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Old 01-29-2008, 11:26 AM   #1 (permalink)
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News: Only 6% of Americans think diesel will succeed as powertrain option

Via Green Car Congress:
According to the latest Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research study, only six percent of new-car shoppers in the US think diesel is most likely to succeed in becoming a mainstream vehicle powertrain type, compared to 40% identifying hybrids, 20% picking hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and 17% citing flexible-fuel systems.

Oh. My.

If this is in any way representative of the true state of things, we're in bigger trouble than I would have guessed. More people said hydrogen fuel cells would be more prominent?!
When asked about their perceptions of diesel engines, nearly half of the in-market new-vehicle shoppers say that diesels are dirty and noisy. In addition, the latest study shows that shoppers increasingly believe that diesel-powered vehicles get poorer fuel mileage than conventional gasoline engines, and fewer consumers are seeing diesels as fuel-efficient.

That's frankly amazing. Did none of the survey respondants have any contact with Europeans at all?
Interest in diesels is steadily declining among in-market new-vehicle shoppers, while interest in hybrids continues to grow. The gap between shoppers’ interest in diesels versus hybrids has greatly widened particularly in the last month, with the nine-point gap in December 2007 jumping to a 17-point gap in January 2008.
Full article: Survey: US New-Car Shoppers Do Not See Diesels as a Likely Mainstream Powertrain

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Old 01-29-2008, 02:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
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MetroMPG -

I used to think that diesel was only about 20% of European sales, but it's probably at least 50% by now :

Diesel Auto Sales Trending to Exceed Gasoline in Europe in 2006 - 30 January 2006
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006..._auto_sal.html
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The latest quarterly pricing survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and eurocarprice.com finds that diesels accounted for 49% (7,415,198 units) of the total European car market at the end of 2005. That represents a 7% increase in annual sales volume over the prior period.

Diesel is now set to overtake gasoline as the primary fuel for new passenger vehicles in Europe during 2006 as buyers look for more fuel-efficient options.

...
Once auto-companies start offering "clean diesel" solutions in the USA, I think the awareness will go up.

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Old 01-29-2008, 03:04 PM   #3 (permalink)
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You're right on that. If/when Honda offers its diesel Accord in the North American market, attitudes will start changing in a hurry.

I'm still astonished by the lack of awareness on basic drivetrain issues, however. (Assuming the survey is representative.)
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Old 01-29-2008, 03:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Diesel is such a great means of powering a car. I think that the only reasons that Americans believe otherwise is due to the reason why many Americans believe many of the things they do, because it's how the media portrays it. In my experience, many people see diesel as being very dirty and very inefficient because of what they see on many of today's diesel applications, those being in the commercial world on large trucks which are always covered in soot and bellow out black clouds. What many people don't see are things like the Audi Le Mans series race cars that are turbo diesels that have won their class every time since their introduction and things like Johnathan Goodwin are doing, doubling their gas millage while tripling their performance.
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Old 01-29-2008, 04:31 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm still astonished by the lack of awareness on basic drivetrain issues, however. (Assuming the survey is representative.)
In other news, roughly 6% of Americans have bothered to use their brains in the last year...
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Old 01-29-2008, 05:10 PM   #6 (permalink)
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US citizens talking to europeans? I think not...

An interesting display of the percentage of people informed by advertisements versus the amount of people informed by information. However, the results are pitiful enough that I think it's fair to say regardless of what people think it'l likely end up some other way.
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Old 01-29-2008, 05:41 PM   #7 (permalink)
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After two years of doing hydrogen fuel cell work for my university, producing them for an internship at a machine shop, and observing a senior project based on the hydrogen fueling station in Montpelier, VT, I can honestly say we are a long ways from using them in cars for the consumer. I can't believe people honestly think this is a viable solution. It just seems like a way for oil companies to funnel the governments money into dead end technology instead of grabbing the low-hanging fruit.
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Old 01-29-2008, 06:28 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Lee View Post
In other news, roughly 6% of Americans have bothered to use their brains in the last year...
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Old 01-29-2008, 06:40 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Old 01-29-2008, 08:30 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I like to think of myself as being smarter than the average bear on the subject of diesels. My first job out of high school in 1969 was at a factory that made diesel-electric locomotives. I've driven a diesel vehicle continuously since 1983.

That said, I am not a bit sanguine about diesels ever doing well in the US.

Two reasons drive that opinion.

First it US regulatory excess. The EPA's Tier II requirement for diesels is considerably more stringent the the Euro 5 spec used across the pond. Under current technological constraints meeting Tier II requires EGR, a barrier filter and in some cases selective noncatalytic reduction.

Any engine subjected to these will not get very good MPG and it will suffer from poor reliability. Already the diesels avaialble on three-quarter ton and up pickup trucks are in trouble. The EGRs cause reduced engine efficiency and excessive cylinder pressures resulting in cylinder head gasket failures. The barrier filter undermines efficiency in two ways. First of all, any barrier filter imposes back pressure and increases pumping power requirements on the engine. It is like running with an exhaust brake constantly on. Secondly the filter occasionally has to "regenerate." This means an auxiliary burner comes on and oxidizes the captured graphite into carbon dioxide. That entials even more fuel burn.

Now M-B is going to import their "Blue-Tec" technology into the US. To make this work you have to fill a small tank with urea periodically and another with tap water. Tap water and urea react to make a dilute ammonia solution that (if the temperatures are right) reacts the NOx into nitrogen and water vapor. If it works. selective non-catlytic reduction is a very tempermental pollution control technology. If the temperature is not within a fairly narrow band, the reaction does not go to completion and the tailpipe emits not only unreacted oxides of nitrogen but also noxious ammonia - a vapor the human nose easily detects in very low concentrations. This technology has a very checkered past in stationary applications with constant monitoring and maintenance by professionals. Just how reliable do you think it will be in a mobile application subjected to the rigors of the road?

Diesels are necessarily more expensive than gas engines of equal power output. No with all these (dubious) pollution control add-ons it may very well be that a diesel vehicle will require a $10,000 cost premium over an equivalent gas engined vehicle. A $10,000 price premium on a small car is a deal-killer.

The other big reason that diesels will not fly in the US is that Americans prefer automatic transmissions and diesels' torque characteristics tend to destroy automatics. As much as I love them I just don't think americans will want relaible and efficient manual transmissions. They are too busy talking on their cell phones. Yes there are some automatics that are designed for diesel service. The transmission offered on GM pickups (a value-engineered Allison 1000) has some problems and still commands a $4,000 premium over the mass-produced gas-engine automatics.

Thanks to regulatory excess, todays diesels will be unreliable, possibly noxious to be around, very costly and just not efficient enough to to justify all the deficiencies.

A lot of work and governmental compromise will be needed to make the diesel popular.

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