Monday, March 10, 2008

I blame the government, part two...

In a recent post, The Munchkin Wrangler compared the torque-y V6-powered Grand Caravan he uses for munchkin hauling duties to the VW minivan he borrowed from his brother the last time he visited Germany. Despite the Vee-Dub's smaller displacement, its powerplant didn't feel overwhelmed at all to Marko. Noting the cost of fuel these days, he wondered aloud why turbodiesel engines like the one in the VW Sharan weren't as ubiquitous here as they are in Europe.

Readers offered suggestions in comments, blaming the lack of diesels currently available in the US on everything from GM's godawful Oldsmobile experiment in the 70s, to shallow American consumers not perceiving the diesel as "bling-y" enough, to sunspots. If I'm typing about it here, you know who the real culprit is, right? That's right: The Government.

The evil, Kyoto-denying Bush administration, or at least its Environmental Protection arm, decided that diesels, even the VW ECOdiesels so beloved by the Gaia-worshiping, muesli-chomping wannabe-Euroweenie crowd, put out too many noxious emissions to be sold in this fair land, at least in passenger cars. Well, they do unless they're Mercedes BlueTec models, with the new piss Diesel Emissions Fluid injection system.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

bedlamite said...

For some reason my post disappeared. The main reason we haven't been getting diesel cars is the lack of low sulfur diesel fuel thanks to the trucking industry. Low sulfur diesel fuel is mandatory for 2009, and you can expect several diesels to arrive in the US. Including , honda, and VW will bring the TDi Jetta back too.

Anonymous said...

The problem is the particulates or the soot. Most diesels produce a plume of soot or smoke when you over drive them. If you have ever owned one, you would know that if you romp on the accelerator you can cause a plume of diesel smoke behind your car or truck.

This is what killed the small diesel in the states. The EPA and enviro's wanted cleaner air and since you could see the soot (even though the particles were quite heavy and fell to the earth quickly) it was bad so it had to go.

Thus the 50 mpg diesel Rabbits gave way to the 50 mpg Prius.

Having owned diesels VW's back in the day, I used to routinely get 48 to 52 MPG out of mine and always wondered how long it was going to take for a gas car to catch up to that. Now the prius has done it.

The little diesels are great engines, simple to work on and worked well without the turbo. Now with all of the garbage they put on them, they are just as bad as a gas engine for the shadetree mechanic to work on.

Blackwing1 said...

As the proud (Hah!) owner of a 2000 Ford Ranger 4x4 pickup, I get a whopping 15 MPG in the wintertime (for the three or four months when I'm not on my 'Wing). It's used for winter driving here in Minnesnowta, and in the summer it's relegated to towing the fishing boat from hole to hole, and hauling miscellaneous stuff-and-junk in the open bed.

I'll be replacing it in a few years, and I'll need the same 4WD capability (ever try to pull a boat out of a muddy, unimproved boat ramp in the north woods?). But I'd sure love to have somebody put a sturdy little 4-cylinder Cummins turbo-diesel into a small pickup, and get better than 30 MPG.

What's WRONG with the American auto manufacturer's marketing departments?

Anonymous said...

I keep waiting for someone to figure out that a small turbo diesel coupled to an alternator to supply power to wheel-located motors and keep a small battery bank charged is a combination that's rather efficient. The diesel runs in a very narrow power band and under near-constant load, making it easy to control emissions, and a motor on each driving wheel eliminates the mechanical loss of gearboxes and differentials. And, with power being transmitted via wires rather than shafts, a lot of design options open up regarding locating the engine.

But, to work, you first need the small efficient diesel, which we don't have here yet. Maybe someday

Dr. StrangeGun said...

I'm still picturing a microturbine running an alternator that charges a bank of batteries in a series-type hybrid concept. Easily scalable, can be quiet, a constant RPM turbine system can be very fuel efficient, and that fuel can be darn near anything. And, since it's a turbine, it can be left running to charge batteries... just include a charge air sensor so if combustion starts to get inefficient (i.e. someone stuck it in a garage without dropping the fuel) it'd shut down.

As far as the Olds diesels go... I wouldn't mind laying hands on one. Of course, I'd stud the heads and installa water seperator and a new injection pump just in case, then turbocharge it, but I can't think of another single easily available diesel of that size that would work for engine swaps in American vehicles, except maybe the GMC 6.2, which is about big-block sized. I'd stuff the little V6 Olds post-turbo into some big land yacht and enjoy the couch-style ride with 25mpg returned :)

B&N said...

"turbo diesel coupled to an alternator to supply power to wheel-located motors and keep a small battery bank charged..."

Has already been done, and it's called a mining truck.

Turk Turon said...

B&N:
I saw one of those mining trucks on the Discovery channel. The truck is so big that it must be assembles on-site, i.e. at the customer's location. It is too big for a freight car.

dave said...

A question about hybrids with wheel-mounted electric motors:

Are the motors submersible?

I'm sure they're fine for general highway use, where they may be subjected to spray, but since we're talking about trucks, and launching boats, well, I know I can't launch mine at the local lake without submerging the rear wheels up to the axles.

Is this going to be feasible on these trucks, or are we going to see stranded pickups at the ramp and big repair bills from people not following the directions?

GeorgeH said...

For '09 the new VW Minivan will be a re-badged Grand Caravan. The rot is spreading.

Anonymous said...

Diesel pickup trucks are big here in the midwest and judging from the magazines available to folks wanting to hot rod them, lots of other places too. Unless you really pour the fuel to them through add-on thingys they don't smoke. My 2000 Ford Diesel truck has never pumped out a cloud of black smoke. On the electric motor thing, wasn't that leTourneau's invention/adaptation that made Caterpillar the big deal in earth moving equipment.

HTRN said...

The Prius may get better than 50MPG on paper, but most owners don't see that kind of efficiency. It has to do with the way the testing standard is done. Expect to see the Prius's mileage go down, and more closely resemble real world numbers, as they're revising the testing standard in the near future.

As for diesel/Hybrids, believe it or not, you don't get any real improvement(at least not enough to warrant the additional cost - $5-10K). It works much better with with gas engines, as there's a "sweet spot" for fuel usage. With Diesels, they're allowed to gulp all the air they want, it's the fuel that's throttled. Admittedly the usuable RPM range is much smaller, but that's not really an issue, as they're usually geared much higher than a comparable gas engine.

I've been hoping Dodge would pull it's head out of it's ass and offer a 4BTA(basically a 4 cylinder version of the infamous Cummins "600" 5.9L I6), but alas, they're spending their money on coming up with a hybrid version. Dumbasses. But I expected that, they were until recently owned by the Bosch. Don't get me started on german carmakers.

B&N said...

turk,

I know.

I was just trying to be a smart ass.

Diesels are great for open-road motoring, and they are getting more performance oriented all the time. My Krauter Father-in-Law has an Audi A4 Avant with a turbo-diesel and 6 speed stick. Not super when it's coming off of the line, but at speed on the Autobahn, it's a screamer. Took it up to about 125mph while on vacation last year. Very confident handling too.

Anonymous said...

The Fudgie Ghost says. . :

When my wife and I went to the UK last year, we rented a Ford Focus turbo-diesel. This was not the North American Focus. Engine was made by Renault, body by Ghia, assembled in Germany. Car rocked! It was plenty fast, looked sharp, and according to the on board computer got around 40 mpg. My wife wants to know why we can't get one here. . .

the pawnbroker said...

here's a badazz diesel for you; audi's prototype entrants have won the 12hrs. of sebring American lemans series race overall title for eight straight years, and since '06 it's been with their new tdi r10 entrant; you might wanna check your lotto tickets before you go shopping for one though, including r&d each car is estimated at 2 mil...

coincidentally, today starts raceweek in sebring, and i just posted a little trip down memory lane on my blog recalling my 15yrs. with a frontrow seat from my pawnshop to the main access road to the track...for the fans, sebring is really not so much about the race...

perlhaqr said...

I've been hoping Dodge would pull it's head out of it's ass and offer a 4BTA(basically a 4 cylinder version of the infamous Cummins "600" 5.9L I6)

The 4BT lacks the counterbalance shaft of the 6BT. and is thus adequately describable as a "paint shaker". I'm sure Cummins could fix it if they wanted, but those motors are holy mackeral heavy, too. It'd still have to go in a truck.

Sigivald said...

Bush schmush.

You know who to really blame? California. Specifically, CARB.

California is a huge market, and CARB's ridiculous policies (such as "anything that we don't want in the LA Basin can't be sold anywhere in the state") prevent diesels from being a sane alternative there.

(MA and CT to a lesser extent, because they're much smaller markets.)

There's a reason there's such a thing as a "49-state emissions" car, and that it matters and is common, and has since the 70s. ("Federal" vs. "California" emissions packages...)

OA said...

"Oh shit, global warming will kill us all!!! I know, sulfur dioxide...that'll save us!!! Like an artificial volcano!"

"You mean, like diesel engines used to emit...before you fruits made it be refined out, thus raising the price of everything that transports via diesel truck?"

"Shut up."

DirtCrashr said...

A minivan rally doesn't count as a car (and it's not a truck) so I guess it doesn't matter what kind of biofuel-fed hamster runs its cage.
I believe Peterbuilts have turbo diesels. I would have bought a diesel F-150, but I didn't.
I used to be able to selectively cause a gigantic particle-cloud, romping on (or not-romping until a specific interval) the gas-pedal of my '60 Karmann Ghia with the bad rings - and simultaneously let out a loud BANG! Santa Cruzans were apoplectic. The car suffered from too much quietude when I freshened and rebuilt the motor.

OA said...

" I would have bought a diesel F-150, but I didn't."

Just as well, since the F-150 isn't yet made with a diesel. Next year they're supposed to roll out as a 2010 model. Then again, it's Ford, so who the hell knows what will happen. Short of them losing a billion or two, I mean.

bumper sticker philosopher said...

Conventional wisdom be damned...

I don't care how much ya'll like diesels. They suck. They are expensive to repair and hard to maintain. Spare me the stories of your 300,000 mile 1980's Mercedes diesel. I've got more than that on a bog-standard gasoline small block Chevrolet truck that has never even had the valve covers off and runs like a top.

Hell, just the rebuilt injection pump for a Cummins diesel engine costs close to 2 grand. You can buy a brand new OEM crate motor for that price.


I've never met a diesel that didn't bog down, stink and smoke and that includes the rental VWs I drove in Germany, my uncle's '00 Ford "power choke" dually and the Puerto Rican kid down the road with his grandma's purple 86 Olds riding on 22's.

And no, I've never owned one of GM's mid 80's diesel sedan abortions.

Barrett B. said...

Heh. Just wait'll the upcoming emissions requirements go into effect that will have most every 18-wheeler, school bus, etc. having to fill up with diesel AND urea.

Working around that is about 50% of the talk I hear around work (school bus manufacturer) from the mechanical engineers.

Standard Mischief said...

can't think of another single easily available diesel of that size that would work for engine swaps in American vehicles, except maybe the GMC 6.2, which is about big-block sized. I'd stuff the little V6 Olds post-turbo into some big land yacht and enjoy the couch-style ride with 25mpg returned :)

The 6.2 and 6.5 turbo both are "easy" swaps, as long as you account for the size and weight. The reason they're so easy is because they take the same motor mounts and bell housing as the chevy 350 block. While you are at it, you might as well grab that heavy duty 700R4 slushbox with the furnace brazed fins out of that 3/4 ton truck too.

With a 6.2 or 6.5 you get a block that was designed from the ground up as a diesel, not a reworked 350 block. You also get such nice things as 4 bolt mains.

A 350 in a Jeep is a popular swap, but there's been quite a few 6.2 transplants too.

Oh, and it's real easy to add NO2 to a diesel. Remember, you can't run them too lean.

Jeff said...

The new diesel emissions laws killed most of the engines that were on the market, Jeep and VW had to stop selling them until they could revamp. only MB was ready with theirs. Whats ridiculous is that some of the standards are similar to gas engines, which isn't really a fair way to judge them. Most of them will have the urea systems, and have the diplacement bumped up to make up for the resulting loss of power. Which will effect mileage. As was mentioned before, Ford and Dodge are planing on light duty diesel trucks for the 2010 model year, and Cummings is revamping their engine lineup.

Jeff the Baptist said...

You're right about the government being at fault, but wrong about the specifics. We did two things in 2006-2007. We tightened our diesel fuel standards and we tightened our diesel fuel emissions standards.

The first was a great idea. You see all the old TDIs we were driving in 2006 and before were not good European diesels. You couldn't run good Euro diesel engines on US Grade diesel because it was too dirty. What we were driving was actually older diesel designs that lagged the state of the art by at least a generation (VW TDIs) or detuned Euro models (Chrysler CRDs). This is bad and tightening the diesel fuel standard fixed it.

The second was a crappy idea because we tightened the emission spec too much. Instead of moving to Euro spec, we leapfrogged it. Now only the very cleanest Euro engines meet the spec. And they have drawbacks like urea injection or clogging catalytic convertors. Which means we don't get reliable diesel for at least a design generation. Which is why there are not diesel cars on the current market.

perlhaqr said...

Standard Mischief: 3/4 ton Chevys didn't come with 700R4s, they came with TH-400s. The 3/4 ton overdrive transmission that comes behind the diesel motors up through the 6.5 was the 4L80RE. A 700R4 won't survive behind even a 6.2, let alone a 6.5, as they come from the factory (in a heavy duty application). They have to be retrofitted with special upgrade parts to survive the abuse.

I am sadly intimately familiar with this problem.

The annoying thing about the 4L80RE is that it's an electronically controlled lockup transmission, and the wiring harness is expensive from GM, and hard to find in a yard, because most places just cut it to get the motor out.

Firehand said...

Sigivald beat me to it. Son informed me a while back that Ford in Europe makes a turbo-diesel for the Ranger that gets 35-40mpg highway and is extremely clean; however, since CA hates diesels and is such a big market chunk, they won't go through the crap to sell them here.