Clean Diesel Technology Yields Significant Benefits in
America searches for a solution to harmful exhaust emissions and its
dependence on foreign oil, diesel proponents claim the answer lies in
diesel-powered passenger vehicles. The combination of cleaner diesel fuel
and significant advances in diesel engine technology over the past two
decades has resulted in dramatic improvements in diesel emissions and fuel
efficiency, as well as engine reliability and durability.
the greatest benefit offered by diesel engines is the fuel efficiency.
Because the diesel combustion process is more efficient than gasoline, and
because diesel fuel contains more energy per unit volume, diesel engines
usually deliver 45 to 60 percent better fuel economy than gasoline
engines. For example, the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDI station
wagon, equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, achieves 50 miles
per gallon on the highway and 42 mpg in the city. The gasoline version of
the same vehicle achieves 31 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in the city.
According to the Department of Energy, three of the top five highest fuel
economy rated passenger cars were diesel-powered in model year 2001.
fuel economy benefits and reliability offered by diesel-powered passenger
cars has earned them a sizable group of devoted owners. “Once you’ve
had one, to go back to a car that gets 15 to 20 miles per gallon is
depressing,” says Sam Johnson, a mass communications professor at St.
Cloud State University in Minnesota and owner of a 2002 Jetta TDI wagon.
recent study conducted by research firm M.Cubed of Davis, Calif., reports
that gradually increasing the use of clean diesel technology in passenger
vehicles to the levels currently seen in Europe could save the state of
California 110 million gallons of gasoline per year by 2010 and up to 840
million gallons per year by 2030.
diesel technology is a proven, efficient and readily available solution
for California’s interest in reducing petroleum consumption,” said
Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF),
a sponsor of the study. “Other petroleum reduction strategies such as
fuel cell-powered cars are not commercially available and may take 15, 20
or even 30 years of research and development to reach the market. And even
then these other technologies would not be as cost effective as diesel or
even use less net energy to produce.”
over the effects of carbon-based greenhouse gases on the environment has
prompted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to mandate stricter and
stricter emissions standards over the years. Because diesel engines offer
greater overall efficiency and improved fuel economy when compared to
gasoline engines, they emit 30-35 percent fewer carbon emissions. In
addition, largely due to cleaner, lower sulfur diesel fuel and improved
engine technology, total oxides of nitrogen (NOx) from on-road diesels have dropped 25 percent in the past 10-15
years, while sulfur dioxide (SO2) has dropped 76 percent, coarse particulate
matter (PM-10) has dropped 37 percent and fine particulate matter (PM-2.5)
has dropped 35 percent in the last 10-15 years.
Europe and Japan have recognized and embraced the benefits of
diesel-powered passenger vehicles, the United States has the lowest
percentage of diesel-powered passenger vehicles of any industrialized
country. Diesel-powered passenger vehicles account for only about
one-third of one percent of all U.S. car sales, or about 50,000 of the 16
million vehicles sold last year, while more than one-third of all new
vehicle sales in Europe are diesels.
proponents realize there is great potential for diesel-powered passenger
vehicles to thrive in the United States. Diesel-powered light trucks and
SUVs are already increasing their presence in the U.S. market, with
435,000 diesel-powered light trucks manufactured for the North American
market in 1999.
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