Rudolf Diesel once imagined his patented engine running on coal dust.
Instead he opted for peanut oil.
What goes around comes around.
Today, the mighty diesel engine powers cars, trucks, ships and Willie Nelson's tour bus on a variety of fuels, including biodiesel derived from vegetables or animal fat.
Mostly, it runs on low-sulfur petroleum that is unforgivably higher priced than your typical gallon of unleaded gasoline.
The more you learn about diesel engines, the more awesome they become. Diesels work extremely hard and produce more torque at lower revolutions per minute than gasoline equivalents, generating less heat in the process. Europeans love their diesel cars. Americans love their diesel trucks.
Exhibit A is the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD (Heavy Duty) pickup, whose 6.6-liter turbo-diesel V8 gives it a cruising range of up to 680 miles and a towing capacity of 13,000 pounds. When the glow plugs get the pistons turning, the big engine produces 765 foot-pounds of torque, which is probably sufficient to pull many houses off their foundations.
In colder climates, the Duramax diesel provides a starting time on par with gas engines. The glow plug cycle time takes no more than 3 seconds in temperatures as low as minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit (speaking of another famous German).
The engine also produces 397 horsepower, but that's not where the action is. As weight-bearing machinery, pickups are all about torque.
If you've got a trailer full of horses needing a ride to the rodeo, this is your ticket.
Silverado HD is just begging for a payload. The massive leaf springs visible under the cargo bed can cradle more than 2 tons.
Beautiful? You bet! Although the Ford F-Series and Chrysler Ram heavy-duty pickups are arguably more iconic, the Silverado and its GMC Sierra fraternal twin are memorable pieces of street art from grille to tailgate. New for 2013 are a couple of brilliant paint options: Deep Ruby Metallic and Blue Topaz Metallic.
Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD models can be identified by a power domestyle hood with a louvered design, as well as a wide grille with chrome surround and full-width chrome steel front bumper.
The Z71 appearance package is optional on extended cab and crew cab models when equipped with the Z71 off-road suspension. The package includes 18-inch or 20-inch forged polished aluminum wheels, all-terrain tires, front fog lamps, body-color outside mirrors and door handles, body-color bumper, chrome grille with body-color surround and a Z71 pickup box decal.
Standard features include 170-degree-opening rear access doors on extended cab models and storage compartments that protect the tools of your trade.
Silverado HDs offer mobile Wi-Fi, USB connectivity, Bluetooth phone connectivity, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a navigation system. Multiple charge points enable multiple electronic devices to operate simultaneously.
With the cost of fuel on everyone's mind these days, General Motors is making some historic adjustments, adding natural-gas-powered trucks to its diesel and gasoline models.
The Silverado HD and Sierra 2500 HD Vortec 6-liter V8 engine runs on gasoline or compressed natural gas and seamlessly switches between the two fuels without affecting performance. The CNG and gasoline tanks have a combined range of 650 miles, the longest standard bi-fuel range of any mass-market automaker.
Natural gas vehicles cost about 40 percent less to refuel than gasoline vehicles, emit up to 90 percent fewer greenhouse gases, and in many cases, cost less to maintain, according to experts.
The Type-3 single-tank CNG system in the Silverado HD and Sierra 2500 HD is designed to retain more bed space than any competing bi-fuel truck. The pickups are available in standard and long-box and two- or four-wheel drive in the extended cab models.
The pilot program, which will begin with the purchase of four CNG Ford F250 trucks, is designed to help TxDOT leaders determine availability of natural gas vehicles and fuel stations, and whether operationally, a fleet powered by natural gas meets the agency's needs.
As natural gas production ramps up in this country, look for this trend in trucks to continue for years to come.
2013 CHEVROLET SILVERADO 2500 HD
TYPE: Rear-drive, four-door crew cab, full-size, heavy-duty pickup.
PRICE: $42,670 base, $58,590 as tested.
WHERE BUILT: Flint, Mich.
POWER: 6.6-liter, 397-horsepower, turbo-diesel V8; automatic transmission.
FUEL ECONOMY: N/A, 36-gallon tank.
Email Richard Williamson at email@example.com