Despite the fact that we are nearly a decade into the age of clean burning diesel fuels, many Americans continue to have an aversion towards family cars with diesel power-plants. Reliable and long-lasting diesel powered heavy trucks move our goods from coast to coast and diesel propelled cars offer better fuel efficiency ratings than those of gasoline powered vehicles, still American consumers seem hesitant to purchase these clean burning and economical cars as their primary source of transportation.
Which brings us to the question: Why, with diesel powered sedan sales skyrocketing all over Europe and Canada, do U.S. based drivers continue to ignore the benefits of diesel propulsion as it pertains to the family sedan? Is it due in part to the diesel powered cars of a bygone era? These cars were known for thick dirty black smoke, loud clattering engines, extremely poor acceleration, and exhaust emissions that could make a skunk blush. Thankfully, with the latest developments in diesel technology, these characteristics are things of the past.
Due to their improved design, diesel engines are typically 20 to 40-percent more efficient than gasoline engines of the same size. An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study has determined that if only one-third of the light-duty trucks purchased in the U.S. were equipped with state-of-the-art diesel engines, the country would save 1.4-million barrels of oil per day. That is equal to the amount of oil that the U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia, daily. Current projections indicate that 12-percent of light-truck market sales in the U.S. will be equipped with diesel engines in 2015.
Ultra-Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) fuel is actually ultra-refined (or ultra-filtered – is that too many ultras?). It is 97-percent cleaner than the conventional diesel fuel that is used in agricultural, hunting, and construction equipment (15 parts per million compared to 500 ppm). Combine this much cleaner fuel with the modern direct fuel injection systems found in today’s vehicles and you have cleaner exhaust emissions, quieter engine operation, and virtually no thick and smelly smoke.
I should say “Cleaner Exhaust”. In addition to electronic variable valve timing systems and direct fuel injection systems, new generation diesel engines utilize an emission reducing particle filter system to trap and filter the tiny particles of soot that are often associated with diesel engine exhaust. The particle filter is equipped with a sensor that measures back pressure from the engine exhaust fumes. As exhaust soot accumulates in the filter, back-pressure increases. When pressure reaches a predetermined point, the powertrain control module (PCM) commands more fuel to be injected into the engine, increasing pre-filter exhaust temperatures and burning up the accumulated soot particles.
Virtually all U.S. market diesel engines are turbocharged. Recent developments in turbocharger composition technology have also paid dividends in diesel propulsion. Turbos are manufactured using much higher quality materials and with much tighter tolerances. This translates into more efficient operation and greater durability. The addition of dual turbochargers further aids in throttle response and fuel efficiency.
Here is a list of five economical diesel powered sedans available on the best of the used car websites, BestRide.com. You will notice a decidedly slanted advantage towards European automakers. This is attributed to the propensity of the European market towards diesel powered sedans. This is one area where U.S. consumers definitely lag behind.