Should we all drive diesels?

bmw-335d

I think so. Modern turbodiesels are 40% more efficient than an equivalent gasoline powered automobiles and they kick serious butt.  This simple change would go a long way toward our goal of getting rid of imported oil.  And I’m speaking from personal experience.  I have been driving my 1999 Volkswagen TDI for 10 years.  Currently, I have over 150,000 miles on it and I routinely get over 55 MPG when I drive a combination of 25% city and 75% highway.  I have had no major problems with the car and I’ve only had to do routine maintenance and replace the tires.

 

Diesel engines are available in two stroke or four stroke versions and can be used in anything from a lawn mower to a cruise ship. One of their original uses was as a more efficient replacement for steam engines. Since the early 1900s they have been used in submarines and ships. They are now widely used in locomotives, large trucks and electric generating plants. They have been used in automobiles since the 1930s. Currently in the USA (since the 1970s), diesel engines are mostly used in larger on-road and off-road vehicles. As of 2007, over half of all new car sales in Europe are diesel.

 

 DB2008AU00195

The Future of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

And what about the new Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles?  It looks to me like most of them for sale in the United States are going to be gasoline powered.  The Toyota Prius is currently rated at 45 highway and 48 city (see: http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/new_cars/4284188.html?series=19). This is why I would never consider the Toyota Prius.  What is even more disturbing is that the new Plug-in version of the Toyota Prius is also going to be gas powered. Although the fact that Volkswagen’s new concept is a diesel PHEV is quite encouraging.  See: http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2008/03/geneva-volkswagens-69-mpg-golf-diesel.html

 Available NOW

This new breed of clean diesels is clean, quiet, more efficient, more reliable, and has better performance than anything that runs on gas.  Since all our jets, trains, trucks, ships, buses, and many electric generators essentially run on diesel, why do we have gasoline engines at all? And I’m not even counting all the military equipment that runs on diesel.  We even heat many houses with a fuel that is so close to diesel fuel that they have to dye it red so truckers and diesel car drivers don’t cheat to avoid paying road taxes.

 Prices?

The only other issue is price.  It costs more to order a diesel engine than it does to order a gas engine and diesel fuel has been more expensive for some reason after 2004. I paid about $650 more for the diesel version of my 1999 VW New Beetle simply because there are fewer diesels made in the United States.  Obviously this would not be a problem if all automobiles were powered by diesel engines.  That $650 was returned to me in less than a few years because diesel cost less per gallon (at one time over $1.00 per gallon less) and due to the great fuel economy.  Since diesel now costs more than gasoline your return on investment would take longer to recover. 

The price of diesel has increased because than number of refineries have been reduced and the remaining refineries have been optimized for gasoline production (even though diesel is generally simpler to refine from petroleum than gasoline).  So think about it; if there were no gasoline used in the United States, all refineries would be optimized for diesel and diesel would be cheap.

 Here’s a partial list of the advantages that diesel engines have over other internal combustion engines.

·         They burn less fuel than a gasoline engine performing the same work, due to the engine’s high efficiency and diesel fuel’s higher energy density than gasoline.

·         They have no high-tension electrical ignition system to attend to, resulting in high reliability and easy adaptation to damp environments.

·         They can deliver much more of their rated power on a continuous basis than a gasoline engine.

·         The life of a diesel engine is generally about twice as long as that of a gasoline engine due to the increased strength of parts used, also diesel fuel has better lubrication properties than gasoline.

·         Diesel fuel is considered safer than gasoline in many applications. Although diesel fuel will burn in open air using a wick, it will not explode and does not release a large amount of flammable vapor.

·         For any given partial load, the fuel efficiency (Kilograms burned per KWh produced) of a diesel engine remains nearly constant, as opposed to gasoline and turbine engines which vary depending on throttle position.

 

How about the fun factor?

Take a look at the new 2009 BMW 335D:

http://www.zinio.com/pages/RoadTrack/Jan-09/322529683/pg-34

 

Popular mechanics likes it too. Take a look at the incredible things they say in their review of the 2009 BMW 335D

 (http://www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/automotive_news/4283090.html):

 “Diesel and high performance don’t normally sit in the same sentence, but take a look at the following figures: 155 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 6.0 seconds and 428 lb.-ft. of torque. Compare those numbers with these: 155 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Okay, so which one is the performance car? The first set of figures apply to the 335d, the second to its gasoline alternative. Away from the test track the turbodiesel’s midrange torque and flexibility would absolutely smoke (but not really, this is a “clean diesel”) its gasoline counterpart. And the 335d is not only the faster point-to-point car; it also gives you a 10 mpg (U.S.) boost over the gas one. The 335d returns an NEDC combined economy of 35.1 mpg against the 335i’s 25.6 mpg. In practice, the big diesel gives around 33 mpg in our mixed running, partly because the performance is just so intoxicating and almost impossible to resist.

 

Make no mistake, this is no pure economy car—it’s real-world fast. The mandatory six-speed automatic gearbox means you can’t be quite the hooligan you imagined, but it is perfectly possible to get the rear wheels of this nearly 2-ton car to break traction. And the iron block mill provides serious grunt all the way to the 5000 rpm redline, which makes passing slower vehicles contemptuously easy. This is an oil-burning hot rod.”

 

Alternative fuels

Current diesel engines can run on standard diesel, biodiesel (produced from vegetable oils) and synthetic diesel (produced from wood, hemp, straw, corn, garbage, food scraps, and sewage-sludge) or any combination of these fuels. Synthetic diesel can also be produced from natural gas or coal. Even when produced from natural gas or coal, synthetic diesel has 30% less particulate emissions than conventional diesel.

 

Energy independence

Therefore, if all vehicles were required to have diesel engines this would simplify refining, transportation and distribution processes and result in less oil usage in United States.  The gains in efficiency combined with the production of biodiesel and synthetic diesel could potentially eliminate the need for imported oil altogether. When this strategy is used with the many other great alternative energy sources, this would be a great way to transition the United States to a cleaner and more independent future.

 

What do you think?

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3 Responses to “Should we all drive diesels?”

  1. Jason Haas Says:

    You should definitely look into getting the RocketChip upgrade done on your TDi. It adds some serious torque and HP to the engine, and literally can make it feel like a rocket! Though their website ( ) is pitifully out of date, I just got my ’06 Jetta TDi “Rocket Chipped” this past summer, and it’s been a blast. If you’re familair with the website TDIclub.com, check in the get-together boards for a RC GTG. I went to one up in Fond du Lac, Wisc., and had a ball hanging out with about twenty other TDi fanatics all day while the good RC man reprogrammed our fuel computers. It’s unbelievable how fast my TDi can go now! And I think the mileage is a touch better, although it’s hard to save fuel when it’s so easy to go 80 MPH without thinking about it. 8-)

  2. johnceberhardt Says:

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for the comment. TDI’s rule! Yes, I am in the Madison TDI club because I split my time between Madison and Milwaukee about 50/50. I’m running a couple of mods but the rest is pretty stock. A couple of my friends were actually up in Fond Du Lac at that GTG.

    I used to get together regularly over at Toppel’s in Lake Mills and the International TDI Club TDI Fest was in Lakes Mills in 2005 (very cool). I haven’t been too active over the past several years due to lots of crap going on (ha-ha). I checked the boards on the TDI club forum once in a while and I post stuff fairly regularly. I’ll get in touch and we’ll have a toast over at the next Drinking Liberally event.

    Regards,

    JCE

  3. Jason Haas Says:

    Yeah, sorry you missed it tonight! It’s okay, we meet on the third Wednesday of each month, and Eating Liberally is on the first Wednesdays (at various locations). We’ll meet one way or the other. ;->

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