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Old 01-30-2012, 03:10 PM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default Diesels are global stars; U.S. shrugs, steps on the gas




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Diesel engines are a bit like soccer.
Soccer is the most popular game in the world. But the prospect of Monday Night Football stepping aside for men in shorts is about as likely as U.S. auto companies ever replacing their gasoline engines with diesels.

The soccer thing is a matter of taste. But diesels offer clear benefits over gasoline. So at a time when automakers have to gear up for stringent fuel-economy rules -- and clean-diesel technology has cleaned up diesel emissions -- you might think that diesel's moment has come.
And, in fact, a few more diesels appear to be headed to the United States. But, for perspective, consider Honda Motor Co.

Honda's gasoline-engine Civic sedan is one of the best selling cars in the United States and also delivers respectable fuel economy, averaging 32 mpg for city and highway driving.

But last month in Tokyo, Honda gave reporters a sneak peek at a new fuel-efficient turbodiesel engine for the Civic. The new clean-burning 1.6-liter engine is physically smaller than Honda's other popular engines, lighter in weight and delivers the horsepower of bigger gasoline engines. Honda intends to start building the engine in late 2012 in hopes of improving the 2013 Civic's efficiency.

But not in the United States.

Like most of the other diesel engine programs these days, Honda's 1.6 is targeted at Europe, where smooth-running, highly efficient diesels now account for half of all new-vehicle sales -- and where, unlike in the United States, diesel fuel prices are lower than those of gasoline. In Italy and France, diesels represent closer to 70 percent of sales. Honda thinks European customers will be so wowed that the diesel will account for two-thirds of Civic sales.

But Honda CEO Takanobu Ito says he has no intention of introducing diesels to the United States.

Automakers have been holding diesels out of the United States for years, but such decisions are especially perplexing today. If there ever were a moment when the North American industry could benefit from a switch to different engine architectures to claim quick and easy fuel-economy improvements, it would be now.

Under proposed U.S. regulations for the 2017-25 model years, corporate average fuel economy would rise to 54.5 mpg in the 2025 model year, up from 30.1 mpg today. The industry needs to hit a 35.5 mpg CAFE by the 2016 model year.

Diesel engines deliver as much as a 40 percent boost in fuel economy. Volkswagen of America's recently introduced diesel-powered Passat family sedan, a vehicle the size of the Toyota Camry, claims 43 mpg combined city and highway, compared with 29 mpg combined for the Passat with a gasoline engine.
Still a bit player


But the outlook is dim for widespread use of diesel engines in the United States. Aside from heavy-duty pickups and small numbers of sales from primarily German-brand vehicles, diesel engines remain an exotic aside in U.S. auto sales.

"Yes, diesels have a substantial advantage over gasoline engines," says John German, senior fellow with the International Council on Clean Transportation, an environmental think tank that consults with government regulators around the world. "And it's puzzling why there are not more of them in use in the United States."

A few more diesel offerings are on the way for U.S. drivers. General Motors says it will introduce a diesel-powered Chevrolet Cruze in 2013. GM has not divulged specifics of that plan, but it is certain to create a model that should deliver in excess of 40 mpg combined city and highway.

Mazda Motor Corp. also wants to introduce a diesel passenger vehicle in the United States, although the company has not determined what model it will be. Mazda's ambitious "Skyactiv" fuel efficiency campaign aims to cut vehicle weight, improve gasoline engine efficiency and sell diesels around the world.

Mazda's new four-cylinder 2.2-liter diesel can fit into any of its current U.S. products, says Dave Coleman, product development engineer at Mazda North American Operations in Irvine, Calif.

Diesels create performance and packaging advantages, he adds, since they are stronger. Mazda's engine promises 310 pounds-feet of torque, meaning it could replace a V-6. Designing around a smaller engine results in a smaller engine compartment. Smaller engine compartments translate into a smaller, lighter vehicle or a roomier passenger cabin.

"Diesels are not going to be 50 percent of our model mix," Coleman cautions. "But we can't afford not to take advantage of them. There's a demand for fuel economy, and it's hard to argue with that."
So what's the problem?

But if the diesels have such obvious problem-solving potential, why wouldn't they end up constituting half of U.S. auto sales?
Coleman cites several challenges.

"Their benefit is just not immediately obvious to U.S. consumers," he admits. "It requires some arithmetic and a calculator. The pump price of diesel is higher than gasoline -- higher even than premium gas.

"And the diesel engine costs more to build, so it's more expensive to buy. So you have to calculate what your savings will be over years of driving."
Pump prices are the most obvious roadblock. In past decades diesel prices have sometimes been lower, sometimes higher, than gasoline prices. But in recent years diesel has consistently been more expensive. Diesel prices around the country averaged $3.85 a gallon in the last week of January, compared with $3.39 for a gallon of gasoline.

One reason is that the federal fuel tax on diesel fuel is now higher in the United States than the tax on gasoline. And to exacerbate the price, in the past few years, U.S. refineries have been eagerly exporting refined diesel fuel to Europe and emerging markets. In Europe, diesel pump prices are lower than gasoline prices.

Another obstacle for diesel powertrains is the price of the engines. Auto companies fold the cost of the engine into the larger package of features, so it is tricky for consumers to isolate the exact engine cost. A diesel-powered VW Passat, for example, has a base price of $26,765, including shipping, compared with $20,765, also including shipping, for a base-model gasoline Passat. But the models have other differences. A Volkswagen spokeswoman says the engine itself runs about $1,500 more than the equivalent gas engine.

The new diesel engines that increasingly populate Europe typically are turbocharged. Direct-injection components and related parts add to the price tag. Diesels also must carry a reserve tank of urea, a chemical compound injected into the exhaust process as an aftertreatment to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.

But all that still adds up to less of a premium than what consumers pay to own a hybrid vehicle, counters Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a nonprofit that represents diesel industry manufacturers. He estimates that hybrids command a premium of $6,300 on average, compared with $2,700 on average for a diesel vehicle.
That in itself is a cause for dismay among diesel fans, since hybrids nonetheless outsell diesel vehicles by more than 2 to 1.

Schaeffer admits there are unique American challenges to diesel engines -- the pump price difference being No. 1 among them. But he is optimistic that diesel penetration will grow beyond its current meager market share.
"Why aren't there more diesels already? That's a complex question," Schaeffer admits.

"Some manufacturers just need to see a little more consumer confidence in the technology before they invest in long-term change."
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Old 01-30-2012, 03:19 PM   #2
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I just don't buy the need for diesel passenger cars in the US for several reasons.

1) The article neglects to mention that fuel period in Europe is far more expensive than the US. That means the return on the cost premium has a much longer time horizon in the US.

2) Electric cars are the future. Hybrids are a good way for car companies to reduce their technology risk so they see benefit outside of just sales and consumer perception.

3) Diesel engines pollute significantly more than hybrids. Given the trend towards tighter and tighter emissions (see the latest CARB standards), diesel will get to the point where it requires a lot of investment to meet new standards if it's even viable economically.

I do think diesel makes sense in light duty trucks as people value the reliability and the lower mpg with gas engines shortens the pay back period. For example why they don't sell a diesel Wrangler is something that still boggles my mind.
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Old 01-30-2012, 03:29 PM   #3
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It kills me that BMW is introducing new ///M branded cars with diesels, yet we can't get a utility vehicle smaller than a Super-Heavy-Duty monster pickup with a diesel engine in reasonable numbers.

A few Jeep CRDs are not a large consideration for the whole market.

I disagree with JC's assertion that electric is the future... because lithium batteries are not clean, and not cheap, and not energy dense per pound or cubic meter of space they take. And electricity has to be generated somewhere else, by some sort of fuel anyway, and inefficiently transported to your car, which takes HOURS, not minutes.

Gasoline is fine, but LP/LNG is an option.

Diesel is getting cleaner. CX5 SkyActiv Diesel is reported to not require Urea, or any other third-party diesel emissions cleanup technology. Diesel used to be a lot less controlled by being a lesser-refined fuel, before... but new diesel fuels are more homogenous hydrocarbons and less contaminated by other things suspended in the fuel that remain unburned, such as sulfur, and other things. And engines are getting more efficient at completely burning the fuel, as well.

Most of that stuff is getting expensive, not due to the commodity itself, but due to government interference in an economic process of distributing energy.
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Old 01-30-2012, 03:54 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by HipToBeSquare View Post
I disagree with JC's assertion that electric is the future... because lithium batteries are not clean, and not cheap, and not energy dense per pound or cubic meter of space they take. And electricity has to be generated somewhere else, by some sort of fuel anyway, and inefficiently transported to your car, which takes HOURS, not minutes.
There are a couple reasons that I feel strongly that electricity is the future, and I should point out most car companies concur.

1) The infrastructure exists. If we move to hydrogen or to a less extent CNG it will require a large shift in how energy is transferred in this country. Electricity requires an upgrade of an existing infrastructure. Granted a large upgrade but that one that would be required regardless of whether cars were electric or not.

2) Electricity generation is centralized and flexible. It can made from coal, oil, solar, wind, nuclear and more. More importantly we switch between them based on locality and do it seemlessly to the customer. If you want make a feel of electric cars more green simply generate the electricity from solar instead of oil. If you want to make a fleet of diesel cars more green they need to be replaced. It also means there are a ton of large industries with vested interests in electric cars which means lobbying $$$.

3) Consumer electronics drive the battery industry anyway. You are right that LiIon batteries are pretty nasty but you are wrong in assuming that we have to build electric cars using them. Battery technology is advancing daily and will continue to do so. The world is electronic now and nothing foreseeable is going to change that. Building electric cars is simply piggy backing on an industry that is already highly profitable and self-sustaining.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HipToBeSquare View Post
Gasoline is fine, but LP/LNG is an option.

Diesel is getting cleaner. CX5 SkyActiv Diesel is reported to not require Urea, or any other third-party diesel emissions cleanup technology. Diesel used to be a lot less controlled by being a lesser-refined fuel, before... but new diesel fuels are more homogenous hydrocarbons and less contaminated by other things suspended in the fuel that remain unburned, such as sulfur, and other things. And engines are getting more efficient at completely burning the fuel, as well.

Most of that stuff is getting expensive, not due to the commodity itself, but due to government interference in an economic process of distributing energy.
Diesel is an OK short-term solution. But a car company has limited resources and they obviously feel that putting those in American diesels isn't the best use of them. I agree. That doesn't mean they won't sell at all, it simply means the money is best spent elsewhere.
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Old 01-30-2012, 04:32 PM   #5
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i'd rather move into the city than buy an electric car.

i'd rather buy a diesel over an electric car.

i just don't want an electric car...

yes, even if it's a tesla.
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Old 01-30-2012, 04:45 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by nhat View Post
i'd rather move into the city than buy an electric car.

i'd rather buy a diesel over an electric car.

i just don't want an electric car...

yes, even if it's a tesla.
Why?

You can stop going to the gas station and simply plug your car in when you get home.

The motors is MUCH simpler so it requires far less maintenance.

The electric motor has instant torque for those fun electric burnouts and pop out of a corner. I even like the whine they make under high load though YMMV.

The car is also much quieter in normal driving for that extra female approved factor.
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Old 01-30-2012, 05:18 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by JC View Post
Why?

You can stop going to the gas station and simply plug your car in when you get home.

The motors is MUCH simpler so it requires far less maintenance.

The electric motor has instant torque for those fun electric burnouts and pop out of a corner. I even like the whine they make under high load though YMMV.

The car is also much quieter in normal driving for that extra female approved factor.
what happens when you can't get home. Are you going to have someplace to charge? Most cars carry two or more gallons in reserve... which is usually 40-60 miles to get to a gas station.

Leaf gets 40-60 miles as a matter of full capacity, if everything is ideal.

Are you going to steal or buy someone else's electric current if your car goes flat? Can you plan on taking many hours to charge at household current, without high current for a quick charger? A quick charger is still more than an hour, at more kilowatts than a house usually has service for.

what happens when it is cold, and cabin heat drastically reduces the range, or conversely in the heat, where A/C reduces the range? Those are electrical, not mechanical, on an electric car... they directly usurp the motive energy supply. A gas engine might drop an MPG or two for full heat, or full A/C. What about adding headlights and fog lights, heated seats, and news radio to listen for road conditions to that demand?

What happens if you get stuck, and the batteries run dry? You can't run the engine to generate heat, nor can you power the heater directly once the batteries are flat. If you are in sub-freezing temperatures, it could become life threatening, if you are stranded. You couldn't pay me to risk a blizzard in rural areas in an electric car, and I commute less than 40 miles one way in those conditions during the winter.

What happens if you get into an accident, and the car bursts into lithium-fueled flames just by battery cells being exposed to oxygen by a damaged battery envelope?

How are years of use going to affect the car, with terminal corrosion, and other increases in electrical resistance, as well as a depleting battery?

Tech companies can't build a portable device, or a laptop that any tech company will offer a standard warranty on the battery for more than a year, because the batteries are known to deplete by design over a series of charge cycles. And short-cycling just wastes duration out of the battery's cyclic lifetime. And a car has many, many times more cells to replace, when they do deplete... and they will.

Do you want your electric car to burn down your garage after you bring it home from the body shop, 3 weeks after an accident? Something like Volt batteries are showing the possibility of, and that isn't even with the other limitation of a purely electric car.

Nikola Tesla tried electric battery powered horseless carriages... and the inherent problems with battery capacitance still exist 120 years later.

Electric motors are nice... they suck down the current at higher speed, but they are nice... supplying that current from hundreds to a thousand pounds of batteries on board on board just sucks. Tesla Roadster had 900+lbs of batteries, and couldn't match ~11 gallons of gas in a Lotus Elise, which weighs about 90lbs, including the tank.

Last edited by HipToBeSquare; 01-30-2012 at 05:25 PM.
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Old 01-30-2012, 05:19 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by JC View Post
I just don't buy the need for diesel passenger cars in the US for several reasons.

1) The article neglects to mention that fuel period in Europe is far more expensive than the US. That means the return on the cost premium has a much longer time horizon in the US.

2) Electric cars are the future. Hybrids are a good way for car companies to reduce their technology risk so they see benefit outside of just sales and consumer perception.

3) Diesel engines pollute significantly more than hybrids. Given the trend towards tighter and tighter emissions (see the latest CARB standards), diesel will get to the point where it requires a lot of investment to meet new standards if it's even viable economically.

I do think diesel makes sense in light duty trucks as people value the reliability and the lower mpg with gas engines shortens the pay back period. For example why they don't sell a diesel Wrangler is something that still boggles my mind.
When you refine petroleum you end up with only so much gasoline or diesel. You can shift that equilibrium point, but end up wasting energy if you go to far. Right now the US refineries ship excess diesel to Europe and European refineries ship excess gasoline to the US. If we both attempt to go diesel heavy for the entire it simply won't work.


Good gracious Hip can we quit being hysterical about lithium batteries. The whole air exposure thing is bunk for all the types going into cars. And the volt thing only happened if you leaked all the coolant out. So if you take your car back from an accident with no radiator fluid and drive hundreds of miles what happens? Bad things happen... so in summary don't drive your car when there is no coolant.
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:15 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by sxotty View Post
When you refine petroleum you end up with only so much gasoline or diesel. You can shift that equilibrium point, but end up wasting energy if you go to far. Right now the US refineries ship excess diesel to Europe and European refineries ship excess gasoline to the US. If we both attempt to go diesel heavy for the entire it simply won't work.
.
In addition (and my info might be stale here) there is a lack of similar infrastructure (as gasoline has) for supplying diesel to the pumps.
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:28 PM   #10
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They make air exposure as unlikely as possible... but lithium exposed to oxygen auto-ignites and combusts. It is a matter of chemistry.

And if you leak coolant out of a gas engine, you crack the block, and stop. Maybe you need a new engine... maybe you need a new car.

If you leak the coolant out of a battery, your car bursts into flames so hot that it easily ignites everything around it... whether you are in the car, or in your bed, and your house starts on fire from the car in the garage.

You can't just go to a dealer to buy a new LIFE.
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:35 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by HipToBeSquare View Post
They make air exposure as unlikely as possible... but lithium exposed to oxygen auto-ignites and combusts. It is a matter of chemistry.

And if you leak coolant out of a gas engine, you crack the block, and stop. Maybe you need a new engine... maybe you need a new car.

If you leak the coolant out of a battery, your car bursts into flames so hot that it easily ignites everything around it... whether you are in the car, or in your bed, and your house starts on fire from the car in the garage.

You can't just go to a dealer to buy a new LIFE.


Oh man I have missed your rants...
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:41 PM   #12
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It's very hard to have a reliable diesel engine in USA because we take sulfur out of the diesel. Then ontop of that we required an expensive DEF fluid system to be installed that will limp home mode your car(sometimes restricting you to 20mph) if you're low on DEF fluid.

We also have a very expensive diesel compared to gas. Mainly cause most americans don't have diesel so to offset earnings they lower gas a tad and skyrocket diesel. We all pay for it either way cause transport costs go up thus we pay more at the store. Win Win for oil companies.

Another problem is finding a station with fresh diesel. Only truck stops have fresh diesel. You're regular gas stations with 1 diesel pump has diesel that has been sitting from weeks to months in there. The other side of that coin is most truck stops don't have a small nozzle for diesel cars and only the large nozzle which will not fit and spill all over the place if you even try to use it.

Lastly most americans don't like the smell of diesel that doesn't come off your hands easily. I sound like a broken record with this but it's true. Hell NJ residents do not want to pump their own GAS cause they feel the nozzles are dirty and don't like the smell of gas.
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:58 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by AVANTI R5 View Post
1) See above. Diesel is significantly more expensive than premium in the US. Not so in many other countries. In NZ, for instance, diesel was ~1.70/liter whereas regular was 2.12/liter. (Road tax is assessed based on mileage rather than as sold with fuel so it's more like they're equal in price in reality, but the point stands: not 20+% more expensive than premium by any means.)

2) Benefits of diesel are overstated. The "43 mpg combined" Passat in the article is actually a 35 mpg combined, 43 mpg highway Passat per fueleconomy.gov.

3) Diesels don't do well in terms of smog-forming emissions, and that's a big concern of the US regulations, for better or worse.

All this said, I'd consider a diesel from a Japanese automaker (Honda, Mazda, Toyota, Subaru, even Mitsubishi). The current US market pickings are too slim for the rational consumer, IMO.
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Old 01-30-2012, 07:02 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by JC View Post
Why?

You can stop going to the gas station and simply plug your car in when you get home.

The motors is MUCH simpler so it requires far less maintenance.

The electric motor has instant torque for those fun electric burnouts and pop out of a corner. I even like the whine they make under high load though YMMV.

The car is also much quieter in normal driving for that extra female approved factor.
this is assuming that i would only own a single car, like i do now.

i could stop going to the gas station, but then i'd have to remember to plug the car in every night. i'd have to constantly search for an outlet wherever i go, much like i do now with my cell phone. just in case...

i go on regular golf trips with 3 friends all along the east coast, most of which are beyond the range and seating capacity of current electric cars. even the shorter trips (within an hour drive or 60 miles max) are enough to push the limits of a battery's charge so i would be scrambling to find a charger at the golf course and hope it charges while i'm playing. then there's the longer trips to wiliamsburg, pinehurst, myrtle beach, or kiawah island with a group of 4.

i feel safer in a car that people can hear. it's eerie watching a tesla take off without a sound. i also enjoy most all motorsports.

i'd never marry a woman that demands a quiet car. i can already picture how boring life would be with such a woman.

maybe i'm just old fashioned with my automobiles. maybe i like the freedom a gas-powered car affords me. an electric or hybrid strictly as a commuter to and from work? i can deal with that. but as a replacement for what i have now? never.

Last edited by nhat; 01-30-2012 at 07:08 PM.
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Old 01-30-2012, 07:07 PM   #15
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They've been feeding us the same kind of "news" article about Diesel-powered passenger vehicles making little sense in the U.S. for the past 4 years.
But, during the same 4 years, VW has been extending its Diesel offering to almost all the vehicles in its line-up.
So, that's why I don't put much faith into any of these pieces of "news"; a manufacturer doesn't go from one or two Diesel-powered cars in its line-up to five different Diesel-powered cars if sales are not backing it up. Diesel-powered passenger cars are selling in the U.S. and there's much more than an anecdotal demand for them.

EDIT: And I don't even like VW vehicles; but looking at the number of TDI-powered cars they're selling in the area, they must be doing something right.
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Old 01-30-2012, 07:10 PM   #16
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hopefully bmw will bring some more of their diesel engines stateside.

and audi.

and mb.
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Old 01-30-2012, 07:28 PM   #17
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They make air exposure as unlikely as possible... but lithium exposed to oxygen auto-ignites and combusts. It is a matter of chemistry.
So why did the lithium ion battery I cut in half on a band saw 2 days ago not burst into flames?
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Old 01-30-2012, 09:51 PM   #18
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I'm not even going to attempt to come in on one side of the argument or the other. I just get the impression that there are factors at work that are trying to game the system in favor of hybrids/full electrics and against diesels:

Quote:
One reason is that the federal fuel tax on diesel fuel is now higher in the United States than the tax on gasoline. And to exacerbate the price, in the past few years, U.S. refineries have been eagerly exporting refined diesel fuel to Europe and emerging markets. In Europe, diesel pump prices are lower than gasoline prices.
I don't consider myself a conspiracy theorist but that looks like government and industry working together to discourage diesel as an option. I'd buy the energy self-sufficiency argument but for the fact that diesel is being exported from the US that could be kept in the US to power diesel vehicles in the US. It all just feels like another "my lobbyist can beat up your lobbyist" scenario to me.

Apologies for stating the obvious or ranting, I don't do it often.
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Old 01-30-2012, 10:40 PM   #19
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Has nothing to do with lobbyist. Has to do with simple facts. We do not traditionally receive gas or diesel in large quantities. We get oil. From that we refine the oil for whatever application. When we make gas, a byproduct is diesel. So we end up with an excess of diesel since no one here buys diesel. We can't just hold more and more diesel indefinitely.

It's all market. We as americans don't like diesel. Not everyone obviously but most of us don't. Whatever that reason is(sound, smell, complexity, cost, availability, etc) can be argued but that is the fact.
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Old 01-30-2012, 11:02 PM   #20
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It just comes down to dollars, and a chicken-and-egg problem of sorts that nobody here has really mentioned. We've already discussed the price of diesel fuel in the USA. There's something you're forgetting though.

Diesels are more expensive to build, more expensive to certify for emissions, and more expensive for mandated in-use testing later on down the line. Therefore manufacturers are reluctant to offer them because they have to invest a lot upfront. Consumers have less choices then, so that may be helping keep demand down. With demand uncertain, automakers are not going to be taking big risks right now. The United States has the strictest auto emissions laws in the world. Some other notes:

1. VW has huge resources and wants world domination essentially, so they can absorb the cost & risk of introducing it. BMW sells expensive cars so that helps.

2. Mazda has always been quirky brand so you can see them doing it.

3. There are a lot of emissions components, and every emissions component has to have a diagnostic monitor: The cat, the particulate filter, the urea injection, the EGR circuits, all of that. That means more potential check engine lights for the customer to deal with and more cost to the manufacturer for development, certification, and in-use emissions testing. Certifying a diesel requires special equipment due to the particulate filters.

4. Gas engines are improving quickly and are way easier for meeting emissions
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