The Frontal Cortex

Bring Back the Diesel Engine

I’m all for clean air regulations, but sometimes they don’t make very much sense. Case in point: California, along with four Northeastern states, has imposed strict limits on the type of pollutants coming out of the tailpipe of a car. There’s only one problem: these regulations make diesel engines illegal, since even the most modern diesel engines emit slightly too much NOx (nitrides of oxygen). Fancy diesel engines (like the Mercedes Bluetec) go to great lengths to reduce their NOx emissions, such as injecting ammonia-rich urea into the exhaust stream. But it’s still not clear that they will be able to pass the regulatory hurdle.

So why should we be encouraging diesel engines? For one thing, they are much more fuel efficient than conventional engines. The modern diesel engine tends to get anywhere from 25 percent to 45 percent better mileage than a comparable gas engine. (The price premium for a diesel engine is also significantly less than for a hybrid, even after the hefty tax breaks are factored in.) Diesels also are the ideal partner for the hybrid cars of the future (like the Chevy Volt), in which a fossil fuel engine drives an electric generator.

For more, read Dan Neil on the latest Mercedes Diesel.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark
    February 21, 2007

    Sometimes government officials forget that we face more than one problem in this world.

  2. #2 ladyvonkulp
    February 21, 2007

    The best car I’ve had to date for efficiency was my second Jetta TDI. Forty-plus mpg, and a trunk big enough to haul three bodies. Diesel was cheaper at that point, and the price didn’t fluctuate nearly as much as unleaded. Granted, that was a plus and a minus. I was very sad when black ice + telephone pole put that one out of commission for me.

  3. #3 Madrocketscientist
    February 21, 2007

    Not to mention Diesels can use pure Veggie Oil or Bio-Diesel

  4. #4 Madrocketscientist
    February 21, 2007

    ladyvonkulp

    WOW! Three bodies! Does that mean you get the bulk rate for mob hits?

  5. #5 chezjake
    February 21, 2007

    I agree. It’s especially foolish in NY state where you can buy commercial vehicles with Mercedes diesel engines (Dodge Sprinter) but not any diesel passenger vehicles. And current availability of bio-diesel here in upstate NY makes it even more foolish.

  6. #6 Gerald Cole
    May 25, 2007

    what is the actual cost difference between an automotive diesel and an IC engine for a typical family car (3500 Lbs)

  7. #7 Gerald Cole
    May 25, 2007

    what is the actual cost difference between an automotive diesel and an IC engine for a typical family car (3500 Lbs)