Long the lifeblood of Mack trucks, diesel fuel is often derided as dirty, noisy, and expensive. But thanks to recent technological advances and the growing realization that we’re running out of gasoline, diesel has been having something of a renaissance of late. For good reason: It has a lot of advantages over gasoline. So if you’re in the market for a new car and are ready for a different kind of ride, here are a few things to consider.
Unlike gasoline engines, which require a sparkplug to make the fuel trigger combustion, diesel engines initiate the process by pressuring the mixture of fuel and air to the point where it combusts on its own. The result is a process that’s up to 35% more efficient. Add in the fact that diesel fuel is more energy dense than gasoline, and you have a surefire equation for improved gas mileage.
And more MPGs means more money in your pocket. The caveat is that diesel engines are usually more expensive than gasoline engines, so you’ll have to wait a while before the fuel economy overcomes the initial price difference.
Fortunately, if you stick with your car, it will hang around long enough to make good on your investment. That’s because diesel engines are more reliable and last longer than gasoline engines. The lack of an ignition systems means one less thing under the hood that can go wrong. Diesel engines are more solidly built and have lower rotating speeds, so they have less of a tendency to break down.
You like breathing, don’t you? Then diesel is worth another look. A recent study in Los Angeles focused on secondary organic aerosols (SOAs), which make up 40 to 60% of city air pollution and can cause respiratory and heart problems. To the surprise of the researchers, SOAs were dominantly produced by gasoline engines (and not just because they’re more popular).
To make things even better, since 2006, just about all of the diesel fuel sold in North America and Europe has a significantly lowered sulfur content. That leads to fewer emissions and a healthier environment. Of course, if you really want to clean things up, go with an electric car, or try biking or walking.
You know that diesel’s reputation has largely been restored when Porsche decides its time to drop gasoline, at least in one model. The 2013 Cayenne Diesel, to be unveiled at the 2012 New York Auto Show, has a 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel engine with 240 horsepower and 406 lb-ft. of torque. And even with all that power, it still gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway- not too shabby at all.
Our supply of gasoline isn’t going to last forever, but we can make diesel: biodiesel, that is. It can be made from algae, corn, soy, sugar cane, methane, paper waste, various flowers, and other natural products, so running out isn’t an issue. Biodiesel produces fewer emissions than gasoline or conventional diesel, it decreases engine wear and can be used in just about any diesel engine without modification.
Bio-diesels have their disadvantages as well, but all in all, they’re basically a souped-up version of regular diesel, amplifying all of its best traits. Efficient, environmentally-friendly, and reliable: diesel’s worth a second look.