Opinion

Buyers too savvy to spurn diesels

Consumers are smart enough to recognize that circumstances involving a single manufacturer do not define an entire technology or industry.

Emissions from diesel engines have been reduced more than 95 percent in the past nine years, thanks to the most advanced emissions control systems in the world coupled with ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, resulting in emissions lower than those of some gasoline vehicles.

Nothing has changed about why we have diesel cars today and why they are even more important for the future.

Meeting the next round of U.S. fuel efficiency targets in 2025 will require an all-hands-on-deck approach: A lineup of technologies and fuels that will support the mix of vehicles consumers want to purchase.

Diesel offers a unique combination of proven energy efficiency that can meet the higher standards without sacrificing power or performance and without forcing compromises on vehicle size or choice.

A family of four that needs two cars might well find an all-electric vehicle, or EV, suitable for one of them. But for longer trips, vacations or hauling a carload of little leaguers and their gear, an SUV with a diesel engine might be the most fuel efficient choice.

Others who simply drive longer distances will appreciate the fuel efficiency of the diesel. With diesel fuel available at more than half of all fueling stations, being able to travel nearly 800 miles on a single tank is a powerful antidote to range anxiety from electric vehicles.

And while EVs appear promising, advanced gasoline and diesel engines will deliver the bulk of the fuel savings and greenhouse gas benefits to meet these new standards well into the future, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

As an industry official in Europe said recently, anyone who says yes to climate protection must say yes to clean diesels.

The new generation of clean diesels is already delivering. From 2007-2014, diesel engines in pickup trucks alone saved more than 36 million barrels of crude and 1.5 billion gallons of fuel; that’s 9.7 million tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to removing 2 million cars from the road for a year.

At a time when climate concerns, solar, wind, electricity and renewable fuels are the talk of the day, the diesel engine feels right at home.

Efficiency and power have always been the hallmark of the diesel. Consider that if the current generation iPhone was powered by diesel fuel it would last without refueling for 10 days instead of the one day from a charge from lithium ion batteries.

That inherent energy efficiency is why diesel is the technology of choice for powering 15 sectors of the global economy and an increasing choice for consumers.

California, known as tough on emissions and progressive on climate and fuels, is also the state with the fastest growth in registrations of diesel vehicles, up 15 percent for diesel cars and SUVs over the previous year.

Texas leads the nation in the registrations of diesel powered pickup trucks, which, along with SUVs, is an area of expected major growth opportunity for diesels.

Diesel’s inherent efficiency enables manufacturers to maintain the performance of larger vehicles while achieving the higher fuel economy standards.

Some new pickups with diesel engines already are rated at more than 30 mpg highway today. Diesel car or SUV owners also have the option to make an even greener statement by fueling up with 5 to 20 percent blends of biodiesel fuels.

Since 2005, in the U.S., consumers have had steadily increasing number of choices for diesel cars, trucks and SUVs. And the number of models is expected to nearly double from last year’s 49 choices from 10 brands to more than 80 options from 15 brands in the next several years.

If motorists want a proven alternative to gasoline that won’t force them to compromise on vehicle size or performance, but will deliver outstanding fuel efficiency, then they must keep clean diesel on their shopping list for the next car.

Allen Schaeffer is the executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of diesel engines, fuel and technology. Readers may write him at Suite 102, DTF, 5291 Corporate Drive, Frederick, MD 21703.

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