So you may have heard a little something about VW and diesel and cheating the EPA’s emissions tests. And you may have heard that the Chevy Cruise diesel was named in a lawsuit for similar cheating practices in summer 2016.
Things are not going well for diesel, which was anticipated to be one of several solutions to improve overall fuel economy to meet tough new CAFE standards by 2025, along with hybrids and EVs. But the reputation of clean diesel has taken a hit after the VW scandal in particular, and it’s not getting any better.
In December 2016, mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City pledged to ban diesel vehicles by 2025, and London is considering joining them. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that three million deaths each year are due to outdoor air pollution, and diesel emissions contribute to that pollution with particulates and nitrogen oxides from the tailpipe.
These developments aren’t stopping manufacturers from introducing new diesel vehicles. Jaguar Land Rover, Chevrolet, BMW, Ford, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, and others are maintaining or even adding to their diesel vehicle offerings in North America.
Pickup trucks have long been available with diesel engines since the available low-end torque makes them great towing machines. Diesel engines also get better fuel economy, which is particularly helpful for large vehicles that often get worse gas mileage than their gasoline-powered counterparts.
Is Diesel for You?
Clean diesel engines are a huge improvement over the black smoke-belching diesels of old. They really are quite clean, especially if they include a chemical scrubber, like the Mercedes system does, that helps reduce the nasty stuff coming out of the tailpipe.
The fuel economy is definitely better, but you’ll miss out on peppy performance. That was where VW got stuck: it promised a fun-to-drive diesel, which turned out to be a nearly impossible thing to build without cheating via software.
If going greener is on your car shopping agenda, check out hybrids and even pure EVs as alternative to both the usual gasoline and diesel engines. And you can use FuelEconomy.gov as a resource for comparing fuel economy, fuel costs, and even emissions for every car on the market.