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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Fuel Economy Part 2

Last week, we looked at gas as a fuel for your car. This week we are going to look at diesel. Diesel engines have a bad rap in the US. Diesels are loud, dirty, and expensive. Diesel has come a long way and is a very good choice of fuel. Diesel engines are significantly more efficient than gas engines - 25% to 40% more efficient. They are also very clean. New emissions regulations have made these engines very clean, and they are just as clean as a gas engine. Diesels are sometimes difficult to find in the US, but this is changing. As fuel prices continue to rise, the efficiency of a diesel engine is beginning to be very attractive to the US consumer. Diesels are widely available in Europe, where fuel prices are significantly more expensive. They are available from most of the major manufacturers, including the major American auto makers. However, in the US, the majority of vehicles that are available in diesel are the expensive imports or heavy duty vehicles like trucks and vans. This is changing as Chevy has a diesel Cruse. Ford and some of the other manufacturers are beginning to bring their diesel offerings across the pond.

Diesels tend to be a little more expensive than their gas counterparts, but this cost is often made up in two or three years in fuel savings. The VW Jetta, which has about a $2700 up charge for the TDI model, gets a combined 40 mpg compared to 28 from the gas engine. This means that it would take you approximately 2 ½ years to recoup the cost difference. Diesels are also longer lived engines. So if you take care of the engine, it will outlive a comparable gas engine by a long shot. Diesel engines require regular fluid changes like a gas engine, but they do not require regular tune-ups or ignition system fixes, which are the higher costing routine maintenances associated with gas engines. This does not mean that there are no maintenance costs associated with diesel engines, but there are fewer high cost maintenance needs in a diesel engine. This can also reduce the cost associated with a diesel vehicle.

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