Diesel engines are gaining momentum in the U.S.
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If you are a diesel fan, you'll love this news.
According to USA Today, some experts are predicting that one in four SUVs sold in the U.S. by 2018 will have a turbo-diesel under the hood. Those same experts are predicting as many as 10 percent of all vehicles will be bought with a diesel. These are huge number shifts, especially when you consider that just a few years ago it was only high-end luxury German sedans that offered the option.
Of course, nowhere are the expectations higher for a diesel powertrain's potential than in the midsize and half-ton pickup truck segments. Nissan just announced it will partner with Cummins to offer a turbo-diesel 5.0-liter V-8 in the next-generation Titan. Chrysler will offer the new VM Motori EcoDiesel in the Ram 1500. Ford will have a Baby PowerStroke ready in the coming full-size Transit van that could easily fit inside a new F-150. And GM's new Colorado and Canyon pickup trucks reportedly will offer a small turbo-diesels when they roll off the production lines in Thailand. According to Automotive News, GM's executive chief engineer for full-size and midsize pickups thinks there's potential, but offering too many choices could be just as bad as offering too few.
Whether or not these new turbo-diesel powertrains will succeed is anyone's guess. There's no question the better torque, better fuel economy and lower lifetime costs are huge benefits, but diesel fuel is still pricey (in most places around the country it costs more than premium gas), the engine options are significant and diesel is not as available as gas.
Still, the biggest hurdles may not be consumer driven. Diesel is not recognized by the government as an "alternative fuel," so companies producing and selling diesel engines do not qualify for subsidies like electric, hydrogen or hybrid technologies do. If that changes, we could see the costs for diesel fuel and diesel engine technology drop considerably.
We predict that as people recognize the strengths of diesel engines and fuel, and as more people get a chance to experience their torquey powertrains, the numbers could grow faster than predicted. And when the first company to sell a decent diesel hybrid in the U.S. succeeds, the momentum will build even faster. Of course, when we have more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road — thereby reducing tax revenues for city, state and federal governments — you can bet government will find another way to squeeze money from our transportation cost savings.