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Are We Done With Diesel?

Are We Done With Diesel?

Until recently I owned an Alfa Romeo 159ti with a five cylinder 2.4L diesel engine – the most beautiful car I have ever possessed. Sadly, it wasn’t very economical and the sheer weight of the engine over the driving wheels meant costly tyre bills. The bulk of the engine also compromised the handling of the car, something I didn’t consider when buying.

I blame myself of course but I also blame the sales person. Neither of us properly assessed my driving needs or matched those needs with the correct model. The customer is not always right. At the time, diesel was king and economy the thing. I thought I would save money in the long run. Unfortunately, I didn’t do many long runs. Selling a long distance cruiser to someone who’s motoring mostly takes place within a fifty mile radius of his home on the basis of fuel efficiency was a mistake and it’s a common error. I should have selected a petrol version.

Lately there seems to have been a bit of a backlash against the oil-burners and the problem seems to be with the diesel particulate filters (DPF). While this system acts as a ‘soot filter’, to prevent unburnt diesel particulates from entering the atmosphere, infinite quantities cannot be held indefinitely and so a cleaning cycle is initiated by the engine management system, which heats the exhaust system to such a high temperature, the trapped particles simply vaporise.

What most unwary buyers fail to note is that for this cleaning process to work, the engine needs to be under a continuous load requiring the car to be driven at over 40mph for at least ten minutes. This is unlikely to occur with many urban motorists who will, in due time, find a little lamp glowing on their dashboard which is telling them their DPF is choked with soot. At this stage a visit to the dealer may well be needed, incurring extra expense and kissing goodbye to any putative fuel savings.

It isn’t fair simply to blame the dealers though. European legislation must also carry at least some of the can because those over-paid log stackers do not take into consideration the environmental cost of maintaining (or replacing) a diesel engine’s emission-controlling components or, indeed the excessive cost of diesel fuel.

Drivers must also acknowledge that, although diesel cars are way faster and smoother than oil-burners of old, the high cost of emission control components – and other ‘wear and tear’ items such as fuel pumps – can be a lot higher than those fitted to a petrol engine vehicle. Not only is petrol cheaper than diesel but the cars are too.

It is becoming increasingly clear that we have fallen out of love with diesel, especially with the electric revolution just around the corner. Unless you’re a high-miler, diesel no longer makes sense.

This post was written by:

- who has written 474 posts on Motor Blogger.

Geoff is a freelance writer and photographer.

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