The Oil Drum: “A Plague o' Both Your Houses!”
European Biodiesel Production Climbs 65% in 2005 to Hit Record

US Registration of Diesel Light-Duty Vehicles Jumped 31% in 2005

Total light- and medium-duty diesel sales and market share. Click to enlarge.

Data compiled by R.L. Polk & Co. and released by the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF) show that registration of light-duty diesel passenger vehicles in the US jumped 31% in 2005 from the year before. Registrations of light- and medium-duty diesel passenger vehicles have grown 80% since 2000—up from 301,000 diesel vehicles that year to 543,777 diesel registrations in 2005.

In the light-duty market, diesel registrations nearly doubled (95% growth) between 2000 and 2005, climbing from 22,543 to 44,031. When given a choice between a gasoline or diesel engine, consumers purchased the diesel engine option almost half the time (45%) in 2005. By contrast, sales of light-duty gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles hit 205,749 in 2005.

Gasoline hybrids and flexible-fueled ethanol vehicles aren’t the only fuel-efficient choices consumers have today.

—Allen Schaeffer, DTF executive director

Medium-duty vehicles (such as the Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram, Ford F-Series and GMC Sierra Trucks) represent the bulk of the light-and medium-duty diesel sales in the US: 477,853 units in 2005, or 88% of the total.

Most analysts expect the diesel trend to continue due in part to rising fuel prices and the desire to improve US vehicle efficiency. Diesel offer a 20% to 40% improvement in fuel economy against comparable gasoline engines.

Researchers at J.D. Power and Associates predict that diesel sales will approximately triple in the next 10 years, accounting for more than 10% of US vehicle sales by 2015, up from 3.6% in 2005 and 2.25% in 2000.



gerald earl

This is what I was predicting in a previous post.The low sulfur diesel fuel standards due this fall plus bluetec and other tech that make diesels as clean or cleaner than existing gas engines will greatly increase the number of diesels in U.S.Look for Chrysler to introduce many diesels.Other makers already sell diesels in Europe.We have been frozen out by EPA standards and high sulfur fuel.The 20 to 40 percent increase in fuel economy could reduce our import of oil if enough people warm to diesel.Put b20 in the tank and the need for imports is even less.Go diesel hybrid and the Saudis begin to sweat.Expansion of biodiesel and or coal to liquids could lead to the elimination of mideast imports.Expand nuclear,wind,solar,tidal,and your electric is co2 free.Our sons and daughters will not have to patrol the straights of Hormuz.The air will be cleaner,the greens and security crowd should be able to see a glimmer of hope in the direction of things.Unless the Calvin & Hobbs Transmogrifier comes on line tomorrow a green and safer world is going to be a process taking a number of steps and technologies that can and will lead us to a better world if we work together and lead our politicians.Lead the way Green Car Congressers.

John Lasseter

In 1999 / 2000 I had a VW Golf TDI. What a fantastic vehicle! Drove it cross country to California & shipped it to Hawaii. Consistent mileage of over 40 mpg's and a joy to drive. I left it in Hawaii as shipping was a hassle.

After the hurricanes I purchased a Scion xA which is giving me 32-34 mpg's around town. I enjoy the car but wonder why, after all these years, we're not getting better mileage than was available in the late 70's?

I'm anxiously awaiting the introduction of diesel / hybrid vehicles as they seem to be the most immediate link to 60 & 80 mpg performance. My only gripe with diesel is the premium one has to pay at the pump for a lesser grade of fuel.... makes no sense.

Rafael Seidl

While it's heartening to see US consumers' interest in diesel cars, the absolute numbers are still very small. The most interesting statistic is that 45% of buyers pick a diesel variant over a gasoline engine when it is offered, despite the fact that many US filling stations do not offer gasoil.

John - I'm not sure what you are referring to wrt "a lesser grade of fuel". Diesel contains 10-15% more energy per volume than gasoline does. By weight, the two fuels are comparable.

What is true is that US diesel will feature relatively poor cetane numbers (min. 40, in CA 45 vs. 51+ in Europe) even after the cut-over to a sulphur-free grade this fall. That means US diesel fuel is more reluctant to ignite, increasing noise (especially in winter) and emissions, unless the combustion process is fine-tuned using a precisely controlled pre-injection. Carmakers can accomplish this with 2nd and 3rd generation common-rail injectors, but it's an inferior approach compared to improving fuel quality.

The reason for the low cetane value is a direct consequence of the fact that the US market is skewed toward gasoline. The high-quality middle distillates are hydrocracked in the refinery, and the light-cycle oil (LCO) and aromatics left over are sold as diesel. Given that gasoline demand is still increasing and refinery capacity constrained, one option would be to blend in some synthetic xTL, which sports cetane numbers as high as 99. Biodiesel from oil seed crops, while a good idea wrt GHG, only reaches values in the high 40s.

Mike H.

Diesels will sell when automakers offer diesels. I'd love to have a nice turbodiesel like in Europe but they don't even sell them here in NY. I'm sure the big automakers could work out the issues with low cetane numbers once low sulfer diesel hit the market, but only if they actually take some risk and actually make fuel efficient cars. I agree with Gerald why can't we have fuel efficient cars when todays new technologies were supposed to improve engine performance. My ancient carberator fed Tercel spots mpg numbers higher than almost every car made today. Its also alot of fun to drive and low maintance. Where is that car today? It doesn't exist in this market. Even Yaris and Fit are overpowered silly things. Try offering engine choices!

The Japanese lag on diesel tech. in comparison to the Euro-American companies. There is a chance here but I know they will flub it up. Don't waste your energy with hybridization and clean diesels in cars where the buyer has no intellectual curiosity. Hybrid accords, camrys, highlanders, escapes won't sell that well. Now put it in a category with buyers more willing to cite effieciency as a concern like Prius and Civic and they do very well.

In short Ford give us a diesel Focus, Dodge make smaller cars, GM Diesel Aveo sounds nice, VW you idiots bring in the polo diesel, and to the japanese hybrid diesels are your future research it.

Joseph Willemssen

I think people are going to be surprised at the price premium of the new diesel technology.


yes, diesels are a good addition to the US market if you are concerned about GHG.

if you are concerned primarily with local emissions of both small particulates and local noise pollution, diesels are less attractive.

nobody makes a hybrid diesel because the price premium would be too much and the performance gain too small.

pairing a spark engine and an electric motor makes sense because you reduce the inefficient use of the spark engine at low revs by using the electric motor, which performs very well from 0 revs. diesels are already fairly efficient from low revs, so there is less advantage to adding an electric motor.

a diesel engine is ~$2k premium over a gas engine with similar performance. add that to the ~$5-7k premium for the hybrid components and you'd price yourself out of the market.

Rafael Seidl

Mike H. -

1) CA, NY, MA, VT and ME all have California emissions regs, which current-generation diesel technology cannot quite meet yet. If you want to own a diesel, you need to buy and register it in one of the other 45 states for now.

Regulators are hesitant about permitting SCR technology for cleaning up the NOx because (a) there is no distribution infrastructure for AdBlue yet and (b) it is hard to convince them that the OBD reliably detects a lack of this additive. Also, these first-gen automotive SCR systems lack feedback control because the NOx sensor dynamics are not yet adequate for load transients. Therefore, the urea injection volumes are conservative and conversion rates limited to 80-85%. This will be raised in the medium term.

The alternative, NOx store catalysts, operate at lower temperatures and therefore offer higher initial conversion rates. However, they suffer from limited life expectancy and increase fuel consumption.

2)Modern high-pressure diesel injection systems are expensive, as are particulate filters and especially, NOx aftertreatment. Diesel engines are heavier than their gasoline counterparts rated at the same power, because combustion chemistry limits diesels to ~4500 RPM.

On the other hand, diesels already have good low end torque, so pairing them with electric motors + batteries makes little sense in a light duty vehicle with inherently limited traction. Instead, look for downsized turbocharged 2nd-gen GDI engines and dual clutch transmissions in future mild hybrids.

3) Your Tercel probably gets better MPG because it's a smaller, lighter car that never had to meet today's crash test and noise regs. Carmakers actually go to great lengths to reduce fuel consumption per unit of vehicle weight, it's just that regs and consumer demand keep pushing that weight up!

Moreover, they only get about one chance each decade to sell you a car, so of course they want you to buy the fanciest one you can barely afford - especially given their huge payroll overheads.

John Lasseter

Rafael..... what I meant was that I thought that diesel took less refining, less processing but is costing more at the pump.

gerald earl

I think the poll referred to recently in gcc showed that a good percantage of peeps are willing to pay a premium for tech that reduces dependence on hostile nations for fuel.I know I will pay a premium to increase the chances that my daughter{air force}or son{army reserve chemical special ops}will not have to fight for me to fill my tank.

David Windsor

"I enjoy the car but wonder why, after all these years, we're not getting better mileage than was available in the late 70's?"

Weight. A 1979 Honda Civic only weighed 1760 lbs. The 2006 model has a curb weight of 2600 lbs. Also small cars in the US usually offer only the largest engine available for the model. For example the US Yaris is only available with a 1.5L while other markets receive 1.3L and 1.0L petrol models along with a 1.4L diesel.


I've tried, it was nice :)

Peter Ross

This is crazy

GM and Fiat designed one of the smoothest most efficient diesel engines in the world...It is the base of all economy cars in Europe and Asia..

It has common rail injection and multi jet fuel injection... This dramatically lowers emissions, increases mileage..and eliminates rattle noise and fumes

The engine is small but mighty...1.3 liters ...It comes with as little or as much horsepower as needed for an economy car.

The engines are built in Poland and they are building hundreds of thousands of them per year!!!

So the cost of the engine is low...This price premium B.S. is insane...Diesels becomming commonplace eliminates the price premium for a diesel engine in a north american sedan

It is all political that there are not widespread diesels here in America...Given a choice 50% of all new cars here would likely be diesel as well.

As for pollution goes...Advanced diesels not not need particulate filters to meet the stringiest of emission laws of California...Low Sulphur diesel also means cleaner burning de-bunking the myths of diesels being dirty stinky pigs.

When considering overall emissions consider that the only way to truly elimate carbon emissions is to eliminate fuel being burned...So if a Diesel TDI gives 50% better mileage it will burn 50% less fuel... half the fuel burned means half the emissions

With our advanced catalytic and particulate filters...It is asinine to argue that a diesel that burns half the fuel would pollute more...

But that is the political stance america is taking as they are addicted to gasoline and want no part of diesel.

Hybrids are expensive and they produce so few that they make no impact on fuel consumption...Advanced TDI diesels however could reduce america's fuel consumption by 40% reducing taxes on fuel by 40%... this is something that government will strongly oppose. And so we are told that diesels are stinky dirty and noisey...Fuel mileage charts in America are a lie...they rate diesels much lower than actual mileage and hybrids much higher...Ditto for gasoline models...

It is even illegal in the state of New york to sell a diesel car new...

all political folks

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