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What is a diesel engine? Why should you consider a diesel for your next purchase? How did the diesel engine originate?

The Diesel Engine

Over 99% of the cars sold in America to date have been powered by a gasoline engine. As a result, most Americans either don't even know what a diesel is, or have a general idea of what one is but sees the diesel engine as something that powers tractor-trailer trucks and tugboats.

This is an almost-uniquely American phenomena. In Europe, even with more stringent pollution standards (and even in part because of these standards), just over half of the registered passenger vehicles on the road are diesel-powered. This includes vehicles built by American manufacturers but not available (at least with the diesel option) in America, such as the Ford Focus and the Jeep Liberty (note, however, that the Liberty will be available with a diesel option in America starting in the 2005 model year).

Why is this? Why are there so many diesels in Europe, and indeed, around the world, yet so few diesels in the United States? I go further into this in my article on why people should take diesels into further consideration, but there are a couple of basic reasons. The first one is the misconception that diesels are bad for the environment. In addition, due to a few aborted attempts by American auto manufacturers to introduce diesels in the late 1970's and early 1980's, most notably the Oldsmobile "350 diesel" that proved to be an absolute failure, many people tend to shy away from diesels.

It appears that, either due to fading memories, renewed ideas, or a desperate attempt to find alternatives in the days of rising fuel prices and dwindling oil supplies, people are beginning to look more into diesel engines. As mentioned, the Jeep Liberty will be made available with a diesel in the United States beginning in 2005. Mercedes-Benz, long a diesel pioneer in the United States as well as in Europe, introduced the E320 CDi diesel E-class sedan in 2005, marking the first Mercedes diesel-powered sedan sold in the United States since 1999. A V-6 version of the 6.0l V-8 "Powerstroke" engine of Ford Superduty fame was designed to fit in the F-150 pickup and Expedition SUV, although disputes between Ford and International-Harvester appear to have put that concept on hold indefinitely. There have also been rumors, such as the rumor (thus far unfounded) that Detroit Diesel, which is owned by Daimler-Chrysler, is working on a V-6 engine to be installed in Dodge Dakota pickups and Durango SUV's. The Sprinter, a Mercedes design that is sold in the United States as either a Freightliner or a Dodge, is only available in the United States with a 2.7 litre inline-5 turbo diesel.

It appears that a lot of progress has been made. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles still to overcome. While diesel sales are increasing (the Ford/International-Harvester Powerstroke diesel accounted for 50% of engine sales in all {including Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet, and GMC} 3/4 and 1 ton pickups in the United States, and the Volkswagen TDi, which gets similar fuel mileage to a hybrid Toyota Prius at a lower cost, has been a large success for Volkswagen), there are many people who fear the design for a multitude of reasons, such as those mentioned above. It is my intention to provide a means to minimize these reasons to the best of my ability, and for this cause I present this site. I hope this will prove informative and helpful, and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at my E-mail address below.

This site is divided into three major sections. The first is a description of how the diesel engine works along with the similarities and differences with a gasoline engine. The second is a slightly updated write-up I wrote on the advantages of a diesel for a class I had a few years ago. The last section deals somewhat with the history of the diesel engine.

What is a diesel engine? Why should you consider a diesel for your next purchase? How did the diesel engine originate?

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Page updated January 26th, 2005

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