand’s first diesel product since the 1985 Celebrity mid-sized sedan. GM’s luxury division Cadillac also has plans for a diesel version of their newly revealed ATS sedan. Future diesel products from Chrysler’s Jeep division and Mazda planned supply of the 2.2 liter SkyActiv-D engine to American customers are also highlights to an expanded variety of vehicles.
Though the technological requirements to bring diesel emissions under stringent emission regulations appeared to threaten the realm of the engine, automakers have risen to the occasion in producing more impressive diesel powerplants incorporating controls on hazardous levels of exhaust gases. Along with the improvement of better engine combustion technologies, The use of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems is the key feature found on engines deemed ‘clean diesel’. Utilizing the injection of a fluid called Diesel Exhaust Fluid or generally as Urea, the reaction of the chemical with exhaust gases causes nitrogen oxide emissions to drop by as much as 90 percent. Diesel Exhaust Fluid is also known as under the trademark AdBlue and is would be stored in a vehicle’s on-board reservoir large enough to control emissions between regular service intervals. Another cause helping diesel become a more prevalent option is the current employment of ultra-low sulfur fuel.
The Diesel Technology Forum relays a high amount of optimism to the future of clean diesel engine power in upcoming passenger cars and small trucks. With automakers facing a government-mandated plateau of 54.5-mile per gallon as a CAFÉ standard in 2025, the inclusion of diesels should be a feasible option alongside hybrid and all electric vehicles.
Information source: Diesel Technology Forum, Ford Motor Company
Photo source: Chris Nagy