With gasoline prices creeping up again, consumers continue to embrace fuel alternatives. Only a handful of available options exist, including an oldie-but-sooty, diesel. Happily, diesels are not what they used to be.
Technological advances, have revolutionized diesels, making them cleaner, quieter, and more fuel efficient, prompting certain carmakers to launch a diesel redux.
Leading the offensive, German automakers offer new models in 2009, including the Volkswagen Jetta TDI (sedan and sportwagen) and Touareg TDI, Audi A3 TDI and Q7 TDI, BMW 335d and X5 xDrive35d, and Mercedes-Benz GL320 BlueTEC, R320 BlueTEC, and ML320 BlueTEC.
Chiming in with support, car experts from MotorWeek named the 2009 Jetta TDI its Driver’s Choice and analysts at J.D, Power and Associates expect diesels to outsell gasoline-electric hybrids in the United States by 2015.
Available in the U.S. since 2006, cleaner, ultra-low-sulfur diesel containing less than 15 parts per million of sulfur assisted in refining diesel power. Advances in filtering and engine performance have also made diesel car and SUV applications a lot cleaner and less audible, so much so that many models are now sellable in all 50 states.
Assisting Volkswagen and Audi TDIs is a an advanced DeNOx catalytic converter system that converts nitrogen oxide (NOx) components of the exhaust gas into nitrogen and water without forming any undesirable side products.
Larger diesels, like the Mercedes-Benz ML320 BlueTEC, use AdBlue injection that reduces oxides of nitrogen emissions, making the BlueTEC diesel engine as clean as a modern gasoline engine.
BMW BluePerformance controls emissions though an exhaust particulates filter and a Selective Catalytic Reduction exhaust after-treatment system.
Like gasoline, even the cost of diesel fuel has dropped from last year by about $2.08, averaging $2.49 per gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Add to this the fact that diesel is a much more fuel-efficient alternative to gasoline and suddenly choosing a diesel makes sense.
The award winning Jetta TDI achieves an EPA estimated fuel economy of 29 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. That compares to a city/highway fuel economy of 21/30 mpg for the gasoline powered Jetta.
“The Jetta TDI clean diesel has no peer this year,” said John Davis, MotorWeek host. “It’s clean, powerful, fun to drive, roomy and comfortable and it also happens to be very affordable.”
Pricing for the Jetta TDI starts at $22,270 and it’s eligible for a $1,300 Federal Income Tax Credit.
Whether consumers will welcome diesels back remains to be seen but at least the gasoline crisis has produced one silver lining—a new appreciation and demand for alternative energy.