What is Clean Diesel and why is it good?
Americans may remember the diesel technology we saw on the road in the 1970’s. Black exhaust, loud engines, slow performance. They did get nearly 50 mpg. During the energy crises of the Carter years that was worth it for many people who bought them. However, Americans never embraced diesels with vigor. That was for the Europeans. Anyway, they didn’t seem to mind dirty.
Let’s fast forward to the 21st century. Over half of all Europeans still drive diesels. Gas is upwards of $7 per gallon across the pond. They engines have great power, no black exhaust, no smell, and…get ready for this, minimal pollutants. A 2007 model VW diesel can get 75 mpg.! Whoa!
Sulfur in diesel fuel was the culprit. It helped make acid rain, and smelled like rotten eggs. Refineries have made Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel since 2006. Compare 70’s diesel sulfur concentrations at 550 ppm (parts per million) with todays ULSD at 15 ppm. Gasoline, to be fair, is also cleaner. Leaded gas was clogging every artery on our highways until 1974, when un-leaded fuel was invented.
These fuel advances have allowed engineers to develop electronic engine systems that take greater advantage of the energy an engine can get from it’s fuel. Diesel has more energy per volume than gasoline and higher compression ratios. When the mixture in a diesel engine is ignited the car gets a bigger push than it would from gas. That equates into less fuel to move the car.
Higher compression means the engines need to be made stronger. Crankshafts and connecting rods are bigger and heavier. But at the same time, diesel fuel is a better lubricant and protects the interior cylinder walls better. It’s common for a diesel engine to have 300,000 miles on it. Imagine the savings we could accumulate in our 401K’s!
The EPA claims that if 33% of US drivers went to diesel cars, Americans would reduce oil consumption by 1.5 million barrels per day. Thats a 10% cut in oil imports. Whether you are interested in greenhouse gasses, energy independence and consumption, or national security, clean diesel makes sense in all three areas.