Will Diesel Engines Make a Comeback? Energy Efficient and Now Less Dirty

By Brodrick, Christie-Joy; Sperling, Daniel et al. | Consumers' Research Magazine, January 2002 | Go to article overview

Will Diesel Engines Make a Comeback? Energy Efficient and Now Less Dirty


Brodrick, Christie-Joy, Sperling, Daniel, Dwyer, Harry A., Consumers' Research Magazine


What is the truth about diesel engines? Are they inherently dirty? Do they belch clouds of black soot? Are they unsuited to cars, as evidenced by 1980s class-action suits against GM's diesel "lemons?" Do they make an unnecessary racket when idling and accelerating? Are their emissions toxic and a threat to human health? Many ask, in this age of ultra-clean transport, why do we still have diesel engines? The governor of Tokyo and air quality regulators in southern California have both launched campaigns to ban them.

But there's another side to the story of diesel engines. European regulators assert they are an answer to climate-change threats. Many automotive companies claim that new diesel engines are dramatically improved and as clean and quiet as gasoline engines. And freight companies rely almost exclusively on diesel engines for their trucks because they are durable and efficient. Indeed, diesel engines continue to increase their market share worldwide, now accounting for about 40% of all roadway fuel consumed.

Diesel engines have come to play major roles in our freight transport system. They have powered almost all heavy-duty trucks and most transit buses for decades, for good reasons. They are more fuel efficient, durable, and reliable than gasoline engines; they require less maintenance, provide high torque for moving heavy loads, and, in high-mileage vehicles, tend to have lower life-cycle costs. The cost advantage is especially crucial to the freight industry. Indeed, until the tightening of heavy-duty engine emission standards in the late 1980s, diesel-engine use in trucks and buses was accepted as unquestionably positive. Even now, despite growing controversy about their health effects, diesel engines continue to gain prominence. They doubled their share of total roadway fuel use in the world in the past 25 years, and the percentage continues to increase.

Diesel History and Status. Diesel engine use has been most controversial in the United States. Mercedes had been producing diesel cars for many years, but in the mid-1970s, in response to skyrocketing fuel prices and newly imposed fuel-economy standards, a number of other manufacturers began producing diesel cars. Market penetration increased to 6.1% of light-duty vehicle sales by 1981. But one manufacturer was too quick getting to market. One of the GM diesel car engines, a 5.7-liter engine converted from truck use, turned out to have many widely reported problems. GM spent large amounts of money vainly trying to fix the engine, settling class-action lawsuits, and dealing with complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.

Because of that bad experience, and also because diesel-fuel prices in the U.S. increased around that time to rough parity with gasoline prices and have remained at that level, no automaker has aggressively promoted diesel cars since. A recent resurgence of interest in light-duty diesels reflects steady improvements in noise and emissions and automakers' difficulty meeting the national 20.7 mpg fuel economy standard for gasoline-fueled light-duty trucks (applicable to vans, pickups, and sport utility vehicles). Diesel engines are now being introduced in small numbers in pickups and other light-duty trucks. Diesels account for 0.1% of automobile sales (with Volkswagen the only supplier) and approximately 4% of light-truck sales in the U.S.

The contrast with Europe is striking. There, diesel cars now account for over 30% of sales--over 50% in some countries---and the percentage continues to climb. Aided by low diesel-fuel prices, relatively gentle regulatory treatment of diesel car emissions, and aggressive carbon dioxide emission goals, diesel cars are likely to exceed 40% of European vehicle sales within a decade.

Truck and Bus Emissions--Past and Present. Diesel engines produce much lower levels of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons than do gasoline engines, but much higher levels of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Will Diesel Engines Make a Comeback? Energy Efficient and Now Less Dirty
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.