• Jul 12, 2007


We just got word of the latest GM FastLane Blog podcast, and in it Bob Lutz doesn't appear to be too keen on diesels. While admitting that GM is working on diesel powerplants for use in passenger vehicles sold in the U.S., he tries to emphasize the fact that diesels aren't a cure-all. Lutz sees only a 12-15% benefit to diesels over gas engines in fuel mileage given the stricter emissions standards for diesels that are now in place. With the new Bin 5 Tier II standards (not to mention the even stricter standards set by the California Air Resources Board) on the horizon, he thinks a diesel-powered car will cost $2,000 to $2,800 more than a gas-powered one because of extra emissions hardware, and that's on top of the $1,000 to $2,000 premium for diesels to begin with.

His bottom line seems to be that diesels can be better than gas engines for mileage, but that the added cost to meet new emissions standards are making them less attractive. While we've been heartened to see the promise of more diesels coming to the States, it's true that they don't really answer all of the concerns about a diminishing crude supply, nor the environmental impact of automobiles. They may reduce our use of crude, but there are costs associated with them that make them a temporary step at best. Renewable energy sources are a better option ultimately, but for the time being, diesels can help us reduce our dependency. It might sound like sour grapes a bit coming from Bob's lips, but he has a point. Click play and watch his thoughts on this issue for yourself.


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  • 48 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      and this is why GM is dying and will soon be dead.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Anybody know what happened to EPA's Hydraulic Hybrid Technology.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The Development of EPA’s Hydraulic Hybrid Technology
        EPA’s multi-year research program to develop hydraulic hybrid technology has produced a proof-ofconcept
        test chassis that:
        • Triples the fuel economy of conventional vehicles (80 miles per gallon (mpg) for a midsize family
        sedan that also incorporates improved tires and aerodynamics)
        • Saves the consumer money (consumer payback [i.e., recouping the higher vehicle cost] within 1 to 3
        years through fuel savings and less brake wear)
        • Accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour (mph) in approximately 8 seconds
        • Attains higher fuel efficiency without using expensive lightweight materials (test weight of chassis is
        3800 lb) to facilitate commercialization
        The hydraulic system offers great advantages for vehicles
        operating in stop-and-go conditions because the system can
        capture large amounts of energy when the brakes are applied.
        This energy is subsequently used to propel the vehicle.
        Technical challenges with hydraulic hybrids include noise and
        packaging issues, but EPA is continuing to develop this
        technology to resolve these issues. With the success of its
        hydraulic hybrid chassis, EPA has begun to transfer the
        technology to the private sector. EPA is currently developing
        the hydraulic hybrid technology in urban delivery trucks and
        large sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The Development of EPA’s Hydraulic Hybrid Technology
        EPA’s multi-year research program to develop hydraulic hybrid technology has produced a proof-ofconcept
        test chassis that:
        • Triples the fuel economy of conventional vehicles (80 miles per gallon (mpg) for a midsize family
        sedan that also incorporates improved tires and aerodynamics)
        • Saves the consumer money (consumer payback [i.e., recouping the higher vehicle cost] within 1 to 3
        years through fuel savings and less brake wear)
        • Accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour (mph) in approximately 8 seconds
        • Attains higher fuel efficiency without using expensive lightweight materials (test weight of chassis is
        3800 lb) to facilitate commercialization
        The hydraulic system offers great advantages for vehicles
        operating in stop-and-go conditions because the system can
        capture large amounts of energy when the brakes are applied.
        This energy is subsequently used to propel the vehicle.
        Technical challenges with hydraulic hybrids include noise and
        packaging issues, but EPA is continuing to develop this
        technology to resolve these issues. With the success of its
        hydraulic hybrid chassis, EPA has begun to transfer the
        technology to the private sector. EPA is currently developing
        the hydraulic hybrid technology in urban delivery trucks and
        large sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks; other
        attractive applications include school buses, and waste
        disposal trucks.
        EPA’s proof-of-concept test chassis
        demonstrating hydraulic hybrid technology.
        • 7 Years Ago
        its in use on large trucks, delivery vans and that type of thing. it is not applicable to passenger vehicles.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'd like to know more about the stratified charge engine GM is working on.

      IIRC - stratified charge engines work best at constant RPM.

      It sounds like a good match for a series hybrid such as the Volt.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I'm pretty sure you're referring to "homogeneous charge" rather than "stratified charge". Heck, the Honda CVCC was a stratified charge engine, and that was back in the 1970s. I've had hopes for homogeneous charge engines too, but then I heard a while back that they're really best for low-load operation (like cruising on the highway), which probably wouldn't be so great for a series hybrid. Maybe it would work.. I suppose I'll have to do more digging when I get a chance.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Heh heh, Val, is that some British humor with that bit about Americans not loving diesels and cleaning trousers? Anyway, wouldn't the higher fuel economy of diesels generally negate the purportedly higher CO2 or NOX output/mile? Also, Lutz doesn't seem convincing, and I wasn't sure if he even believed in his own argument at first, at least from the somewhat timid manner in which he spoke. Finally, if diesel technology does cost that much, which I don't believe at all, couldn't GM sell a higher volume of cars at lower prices and possibly still make a profit, because there is presumably a high demand for diesels right now?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Chris,
      Maybe he was speaking strictly about american market when he said diesels are not profitable. With 50% of cars sold in europe coming with a diesel, most of them should be bankrupt by now, including GMs own Opel and Vauxhall, if they were selling them at no profit or at a loss. I think he or somebody else in GM said that they are only selling the Aveo to better their CAFE, and that its making no money for them. In Europe, many companies like renault, PSA, Fiat basically live off diesel compact and mini cars, not counting their commercial vehicles. And renault somehow got the money to buy 40% of nissan (with Nissan buying 15% of Renault). Of course, they all have problems and are not bathing in money, but I believe they are making a profit on each unit sold. This probably comes down to customer tastes as well, as no ordinary american would be willing to pay the same money for a truck and a renault megane (ok, i know it is not offered in the us, and never willl be). According to this very blog, you can get a Silverado for $16,000 with incentives and all (not sure about that), while a 5-door diesel Megane costs 16,000 EUR in Germany, and if it ever came to US it would probably cost the same number, only in dollars, judging by prices of Audi and BMW cars sold here and in the US. And thats a car that offers nothing, besides a good engine and nice styling, interior and comfort is pretty average. Here is a little commercial I really enjoyed, check it, though you may have seen it already.

      http://youtube.com/watch?v=WgsX-LY3ZSo

      • 7 Years Ago
      Many people, including Lutz, forget something that has been mentioned a billion times concerning diesels. Until recently, all the diesel fuel in the US had a very high suplphur content, which prevented the use of the latest high pressure injecton systems and emission control systems found in european engines. Then again there is the thing with legislation. Europe has decided to go against high CO2 emissions in their standards, America and especially CA have decides to go against NOx emissions. That sort of smashes the argument about free market forces and supply-demand. In America diesels are virtually outlawed, and only now are companies reaching to the point where they can use urea and other methods to make them clean enough. In Europe, diesels have an advantage, not because of emission standards, as they are pretty stringent for both petrol and diesel, but the standards gave time to diesel technology to catch up gradually, reducing the amount of NOx and particulates from 2000 to 2012, when they will be virtually equal for both engines. And ofcourse diesel is much cheaper in europe (0.91 EUR in luxemburg, 1.00 eur in germany, against 1.39 eur for petrol). So the theory about free market forces is not valid here, its all about taxes and standards. The most mass-market diesel in the us until recently was the VW jetta, and golf/rabbit. All due respect to the jetta, but it looks VERY bad, and with only one offer in the low-end, there is no way to gain any market share. And I actually have no idea how it passed emission tests, with high-sulphur diesel and all, to be sold in ameria in the first place. Lutz is right though, americans don't love diesels, for many reasons, like "it smells, it sticks to your hands, it falls on your shoes, its dirty". Unlike gasoline, with which you can wash your face and clean your trousers from oil stains. Hoping that nobody lights a cigarette near you. Good luck to those people with the hope that they will somehow have SUVs doing 45 mpg on gas.I have driven both petrol and diesel cars and have made my choice what to buy, and it is a diesel, but then again, i live in europe, so that is pretty much set in stone.
      • 7 Years Ago
      my name is Jay, im a stupid honda fanboi. I post the same thing over and over even though its about an engine that has no hope of meeting CARB emissions. so like bob said, it is at best, a solution for only part of the country.

      VTEC 4 LIFE!!!!!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Honda Develops Next-Generation Clean Diesel Engine Capable of Meeting Stringent Tier II Bin 5 Emissions Requirements in the U.S."

      http://world.honda.com/news/2006/c060925DieselEngine/

      It's the SAME engine in the UK atricle, the:

      2.2 i-CTDi diesel engine, which has earned widespread praise for quiet, clean operation and dynamic performance since its introduction in 2003 on the European Accord model. By further advancing combustion control, the 2.2 i-CTDi delivers cleaner exhaust to the NOx catalytic converter. Honda achieved this by optimizing the combustion chamber configuration, reducing fuel injection time with a 2,000-bar common rail injection system and boosting the efficiency of the EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) system. Thanks to these improvements, Honda has reduced the amount of NOx and soot normally found in engine exhaust, while increasing power output.
      • 7 Years Ago
      US emmissions regulations have gotten stricter. So diesel cars have gotten more expensive to produce.

      Before US emmissions got stricter, the only cars you could buy with diesel engines were VWs and Mercedes. No other car companies felt it was worthwhile to offer them because of the cost vs. benefit.

      GM/Lutz are in the majority opinion on this.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's funny how people go for what isn't there, ignores it when it arrives and complains when it's gone. The GM electric vehicle that would have sold to but a few and now people complain when it's gone. Diesels have been here in North America before and so few sold to make it profitable in continuing the import of them. Now we hear the same old song and dance about diesels, of which few will buy. Where are all the diesels from a few years back? How many of you own(ed) them? Just what I figured. No body posting on autoblog goes out and buys the available EVs and won't be buying any diesels either. Why would any car maker bother making or sending over diesels for such a limited consumer base?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Autoblog seems to be a haven for the 7% (+/-) of auto buyers in the US who want manuals, diesels and hybrids. Manufacturers build what consumers will buy. Less than 10% off sales have manual transmissions, but to read posts on this site, one would think the demand was completely opposite. If you're a manufacturer are you going to build cars for 90% of the buying public or focus on 10%? If you're a niche manufacturer, that's a great business plan. If you're manufacturing for the masses, it's a sure fire way to go out of business.

      The same goes with diesels. How many diesels were sold in the US for the '06 model year? Less than the number of Malibus that hit the streets. Compare the number of Prius and Camrys sold in the last model year.

      I'm all for improving mileage and the joy of a slick gearbox, but there needs to be a little reality of the actual marketplace around here. If all of the people who claim to want manuals and diesels actually bought them, they'd be available now. Talk, however, is cheaper than an actually buying what you bitch about not having.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well he's right in that no one is going to pay a $3K premium for a GM diesel, that's for sure.
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