Some automakers to add diesel engine option for U.S. cars - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Some automakers to add diesel engine option for U.S. cars

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(02/03/12) - Next year, some Chevrolet, Cadillac and Jeep models will offer a diesel engine option. Future sales figures will show whether those vehicles can change an industry trend. Diesel engines are much more popular in Europe than in the U.S.

Automakers are trying to move away from the "bad old days" when diesel engines were noisy and bothersome. In the past few years, the technology has improved dramatically.

"Most people think diesels are stinky, smoggy and bad for the environment. But that couldn't be further from the truth," said Mike Sheaffer, sales manager at Grand Blanc Motorcars.

In Europe, diesels are the preferred power source for cars.

"A diesel is much more efficient than a gasoline engine. It can be 20-40 percent more efficient," said Dr. Craig Hoff, engineering professor at Kettering University.

"On average, diesel engines last twice to three times longer than a gasoline engine," Sheaffer said.

So why aren't they more popular in the U.S.? One reason: federal regulations are more restrictive when it comes to the pollutants emitted by a diesel.     

"The engine is more expensive. Just to build the engine you have to have a turbocharger. You have to make the engine stronger because you're using higher pressures inside the combustion chamber," Dr. Hoff explained.

While a diesel engine and a hybrid system can both improve a car's mileage, a diesel will do it less expensively and with fewer complicated systems.

"Modern diesels engines are wonderful to drive. You wouldn't notice a real difference between a diesel engine and a gasoline engine like you would have in the past," said Dr. Hoff.

"When they get in them, they're typically very surprised about how much power they produce and of course nowadays we talk about how quiet they are,"Sheaffer said.

Ford and other manufacturers say they prefer to devote resources to improving gasoline engines rather than on diesel engine development. But industry analysts believe diesels will drive an increasing share of the market as engineers continue to look for ways to improve fuel economy.

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