2011 Volkswagen Golf TDIEnlarge Photo
Given the recent spate of recalls for clean diesel cars, the public might be a little distrustful of the fuel right now. Both Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have recently issued recalls for fuel leaks in their diesel models.
However, diesel may still yet have its day, according to the U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Cars.
Wards Auto reports that diesel may gain in popularity over here for the same reason it did in Europe twenty years ago - rising gas prices. The Coalition believes that the only thing holding back diesel sales in the U.S. is the number of diesel models on sale.
European auto makers selling diesels in the U.S. market have seen a rise in demand already as a result of concerns over gas prices and range between fill-ups. Volkswagen is already seeing the benefits, with a third of Jetta sales belonging to the TDI diesel model.
Even Chevrolet, who is banking on extended-range electric technology with the Volt, has announced it will sell a diesel version of the Cruze in 2013, a car expected to achieve over 50 MPG. Mazda is planning to sell its clean SKYACTIV-D Mazda 6 in 2012 (previewed in the new Takeri Concept), and other manufacturers thinking of offering diesel include Ford, Toyota and Honda.
Previously, emissions regulations kept many of Europe's diesels from being suitable in U.S. markets, particularly with California's clean air rules. Recently European requirements have tightened though.
According to Jeff Breneman, executive director of the Coalition, “Emission regulations are now about the same in Europe and the U.S., even California, so it makes it economically feasible for auto makers to develop one product for all those markets.”
Upcoming 2025 regulations requiring a corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 MPG will encourage a move towards diesel fuel too, as modern technology makes diesels particularly efficient without losing any performance or refinement to the equivalent gasoline car. Many diesel vehicles in Europe already hit the 54.5 MPG figure.
It's no longer a problem finding diesel at the gas station, either - 52 percent of U.S. filling stations have diesel fuel pumps. However, many customers will still be put off by having to fill up with the semis, as only half of those stations put diesel next to gasoline pumps.
Breneman thinks diesels deserve a chance in the market. His message to the government is clear: "Tell us you want 50 mpg fuel economy and let us decide the technology."
We would add that there are more factors than availability or gas prices to U.S. diesel sales though. In fact, we can think of five key reasons they aren't popular over here and are unlikely to be for some time, not least the perception of the fuel as being dirty and only suitable for trucks and semis.
We'd like to hear what our readers think about diesels. Have they had their day? Will hybrid vehicles be the way forward instead? Or will diesels be the best way to meet the government's fuel targets? Let us know in the comments section below.
If you'd like to know more, check out our Guide To Every Clean 2012 Clean Diesel Car On Sale In The U.S.