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Diesel, Hybrids, and Gasoline

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

A study by the RAND Corporation recently evaluated diesel, hybrid, and traditional gasoline technologies.  The three vehicle types were analyzed on "consumer factors" such as technology cost, fuel savings, mobility, and performance.  They were also evaluated on the "societal perspective" that looked at tailpipe pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions and "energy security costs" for the fuels (i.e. the costs to society as a whole).

 

Here are the notable results:

 

"Among the key findings from the consumer perspective:

  • For all three vehicle types, the advanced diesel offers the highest savings over the life of the vehicle among the options considered. These savings increase with the size and fuel use of the vehicle: $460 for the car, $1,249 for the SUV and $2,289 for the large pick-up truck;
  • The hybrid option has smaller but still considerable savings for SUV applications ($1,066), moderate savings for pick-up applications ($505) but minimal savings over the life of the vehicle for car owners ($198);
  • The vehicles operating on E85 cost all three owners more over the vehicle life, with a greater net cost burden for larger vehicles and increased fuel consumption: (-$1,034 for cars, -$1,332 for SUVs, -$1,632 for pick-ups).

 

The key findings from the societal perspective are similar to those of the consumer perspective, including:

  • The advanced diesel again shows the most promise, particularly for the larger vehicles: $289 for cars, $1,094 for SUVs and $2,199 for large trucks.
  • The net benefits for hybrids are somewhat less positive, with moderate-to-small values of $481 for SUVs and $132 for light trucks, and an increased cost for cars (-$317) over the life of the vehicle
  • Results for E85 remain uniformly negative, even more so for larger than smaller vehicles: -$1,046 for cars, -$1,500 for SUVs and -$2,049 for light trucks" (News Release, 8 November 2007)

 

post #2 of 6

 Okay, super naive question...growing up, I was always under the impression that diesel cars were to be avoided like the plague!  But now it seems like they're resurgent from a Green perspective...  Are they just cleaner burning now?  I.e. have the diesel technologies improved?  Or is something else going on?  I'm confused.

post #3 of 6

One can easily convert a diesel car to run on vegetable oil. Not use any gasoline.

 

Quote:
 

Originally Posted by Lola:

 Okay, super naive question...growing up, I was always under the impression that diesel cars were to be avoided like the plague!  But now it seems like they're resurgent from a Green perspective...  Are they just cleaner burning now?  I.e. have the diesel technologies improved?  Or is something else going on?  I'm confused.


 

post #4 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lola:

 Okay, super naive question...growing up, I was always under the impression that diesel cars were to be avoided like the plague!  But now it seems like they're resurgent from a Green perspective...  Are they just cleaner burning now?  I.e. have the diesel technologies improved?  Or is something else going on?  I'm confused.

 

Diesel has been somewhat improved relatively recently.  All diesel now sold is 'ultra-low sulfur diesel' (ULSD).  In comparison to gasoline, diesel has higher sulfur, particulate, and nitrous oxides (NOx) emissions, but lower CO2 emissions.  ULSD essentially takes care of the sulfur issue, which is a big deal, so particularly in Europe it's become much more common (I've heard that 40% of European cars are diesels) because of the relatively low CO2 emissions and higher fuel efficiency.

 

However, because of the high NOx and particulate emissions, many diesels still don't pass US emissions standards (particularly in California).  Particulates cause all sorts of health problems (asthma, lung cancer, etc.) and NOx creates a wide variety of problems from smog to global warming.

 

And of course you can use biodiesel in diesels.

post #5 of 6

Interesting!  Maybe it's time to adjust our emissions standards if the NOx in diesel is a lesser evil than traditional fuels?

post #6 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lola:

Interesting!  Maybe it's time to adjust our emissions standards if the NOx in diesel is a lesser evil than traditional fuels?

 

Well the problem is that deciding what's a lesser evil is rather subjective.  NOx contributes to smog, acid rain, respiratory problems, etc.  Diesel particulates can cause cancer, bronchitis, emphysema, strokes, etc.  Research is going into reducing these emissions, but the result will likely decrease diesel fuel efficiency, which will then reduce its advantage over gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.  So it's really hard to say whether diesel or gasoline has a lesser environmental impact.  Really we just need to move away from both.

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