What do you think of when you hear the word “diesel”? For many, the association is negative: smelly, more expensive than gasoline, and noisy. But did you know that diesel engines offer 25% – 50% better fuel economy than gasoline engines, generally have a higher resale value, and can last longer? This is why sales of cars with diesel engines are rising: currently accounting for only 1.5% of annual new-car sales, it is projected that number will hit 5% within the next three years. This would make diesel cars competitive with gas-electric hybrid sales.
If you are interested in buying a diesel vehicle, you will soon have some terrific options. The Chrysler Ram 1500 will be available as diesel in 2014, as will the Jeep Grand Cherokee and possibly the Jeep Wrangler. Chevrolet will offer its’ Cruze compact in a limited market at first, but then plans to expand nation-wide. Mazda will offer a mid-size four-door sedan later this year, and reports that it has been designed to be quieter than many diesel cars, easier to start in cold weather, and will drive more like a standard gasoline engine. VW, whose Jetta sedan has long dominated the American diesel market for family cars, now also offers the Jetta SportsWagon, and reports that approximately 80% of these sold have diesel engines.
Now, here’s a fun story about diesel, and how it fits into our city’s history. Indianapolis hosts a little race called the Indy500, and like many Hoosiers, Clessie Lyle Cummins, from Honey Creek, Indiana, was fascinated by the race; he was also fascinated by engines. In 1930, Cummins was running a diesel manufacturing company in Columbus, Indiana, manufacturing engines for marine use. However, during the Depression, the demand for boats dropped off, and Cummins turned his sights back to automobiles. Cummins partnered with Dusenberg, and the two decided that they would test the diesel’s fuel efficiency by running the 500 mile race non-stop. How did they do?