Tag Archive | "diesel"

A Dearth Of Diesel

With the admittedly slow but inevitable rise of the electric car and the growing confidence in hydrogen technology it seems a bit strange that drivers would be worried about the supply of diesel in the long term. Bizarre though it may seem, there is some truth in the fact that the supply of diesel could possibly – if remotely – be put in jeopardy by events yet to come.

This is why. Ships. That’s right, just when you thought you were safe on dry land it appears the shipping industry is going to have to meet burgeoning new EU regulations concerning emissions; so it’s not just we motorists who suffer. Their vessels will have to be cleaner in future which means they will no longer be able to burn heavy fuel oil but instead use a form of diesel similar to that which is used in cars.

It gets worse. The economies of India and China are growing apace. The demand for new cars is massive and, as a result, there will increasingly be an upsurge in the use of diesel. The answer should be to make more of it but apparently it isn’t that easy. It seems that when a company builds a refinery they have to decide from the outset what it will produce. When most European refineries were built more than thirty years ago the demand was for good old petrol which easily outsold the murky diesel product of the time.

Then diesel engines became cleaner and more economic. Thus demand rose and in 2006 diesel outsold petrol for the first time and it was then that we all discovered we did not have the capacity to make enough of the stuff. The result is that Europe exports petrol but has to import forty percent of the diesel we need. Most of this comes from Russia, a nation with whom we have a sometimes shaky relationship. Is it any wonder that diesel users are worried.

An interesting side issue of this has come to light. Users of diesel cars castigate government for the additional tax that their chosen fuel carries and believe not unreasonably that there should be price parity. It seems that the government doesn’t want to lower the tax because they believe it would create extra demand and put even more pressure on our diesel stocks. We hate to admit it but they may have a point.

This may be why car makers are building these super-small, super-economical petrol engines and hybrids. This seems to be a trend. Although diesel remains popular with higher mileage drivers because of the economy factor it is likely that petrol engines will soon once again be in the ascendancy. In the meantime it is unlikely we will ever see diesel prices at the pumps come down.

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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.

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