I just returned from participating in the 2013 Audi TDI Efficiency Rally in Washington D.C. Journalists from around the country were presented with three 2014 Audi's in which to compete in three separate legs of a one-day fuel economy rally that totaled more than 300 miles. The featured Audi automobiles were the Audi A6, A7, and the Q5, all powered by the new technology of the Audi TDI Diesel engine.
Audi's second generation Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) 3.0 V6 engine now produces 240 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque. New designs and material engineering has removed considerable weight from the engine partly because of switching from aluminum to magnesium in the engine casting. Going from a 4-chain to a 2-chain drive also reduced weight and friction. Overall, 55 pounds were removed from the engine to create the Gen 2 TDI engine.
Diesel engines have a bad name in the US. The smoky, noisy, dirty connotations that are conjured are hard to equate with the newer cleaner, greener engines. Not so with the new Audi's. Besides incredible performance from the new TDI engine, excellent fuel economy, and super clean emissions; there is no way that the average consumer would ever realize that the extremely quiet and powerful automobile they were driving was powered by a diesel engine.
To illustrate the sheer performance and reliability of the new TDI engineering breakthroughs, Audi has taken their TDI technology and powered their way to the winner's circle in the last four Le Mans 24 hour races.
This results to some remarkable statistics for the 26,000 Audi TDI vehicles sold in the US since 2009; more than 7 million gallons of fuel saved; more than 33,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions prevented; more than 378,000 barrels of oil rolled back and more than $40 million in owner savings at the pump.
One of the biggest changes in diesel technology occurred with the development of ultra low-sulfur diesel (ULSD). ULSD fuel has been commonplace and mandated in Europe for years, and mandated by the EPA in the United States since 2007.
ULSD is more expensive to refine and produce than old-fashioned regular diesel, which is part of the reason why diesel fuel now costs more at the pump. The reduced sulfur content makes this fuel 97% cleaner than its regular diesel cousin.
Because one drop of diesel fuel has 12% more power than one drop of gasoline, the typical diesel-powered vehicle will have 20 to 40 percent better fuel efficiency than a standard gas-powered vehicle, and will emit 10 to 30 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Based on the greater level of fuel efficiency alone, a U.S. EPA analysis found that if one-third of Americans drove clean diesel vehicles, the US could reduce oil consumption by 1.5 million barrels per day (or the equivalent of planting 2.2 billion trees).
Essentially, clean diesel engines allow the automotive industry to reuse and recycle existing infrastructure, rather than have to buy new ways to support new technology. Plus, there is a long-term concern about of the hazardous waste created by electric and hybrid car batteries.
There are five Audi TDI models for the U.S. market; the A6, A7, A8, Q5, and the Q7. Highway EPA mileage ranges from 28 to 38 miles per gallon.
Our combined rally results for the A6, A7 and the Q5 were 38.1 miles per gallon for the plus 300-mile long rally. The rally route took us through some of the most spectacular countryside of Virginia and Maryland. Being from California, I've never seen so much green in my life, especially during the month of August. Maybe this was Audi's plan: putting "green" in the forefront of my mind. Compared to California standards, these back-country roads of Virginia and Maryland were extremely smooth. Smooth means a very quiet ride and this spotlighted how quiet the new TDI engines sound, both inside and outside the automobiles.
Of course, staging all the 50 plus all-white Audi's in front of the U.S. Capitol, all sporting their special side graphics announcing the TDI Diesel motor presented a great photo op to drive home the point to the public and congress that more needs to be done in the United States in regards to clean-diesel production and supply.