I'm a Diesel guy.
I say that in the interest of full disclosure so that you'll understand, I'm biased and tend to spend the majority of my attention on the articles and facts that agree with how I already feel...kinda like politics. That being said, every so often customers will share articles with me that are generated by unbiased people, and I love it when one nails something solid. So with that in mind, i’ve often received the question “Why Diesel over Gas engines”, and I decided to give a brief explanation of my position.
Why Diesel is more expensive
Years ago when Elvis was a living King and a cell phone was something that Angola prisoners only dreamed of, you typically could buy diesel fuel about .25 to .40 cents cheaper than unleaded (note: I didn't say premium, we didn't use fancy words in the 70's). There was a simple reason for this, it was cheaper to refine. You could use cheaper crude to make it, and the process took less time, so getting it to market was faster and less costly. This resulted in a boom for the diesel manufacturing industry. People were buying GM diesel cars by the thousands, and our industry was loving it. However nothing lasts forever, and eventually the oil companies got wise. They looked up and down the road and saw two thirds of this nation's goods being hauled around in diesel powered vehicles. Trucks, Rail, you name it. An entire nation was running on that sweet low cost diesel. Following the laws of supply and demand, one day the oil industry decided that they could raise the price, and no one could do anything about it. It's also worth noting that the government got in on the act and raised the tax on diesel to twice that of the tax on gas. The government and the oil industry both understood that the cost would eventually be absorbed into the price of the goods being transported by the rail cars and van bodies of America. The consumer ends up paying $00.007 more for a pair of socks, but who's going to complain?
The Power of Diesel
So the government and the refineries made the move to raise the price of diesel fuel. With a higher cost on diesel pumps, average consumers were forced to reconsider the vehicles they used everyday. The advantages of automotive diesels died at the pump. Diesel owners once again became contractors, construction workers, mechanics, and people who needed the power of a diesel engine. The days of Sally Ann dropping off her children at school in a GM 5.7L diesel were a distant memory. Nowadays, most diesel owners have class three trucks, which cost more, and are designed to perform certain tasks that a typical car owner just doesn't need. The average consumer doesn’t need to haul a John Deere 310 Backhoe to a job site on a regular basis. With the raw power of diesels being made a higher priced commodity, gas engines became the new normal for the average vehicle owner. Diesel stopped being the standard, and was in some ways put on a pedestal.
Understanding what Diesel COULD be
If you are one of the fortunate few to have an automotive diesel, on average you are getting more miles per dollar than a lot of vehicles on the road today, and yet despite the better financial value, the automotive diesel, while not completely dead in America, is nowhere near as popular as it is in other countries. In 2008 I was in Australia for the Australian Diesel Specialists convention, and at least sixty percent of the vehicles that I saw on the road were diesel. Most of them Toyota’s. It’s not that our friends across the pond have a lifestyle that demands the power of a diesel, it’s that their fuel is not as expensive. It pains me to know that our country could have that vehicle as a popular form of transportation, but because diesel engines have such a bad rap, the majority of our country doesn't want an automotive class diesel. There is a misconception about diesel engines, that they are a display of opulence, and one that is bad for the environment at that. The reality though, might surprise you.
Diesels: Better for the environment?
If we took a step back and looked at our long term environmental goals, diesels are the better value. We no longer have the black soot and loud engines of the 70's and 80's. The diesel engines of today are some of the most efficient and best values on the road, not to mention the amount of power that they offer, the real problem is that not too many consumers know it. The reality is that when Rudolph Diesel invented the Diesel engine, he was interested in making it run on coal dust or vegetable oil as fuel, and in fact, his engine ran on peanut oil. The diesel engine has the benefit of running more fuel-efficiently than gasoline engines due to much higher compression ratios and longer duration of combustion, which means the temperature rises more slowly, allowing more heat to be converted to mechanical work. The real value in a diesel engine comes from the efficiency with which it burns its fuel. So maybe in a few years we can change consumer attitudes and get Sally Ann to drop off her great-grand kids at school in a nice diesel powered Toyota Land Cruiser.
One can certainly hope.
So in summary
Not only are diesels more powerful, they are also more sensible in the long term. Their efficient fuel combustion is better for your wallet and the environment, despite what people may think. The reason that diesels are more expensive at the pump is that 35 years ago they were the popular choice of the American vehicle owner. Following the popularity of the diesel engine, the price of diesel fuel went up, and their popularity tapered off (in America). However, diesels have a great deal of popularity around the world, and the community around them continues to develop. I am proud to be a part of that community, and hope it continues to grow.
Thank you for your time
Founder of Diesel Care & Performance