Should Diesels Make a Comeback in the US?

46w ago


A common misconception for consumers in the United States is that the term "diesel" means a dirty type of fuel only used by large machines and trucks. Since most cars run on gasoline here, it's no wonder to why people may think that. Several automotive companies have tried to promote a clean image of diesel engines, and even a few still produce passenger cars with options for diesel engines for sale in the United States. Volkswagen, most famously, has a long and complicated history with the diesel engine and US law. If you are not already up to speed, Volkswagen was sued by the EPA in a massive lawsuit from 2015 that basically made Volkswagen issue a humongous recall on all diesel vehicles sold over a span of almost 10 years. This was a huge issue, mainly because they had been promoting and advertising for a cleaner planet, and the issue was resulting in levels of emissions, much higher than advertised, which was well above US legislature's very high standards for clean air.

The marketing campaign was to change the public view of diesels. No longer are they slow, noisy, heavy, dirty, weak, inefficient, and a winter inconvenience. They are now high tech and ready to be used in our commuter cars. This predisposition of diesel engines most likely came from the mistake of GM's diesel V8 rushed into production in the 1980's. After a fuel crisis, Americans wanted something that was, well, American in size, and got 30+mpg. Being the early 1980's this was literally impossible at the time without modern fuel injection. Disregarding this, GM made a diesel V8 that was literally the shell of their gas V8. This simply does NOT work in terms of sheer physics. They did achieve almost 30mpg combined in their Oldsmobile sedan, however with little testing this quickly gained a reputation for disastrous technology. This engine was horrible. It was unreliable, usually blowing head gaskets and bearings around 100k miles, and disintegrating fuel lines. But best of all, it produced only 90 horsepower, which is why it took over 20 whole seconds to get this 0-60mph. This is why the general public was hesitant to buy another diesel engine in a car. GM's mistake was putting caveman diesel technology in an engine that couldn't handle the high compression required to ignite the diesel fuel.

While there have yet to be any other large scandals surrounding other manufacturers that sell diesel powerplant options on their cars, the bad news only intensified the image for the diesel reputation. If people wouldn't buy diesels before, they sure wouldn't now. It made the diesel engine seemingly impossible to coexist with the earth-friendly attitude. So as a result of Volkswagen "dieselgate", BMW, Mercedes, Smart, FCA, Jaguar-Rover, and several other companies revoked the diesel option from the market. It was simply bad for business, they did not sell and were perceived as harmful to the environment by the mass of the public.

What people do not know on the other hand, is that diesels aren't actually all that bad. In fact, diesel actually burns cleaner than gasoline does, due to a more complete combustion cycle. It's just that the leftover soot from the exhaust complicates the cars emissions systems, forcing more regulation. This is why you see clouds of black smoke pour out of tailpipes of diesel-powered cars. Diesels are a very popular option in Europe, the rest of the Americas, and China. The rest of the world sees through the image we see, they see technology that is: reliable, efficient, (relatively) sustainable, frugal, and yes, even clean.

It may seem impossible that diesels will ever be sold in the United States again outside of Ford F-150's, GM Sierra/Silverado HD's, RAM 2500/3500's, and the Cummins-powered Nissan Titan, but maybe one day we will look back to the diesel engine as an alternative source to fueling our transportation needs to work and back.

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