Diesels_MEmag_Jan2005 - FEATURE FOCUS Fuels Combustion a...

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FEATURE FOCUS: a new dawn for diesel Will Americans pay the price to put light-duty diesels on U.S. highways? by John DeGaspari, Associate Editor T rucking is the lifeblood of the freight business in this country and diesel engines are its beating heart. Each year some 2.6 million trucks—nine out of 10 of which are diesel-powered— haul nine billion tons of goods along U.S. highways. That being said, it is the conventional gasoline engine that still rules the American road. It is the power plant of the lion's share of small pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, and passenger cars. And it can consume a great deal of fuel. Hybrid electric-gasoline vehicles have recently gained the spotlight as one way to boost fuel economy in light- duty vehicles and stem the rise in fuel consumption in the United States. But that is still an exotic solution. When it is available, it is costly. A fuel-efficient alternative—the diesel engine—has largely been overlooked as a means of curbing American cars' appetites.
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This 2.8-liter diesel engine, being manufactured in Cento, Italy, as part of a joint venture between DaimlerChrysler and VM Motori, will power Chrysler's 2005 Jeep Liberty. A number of factors have come into play in recent years that make light-duty diesels a viable alternative to conventional gasoline engines. Modern direct-injection diesels are different engines from the smoky, noisy, and smelly diesels of 30 years ago. Taking advantage of electronic controls and advances in fuel injection, today's light-duty diesels are quiet and clean, and they provide excellent low-end torque and superior fuel economy, proponents say. Ultra-low sulfur fuel, set to become available in the United States in 2006, will enable emissions control technologies to reduce particulates and nitrogen oxides, the two main pollutants of diesel engines. Enough pieces are in place, in terms of engine performance and the ability to meet emissions standards, that light-duty diesels are finally getting some serious consideration in the American market. Few people believe that diesels will sweep gasoline engines off the road in the United States any time soon. Yet car manufacturers are beginning to test the waters. This month, the Chrysler Group is introducing in the United States a version of its midsize sport utility vehicle, the Jeep Liberty, powered by a 2.8-liter turbo diesel engine. Mercedes-Benz reintroduced its sleek E- class diesel sedan in North America last year, after a four-year hiatus. Other carmakers think that light-duty diesels could form niches in specific markets as well. A New Generation In addition to their role in powering heavy vehicles, diesels have long been an important segment of the medium-duty business, for instance, in large pickup trucks. Manufacturers have also tapped into light-duty diesel markets for small trucks and passenger cars in Europe and Asia. The technology of light-duty, direct-injection diesel
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Diesels_MEmag_Jan2005 - FEATURE FOCUS Fuels Combustion a...

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