Are Diesel Truck Engines Doomed?
For as long as I can remember, truck enthusiasts have been clamoring for a half-ton diesel. Diesel engines offer a lot of advantages over gasoline motors, many of which truck owners find particularly appealing.
Diesel truck advantages:
- Diesel is more efficient. Depending on who you ask, diesel engines are about 30% more fuel efficient than a gasoline engine of comparable size.
- Diesel engines are heavy on torque. Diesel engines provide gobs of torque at very low RPMs – much more than a typical gas motor.
- Diesel engines run a very long time. Your typical diesel truck engine will run 200k miles minimum before a problem develops. For gasoline engines, 120k miles is a more realistic “no problems” life span.
Of course, it’s not all roses and horsepower with diesels – here’s a few reasons diesels aren’t better than gasoline:
- Emissions. Diesel engines pump out a lot of NOx (nitrous oxides) and particulate matter a.k.a. soot a.k.a. “black stuff.”
- Expense. Diesel fuel (at least in the USA) is more expensive than gasoline and the engines themselves usually have higher maintenance costs. Because diesels produce more emissions, they need more expensive emissions equipment…which raises the up-front cost quite a bit.
- Availability. Finding diesel fuel at your local service station can be a challenge (depending on where you live).
The question before us: Can diesel overcome these challenges?
On the availability question, definitely. Diesel trucks typically have larger than average fuel tanks to help them compensate for fewer diesel stations. Between the extra capacity and the engine’s superior fuel economy, it’s hard to run out of diesel.
On the cost question…possibly, but it depends on the buyer. I believe that consumers are willing to pay more for a diesel if it gives them enough benefits. Diesel engines are wildly popular in heavy duty trucks despite their tremendously higher costs. Ford’s 6.4L PowerStroke is a $9,325 option on the 2010 F350, and they’re selling just fine because big truck buyers need the power and efficiency of a diesel. As far as light-duty trucks are concerned, no one is quite sure. While I personally believe there are hundreds of thousands of people itching to buy a half-ton diesel pickup, Ford, Dodge, GM, and Toyota have all canceled or delayed plans to sell a half-ton truck with a diesel (see Tundra diesel delayed). In other words, the people that make the trucks don’t agree.
On the emissions question…dicey. Large diesel trucks (like the SuperDuty mentioned above) have been exempted from the most restrictive emissions regulations for a long time…but that’s beginning to change. Recently, these large trucks have fallen under the eye of regulators and we’re beginning to see some very strict emissions standards applied. If this trend continues, diesel could be in trouble – especially if regulators start applying gasoline hybrid like emissions standards across the board.
Are diesel truck engines doomed (at least in North America)? Hard to say. The future of diesel was pretty bright two years ago, but with a recent increase in emissions standards, most truck makers have backed off expanding their diesel line-ups (except Mahindra, but that’s another story).
What do you think – is the diesel truck on the decline?
Filed Under: Diesel Tundra