Driving a diesel powered car or light truck in the USA is like being left handed: it's an anomaly. Diesel has a bad rap in the United states among mainstream consumers. Visions of big-rigs billowing thick, black smoke and the sound of loud, knocking engines is what comes to mind when most people think of diesel power.
Companies like Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes and others have been able show diesel engines in a new light: As fuel sipping, race winning, dependable, clean and quiet. I have always been impressed getting the most bang for your buck, so when I found out that Ford, an American auto maker, was making a 2.5 liter turbo-diesel Ranger-type pickup in South Africa, I wrote to Ford, suggesting it made these trucks for the American market.
I wasn't born when the US went through the 1973 oil crisis, but having grown up in the 80's, I remember all the little, mostly foreign cars built for economy. During this time, Honda imported a little hatchback that boasted over 50 miles per gallon- highway. Not even the coveted Toyota Prius can say that.
For years I have inquired why cars in the USA weren't more efficient. I guess the Japanese have always been providing a stable of small cars getting in excess of 30 mpg, but the size and power of these vehicles has been increasing over time. To me, Europe, with it's $2.00/liter petrol (3.78 liters in a gallon), have traditionally had the most options in motoring. One in three autos in Europe is diesel, available in everything from luxurious Audi A8 to the compact Toyota pickup. Not to mention, they have always had the best compact cars, with a host of small displacement gas or diesel options.
I read an article this morning about American truckers boycotting against the lost wages due to the fuel prices. Diesel is over $4.00 a gallon nationwide and truckers say they're not being compensated. http://www.fdlreporter.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080403/FON0101/804030422/1289/FONnews
Gasoline prices are high too, but they are more than 50 cents less than diesel. How can it be that diesel fuel is more expensive than gasoline? I mean it's just glorified vegetable oil. Gasoline (petrol) must be refined in a process called platforming, the higher the octane, the more refinement. Diesel fuel oil is distilled in a much simpler process, akin to home heating oil or kerosene. Diesel takes less energy to distill than petrol and yields more power per volume. Plus there is are renewable reserves of diesel fuel growing in across our farmlands every year.
Cleaner and greener? Yes, I think.
Cheaper? Not yet...