Advertisement

Diesel: The Dark-Horse Contender For Cleaner, Greener Cars?


2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec

2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec

Enlarge Photo

Though about half the new cars sold in Europe are diesels, the technology has never had much traction in the United States, partly because much stricter U.S. clean air regulations made it virtually untenable.

But several years ago Daimler and Volkswagen introduced cars powered by clean diesel technology capable of meeting U.S. requirements. Audi and BMW followed as well.

Such cars include a diesel version of VW's Jetta, its Golf, and for 2012 its new Passat, along with the Mercedes-Benz ML 350, GL350 and R 350. (A useful online primer on Daimler's BlueTEC diesel technology is available on the auto company's site.)

Initially, the new cars didn't seem to be making much headway. Sales numbers in recent months, however, are beginning to turn heads.

During the first eight months of this year, clean diesel sales in the United States increased by almost four times as much as overall car sales--37 percent versus 10.4 percent. In each of the five months from April through August, the growth in clean diesel  sales far exceeded growth in sales of hybrid electric cars.

A number of factors, to be sure, have distorted the hybrid market: the Japanese tsunami and earthquake, which disrupted production; a unusually strong Japanese exchange rate, which has made it advantageous to sell hybrids in the domestic market rather than export them; and so on.

As a result of these conditions, just 9,500 Toyota Prius vehicles were sold in the United States in August, compared to 18,600 in March.

Still, the numbers and the trends are arresting: 8,808 clean diesel units were sold in the United States in August, compared to 21,177 hybrids and 1,664 plug-ins (both plug-in hybrids and EVs). Compared to August 2010, hybrid sales were down 12 percent and clean diesel sales were up 20 percent.

VW GOLF TDI_8

VW GOLF TDI_8

Enlarge Photo

According to the Clean Diesel Forum,  analysts Baum and Associates predict that clean diesel cars will account for 6-6.5 percent of the U.S. market in 2015, compared to about 3 percent now. JD Power  & Associates expects diesels to be 7.4 percent of the market in 2017.

This may be a rare case where industry analysts turn out to have been too conservative and pessimistic. Couldn't clean diesels, having come around the outside track,  be dominating the U.S. market by 2025? Might not half of Americans be driving diesels, just like in Europe? Could the hybrid turn out to have been just a fascinating passing phase and the EV a slightly silly idea?

We're not saying all that's going to happen, but we're not saying it's out of the question either. (Let's not forget that barely more than 10 years ago,fuel-cell-powered vehicles were all the rage.)

In turns of image, admittedly, clean diesel still has a way to go. Mercedes-Benz has Hollywood actress Emmy Rossum--that's Emmy who?--plugging BlueTEC. Tesla Motors has George Clooney. But hey, unfortunately it turns out you have to be just about as rich as Clooney to drive a Tesla.

You--I'm sorry, who did you say you were?--might actually be in a position to drive a Mercedes ML350 BlueTEC.

This story, written by Bill Sweet, was originally posted on IEEE Spectrum, an editorial partner of GreenCarReports.

+++++++++++

Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.

Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (17)
  1. Diesel is the sludge of crude oil just like kerosene is the sludge of gasoline and you cannot make it clean enough and still maintain its ignition to use on a mass scale. Clean diesel, just like clean coal will never exist for mass usage...it will never replace anything above it and there are a lot of cleaner energy products out there on the market.

    Where I live, diesel is .30 cents higher than gasoline and clean diesel will be, probably, .60 cents higher than gasoline, so I cannot see diesel replacing anything were I live.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

     
  2. think you mean 30 cents not .30 cents
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. Looking into "clean coal" I have found that it is a concept, not a group of existing technologies. In other words, vapor ware.

    Clean Diesel does seem to work. They cleaned the sulfur out of the fuel (which is excellent) and then put in particulate traps to save our lungs. This is a huge improvement for long haul trucks which we will all need to continue to live with.

    As for Clean Diesel with cars... well... I think hybrids or EVs may have the edge for eco-friendliness.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. Or maybe there will be a backlash and crush the clean diesel progress.

    So if you drive in the city, you can get 30 mpg VW Jetta diesel. Not particularly impressive given the added cost of diesel fuel and diesel vehicles. Many gasoline cars produce 28 MPG city and are probably a better choice.

    Oh, and if you do want to help the environment, try a 51 MPG hybrid on for size. Kind of makes the diesel look like "a slightly silly idea."
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  5. Diesel may be better then gasoline as far as efficiency goes, but its no solution either. Diesel like gasoline can and will someday run out and they do still produce harmful emissions. EVs aren't a silly idea they have far more potential to take us into the future, diesel engines are going to end up in the same place as gasoline engines, sitting in a museum collecting dust. Oh and one more thing the Tesla Roadster isn't the only six figure car in the world, it's price is not a negative factor, you never here anyone say I hate Lamborghini because they cost too much.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

     
  6. This article sounds like it was written by someone who fears life without the internal combustion engine. This article is very bias, reflecting opion more then fact. I'm for EVs but I'm willing to admit that nothing is set in stone yet even though the scales are tipping in the electric direction.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

     
  7. In the end, it is nice to have options in propulsion technology. Diesel is now greatly improved over its very dirty past.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

     
  8. I agree, diesel has improved greatly and yes diesel is another option to pick from right now. But the author of the article did try to make diesel sound the solution, I think that the point of having cars go green is too one day have all cars produce zero emissions. The article could have just been a story of diesel's current progress but then the author criticizes hybrids and EVs saying that they're silly as if diesel was better.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

     
  9. Diesels don't really represent much of a revolution in transportation the way that EVs might. EV's can be powered with renewable energy and represent zero emissions from source to consumption.

    Perhaps Bio-Diesel could make Diesel a revolutionary method of transportation.

    Anyway, I don't really see EVs as a complete solution either. I could use one most of the time. But I will probably still want something for long trips (diesel or gasoline, hybrid). Also, I think tractor trailers will need diesel for the foreseeable future.

    But yes, for a private vehicle, for commuting in the city, diesels don't seem like a great choice.
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  10. Yes John I live in the UK where there are lots of modern clean diesels,trouble is they are still dirty without proper maintenance.I am continually closing my recirculating vent when following these modern diesels due to their dirty exhaust when they accelerate.They also require more expensive maintenance,are still noisy and while they are an advance over previous diesel models are still archaic compared to an electric or PHEV. No contest in my book and I have owned diesels,Hybrids and driven the Leaf!
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

     
  11. hmmm, wonder why we have not read about a diesel hybrid...? seems that it would be very interesting to pair the diesel's strengths, cleaner burn and higher fuel mileage numbers as well as large low end torque power with the electric power of a conventional hybrid. might be 70mpg---and good clean powerful fun..?
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

     
  12. Peugeot has got one.
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1048605_worlds-first-diesel-hybrid-suv-2011-peugeot-3008-hybrid4
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  13. @Insight, thanks for the first hand report from the frontlines.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  14. How will all the people at Whole Foods know you are saving the planet if your diesel looks just like a regular car?
     
    Post Reply
    -1
    Bad stuff?

  15. Do we really want to fuel our cars from our mountain tops? Clean diesel is the only way to the future by being 30% more efficient then gasoline it will get us 30% more time. Yes we will eventually run out of oil but lets use what we have wisely. By the way my clean diesel Dodge has 10,000 miles on it and if you run your finger in the exhaust pipe it comes our perfectly clean, no soot at all. Actually the exhaust may be cleaner then the air the engine ingests. How clean is your coal fired power plant running at 18% efficiency?
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  16. I am regular visitor to the USA on business and have always been amazed that Diesels are not more prolific as they would seem to suit the US open spaces quite well.
    Remember that 100% of the trucks in Europe are diesel yet only 10% of private trucks in the US are diesel (F250s etc). A diesel engine with it's characteristics of high torque, longevity and good fuel economy has surely got to make sense.
    OK maybe the air quality is an issue in SoCal and major cities but what about the other 75% of the population, surely one of the drivers is to consume less which is what diesel gives us.
    It is a here and now option in use in the rest of the world that should be made readily available to the US consumer.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

     
  17. @Jeremy: Thanks for the comment. It's a thought we get quite a lot, and we've done a few articles looking at the historic reasons for the lack of consumer diesels in the U.S. Here are two:
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1051249_five-reasons-small-diesels-wont-dominate-the-u-s-car-market
    and
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1039689_why-cant-we-buy-small-european-diesels-in-the-u-s
    That said, both Mazda and Chevrolet are expected to offer small diesels in passenger vehicles within the next few years, so we'll get an actual market test:
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1055639_2013-chevrolet-cruze-to-offer-2-0-liter-clean-diesel-option
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement

Find Green Cars

Go!
Advertisement

Advertisement

 
© 2014 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.