As the U.S. advances efforts to increase passenger car mileage and decrease Greenhouse Gas emissions in the coming years, advanced clean diesel vehicles can play a key role in achieving efficiency and environmental gains providing new government policies don’t hinder current or future technological advances, an industry panel said Wednesday during a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill.
The briefing entitled – “Driving the Future: Technologies are ready to meet future fuel economy and clean air goals; what about policies?” – was hosted by the nonprofit associations Diesel Technology Forum and U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Cars.
The briefing also included panelists from Cummins Inc., the world’s largest independent manufacturer of diesel engines and related products, and Volkswagen, the largest manufacturer of diesel cars in the U.S.
Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, opened the briefing by explaining the evolution of “clean diesel,” which now includes new ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel combined with the most energy-efficient internal combustion engines and the most advanced emissions controls. This has resulted in a 97% reduction in the sulfur in diesel fuel and more than 98% reductions in particulate matter and NOx.
Clean Diesels Are Ready to Do the Job Right Now
Schaeffer added that the U.S. has variety of diverse fuel type vehicles to choose from, including turbo-charged gasoline, hybrids, plug-in hybrid-electrics, battery electric vehicles, natural gas, and clean diesels.
“We currently have a new generation of clean diesel passenger vehicles with proven real world fuel efficiency,” Schaeffer said. “These vehicles are clean with low CO2 emissions, they provide great performance, they are renewable fuel ready and most important—they are available to the American public right now.”
“Clean diesel is not a ‘bridge’ concept or ‘down-the-road’ expectation—these vehicles are on the road right now providing impressive hybrid-like mileage and meeting the same emissions standards as gasoline vehicles,” he added.
Schaeffer said that clean diesels have the “growing interest” from manufacturers and consumers with an expectation of the diesel market to grow from today’s 3% market share to as much as 10% by 2020
Diesels Are “Clean, Efficient & Powerful”
Michael Ruth of Cummins Inc., highlighted the fact that new diesel vehicles available today are “clean, efficient and powerful” with 20-40% better fuel efficiency than gasoline vehicles, and responsive power for a positive driving experience.
Ruth said new diesels are clean with many diesels now below the required fleet average required NOx values. In addition, they are efficient with diesels providing conventional powertrain options with outstanding fuel economy that can exceed CAFÉ values. And they are powerful as diesels can deliver torque equivalent to gasoline engines nearly twice the size, at cruise engine speeds and they deliver a comfortable driving experience, Ruth said.
Ruth also provided a glimpse of the future with Cummins’ ATLAS program of engine development in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, which is producing a light weight, fuel efficient and powerful 2.8L diesel engine that achieves near zero emissions (US EPA Tier 2 bin 2).
“Real World” Driving Experiences
Douglas Skorupski of Volkswagen of America Inc., noted that Volkswagen Group is the leader in U.S. diesel car sales with about a 70% market share with significant sales increases in four of the last five years. He also showed data that indicated four of Volkswagen’s six diesel vehicles exceeded a 30 percent “take rate”—the percentage of diesels customers chose when a gasoline version is also available.
Additionally, Skorupski said the “real world driving experience” of diesels includes an analysis of self-reported fuel economy (via fueleconomy.gov) that demonstrated a majority of diesel users reporting fuel economy above the mileage on EPA window stickers.
Skorupski also provided a glimpse of the future with Volkswagen’s XL1 vehicle, which was sold in Europe but not the U.S. The XL1 is the most efficient car in the world with 261 miles per gallon—a 47 hp TDI clean diesel engine with a 27 hp electric motor, and plug in hybrid powertrain.
Taxing Diesel Fuel
Jeffrey Breneman, the executive director of the U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Cars, outlined the numerous “green awards” diesel cars and pickup trucks have won in the past year including the Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel being named “2015 Green SUV of the Year” by Green Car Journal and the Volkswagen Passat winning Cars.com “Eco-Friendly Car of the Year.”
Breneman said that a major policy that unfairly hurts diesel car and pickup drivers is the disparity in the federal fuel tax, which costs 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline but a higher 24.4 cents for diesel in the U.S.
“There are over 7 million diesel cars and light trucks on the road today paying a diesel fuel tax penalty every time they fill up at the pump,” Breneman said. “There is no policy justification for taxing diesel fuel at a disproportionate rate.”
Breneman said that transportation and taxation policies should be “technology neutral” and not unfairly favor some fuel types or unfairly favor others.
To see a list of the currently available diesel passenger vehicles in the U.S. and an updated listing of diesel vehicles coming soon to the U.S. market.