This makes me sad:
If ever there was a car made for the times, this would seem to be it: a sporty subcompact that seats five, offers a navigation system, and gets a whopping 65 miles to the gallon. Oh yes, and the car is made by Ford Motor (F), known widely for lumbering gas hogs.
Ford’s 2009 Fiesta ECOnetic goes on sale in November. But here’s the catch: Despite the car’s potential to transform Ford’s image and help it compete with Toyota Motor (TM) and Honda Motor (HMC) in its home market, the company will sell the little fuel sipper only in Europe. “We know it’s an awesome vehicle,” says Ford America President Mark Fields. “But there are business reasons why we can’t sell it in the U.S.” The main one: The Fiesta ECOnetic runs on diesel.
Clean diesel engines are the original hybrid, as they get anywhere from 25 percent to 45 percent better mileage than a comparable gas engine. (Diesels also are the ideal partner for the hybrid cars of the future, in which a fossil fuel engine drives an electric generator.) So why can’t we get more diesel cars here in the US? Part of the problem is onerous clean air regulations, which make diesel engines prohibitively expensive. (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. Unfortunately, such engineering tricks aren’t feasible for an economy car.)
The bigger problem, though, is taxes. As Business Week notes, “Taxes aimed at commercial trucks mean diesel costs anywhere from 40 cents to $1 more per gallon than gasoline.” Of course, I won’t hold my breath waiting for a politician to do the sensible thing and raise taxes on ordinary gasoline.