Gasoline is the main fuel used by suburban cars, lawn mowers, and other household machinery. It is the fuel most commonly used by the average, everyday person. In contrast, diesel fuel is one of the main fuels used by heavy machinery, trucks and trains to transport goods across the United States. It is entirely possible to purchase a diesel run personal car for your own use, but is it better for the environment than gasoline?
Back in the 1970’s, during the oil crisis that plagued the United States, many people turned to diesel engines instead of using gasoline. But the diesel cars of that era were loud, clunky and very unreliable. They also smelled badly and gave off a noxious black smoke that settled on cars, acting almost like soot. In addition, they emitted high values of nitrogen compounds and other particulates.
Due to this, diesel cars became almost non-existent on public roadways in the United States. They are now mainly used for commercial vehicles and a few large heavy-duty pick-up trucks. Meanwhile, in Europe, diesel cars are prevalent because many new advances were made in diesel fuel engines and of the low cost of diesel fuel.
In the past thirty years, diesel fuel engines have become far more efficient than the clunky diesels of the 1970’s and 80’s. Some of these technologies include a new fuel injection system controlled by a small computer in the car that monitors combustion, efficient particulate filters and catalytic converters. These cut down on emissions and increase fuel efficiency. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that most diesels are around 20-40% more efficient than the comparable gasoline cars. The average diesel car gets about 40-50 miles to the gallon, which is twice of what a comparable gasoline car usually gets.
This is possible because of the new type of diesel used called Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD);which has a considerably lower level of emissions and allows for the efficient engine to work correctly. It’s this new fuel that allows for diesels to now be sold as personal cars in the United States. Many states have adopted standards that allow for personal use diesels cars to only emit .07 grams per mile of nitrogen oxides, which most diesels could not meet. This compares to the much less strict .29 grams per mile in Europe. ULSD allow for diesels to meet these standards easily. Also, diesel fuel requires less refining from crude oil than gasoline.
However, diesels can often be more expensive than gasoline cars. Because of all the hardware associated with the efficiency of diesel cars, their price can be a few thousand dollars higher. They are easy to maintain; but once something breaks, they are quite expensive to repair and can cost around 7,000 dollars for repair.
Diesel gas also costs more than the already inflated gasoline prices, though this may be because of our preference towards gasoline as our main fuel product. Gasoline is actually far more expensive in Europe, which is why over half of the cars in Europe are diesel. If more diesel cars are sold in the United States, then it is entirely possible the price may be driven downward.
Diesel cars have a lot of potential to be a viable alternative to gasoline cars. Of course both run on oil products, but diesels run more efficiently. New technologies are still consistently being invented to give them a better filtration system and better mileage. Soon, diesel cars may dominate our roadways just as they do in Europe.