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US Sales of VW Diesel Cars Climbed Sharply in April

Bloomberg. Sales of Volkswagen cars with diesel engines reached a record 22% of VW’s total sales last month. VW posted sales of 20,528 units of all vehicles in the US in April, an 11.2% increase from April 2005.

In 2005, diesels represented 14% of Volkswagens sold in the US, and 12% each for 2004 and 2003. The company currently offers four models with a diesel option: the Jetta, the New Beetle the Golf (now renamed the Rabbit), and the Touareg SUV.

The US VW diesel cars all currently use a 4-cylinder, 1.9-liter engine and offer fuel economies (depending upon vehicle and transmission) from 37 mpg to 40 mpg US combined. (The Touareg diesel uses a 10-cylinder, 5.0-liter engine that offers 19 mpg US combined.)

In April, the diesel versions accounted for 38% of 9,930 total Jetta purchases; 40% of 3,580 total New Beetle purchases, and 13% of 1,875 total Golf purchases according to the company. Diesel sales of the Golf were constrained by a dwindling supply before the coming switchover to the new model (the reborn Rabbit).

J.D. Power & Associates forecast last month that the share of diesel-powered cars and light trucks in the US will almost quadruple by 2015—rising from 3.2% in 2005 to 11.8% by 2015—driven by increasing consumer demand for the more fuel-efficient platforms. (Earlier post.)

The company also forecast that global diesel sales would double over the next ten years—increasing from 15 million sales in 2005 to 29 million in 2015. J.D. Power also expects Volkswagen to remain the largest global supplier of diesel-fueled light-duty vehicles, followed by Ford Motor Company.

Comments

Cervus

Until I can actually buy a new diesel car in California, my response to this is "so what?" This state needs to see some sanity regarding particulate and NOx emissions. Diesel's greater efficiency and ability to easily run a total-replacement biofuel outweighs any problems with emissions, in my view.

Joseph Willemssen

Diesel's greater efficiency and ability to easily run a total-replacement biofuel outweighs any problems with emissions, in my view.

The increased efficiency doesn't overcome its realtive dirtiness, and in the short to medium term, people won't be using biofuels on a wide basis.

This is all a moot discussion, since the rules change with MY2007.

NBK-Boston

Diesels -- even modern ones -- are still fairly dirty. The relative pollution scores disclosed at www.fueleconomy.gov illustrate this.

You can poke fun at CARB all you like, but until you show me concrete reasons to doubt the wisdom of their diesel rule, I will presume that they did their homework and made those rules for a reason.

Beyond smog, California is no slouch when it comes to taking a strong posture against greenhouse gases. With their high population and automobile concentrations -- and delicate air quality conditions -- my first instinct is to guess that they gave up diesel cars for a reason. When the next generation of pollution controls become widespread, we'll see where the rules go.

Cervus

Joseph:

If we hadn't placed such draconian restrictions on diesel cars in the first place there would actually be a significantly larger market for biodiesel to tap into. In my view, this is getting in the way of widespread adoption of biodiesel. The market could be growing faster if there was more demand.

And, how is this moot? Will there be affordable diesel cars on sale in California next year? I highly doubt it.

Cervus

NBK:

Here's a question for you: Where do you stop? How many pollution controls do you layer on until you say "We've gone as far as we can go." When do you hit the Law of Diminishing Returns? I've never seen any environmentalist address this question.

JRod.

As long as you can't sell a TDI in California, but Ahhnold can buy another Hummer, I am going to presume CARB did NOT do their homework and I am going to poke fun at them.

Cheers,

JRod.

Joseph Willemssen

If we hadn't placed such draconian restrictions on diesel cars in the first place there would actually be a significantly larger market for biodiesel to tap into.

The past is neither here nor there. I'm sure we can all lament things that might have been, but it's not relevant to how we deal with things now.

In any case, diesel makes up 21% of road transportation fuel use in the US, and larger percentages outside of the US - so I don't see how there's a small market for diesel. And even with higher prices in other markets, where has the demand been for biodiesel? I think we're seeing interest now for the same reason other alternatives are being examined - price spikes for gasoline and conventional diesel.

And, how is this moot? Will there be affordable diesel cars on sale in California next year? I highly doubt it.

I guess that all depends on what you consider "affordable". The new federal emissions technologies are definitely going to add to the cost of the vehicles, and the fuel should bump up about 5 cents. I'm not aware what CARB is doing now that the new federal rules are coming into play.

Bryan Walton

"Beyond smog, California is no slouch when it comes to taking a strong posture against greenhouse gases."

CARB is a politically controlled, biased agency. While I give them credit for being one of the most important catalysts for cleaning up automobile emissions, their diesel rule is not implemented fairly or reasonably.

If California was no slouch when it came to greenhouse gases, they wouldn't ban the sale of diesel passenger cars. VW diesels (specifically the Golf and Beetle), are amongst the top 4 cars in the United States with regards to how little CO2 they emit. The fact that CARB allows so many diesel pickup trucks to be sold shows the errors of their ways.

Joseph Willemssen

CARB is a politically controlled, biased agency. While I give them credit for being one of the most important catalysts for cleaning up automobile emissions, their diesel rule is not implemented fairly or reasonably.

How do their diesel rules differ from the new federal standards?

Patrick

Particulate matter emissions and deposits in normally snow covered areas contributes enough to warming to account for the lower amounts of CO2 produced from a diesel versus a gasoline engine.

NBK-Boston

Cervus:

We stop where good sense and good science tell us to stop. Diminishing returns are a problem, and you draw the line somewhere, after placing what values you can on competing interests or options, and seeing when the marginal return on a particular investment becomes too low. Hard core environmentalists place -- or claim to place -- an exceedingly high value on "nature," and a very low value on certain more conventional wants and desires. Government agencies -- at their best -- try to infer the values that a more average member of society would place on various goods and goals, and try to regulate around that. A hard-core environmentalist then becomes free to spend his own money on extra environmental goods. At least in theory.

In California, a line has been drawn -- we now have a status quo, which exists because a group of presumably well-informed government employees took some time out of their lives to look into these matters in detail. In my view, you have to do more than make fun of them in order to rebut that presumption and convince me that their prescriptions cost more than they are worth. For all the potshots you want to take at CARB, Los Angeles *has* gone from a smoggy nightmare to a fairly clear-aired city over the past twenty years. If you think that they got something wrong, or that changing conditions have rendered good rules into bad ones, then go ahead and actually prove it, or at least make out a good case for it.


JRod:

The 2006 Hummer H3 gets an EPA score of 2, which accounts for PM and smog-forming emissions. The 2006 VW New Beetle TDi gets a score of 1 (worse). See: www.fueleconomy.gov. I can't find the figures for the larger Hummers. At least as far as the H3 goes, a driver of that vehicle contributes less to local smog and PM-induced health risks by driving one of those than by driving a New Beetle TDi. Really. He would contribute more to global warming in the H3, however.

In certain environments, the extra smog-forming pollutants would not cause too many problems, and the reduced fuel consumption would be worth it. California contains a number of highly populated areas which are particularly vulnerable to smog. It isn't worth it there.


Bryan:

In part, you assume what you set out to prove. My point is this: California both bans the sale of diesel cars and spends good money taking the federal government to court over not controlling greenhouse gases. Either California is simply lying about being concerned about GHGs, or they really are concerned about GHGs but are also concerned about something else. Something else so bad that it overrides their concern for GHGs. I submit that the situation is actually the latter. Not allowing diesel cars is not proof that California does not care about GHGs, it is simply proof that, under certain circumstances, they care more about some other things than they do about GHGs. That other thing is smog.

With the progress we've seen in hybrids, Californians can both preserve their local air quality and reduce their GHG emissions. A Prius might cost more to buy than a VW TDi, but in locations that are unusually smog-prone, that might just be a cost of doing business, and an ideal solution under the circumstances.

Cervus

NBK:

Good sense and good science seem in short supply in certain vocal parts of the environmentalist movement. Allowing them to control state agencies makes for awful policy. The quest to remove every last pollutant from exhaust emissions is an unreachable goal. And these groups will never settle for a status quo.

We cannot allow the hard core environmentalists to control emissions policy for just that reason. Cost doesn't matter to them. And they are a small minority to begin with.

The past 35 years we have decided that air quality is preferable over fuel efficiency. In order to reach this goal, we've gotten rid of high-octane, leaded gasoline, lowered compression ratios to reduce NOx, and added catalytic converters to get the unburned hydrocarbons that naturally result from these changes--the quest to remove one pollutant creating another problem.

I've lived in California my entire life. I am upset that my state has taken things this far. I have done what I can within the restrictions placed on me, including buying a scooter that gets 70mpg. I suppose if I really want a diesel I could find a mid-80s Mercedes, but such a vehicle would be quite dirty to run because it lacks even the advancements in the new TDIs.

I don't have any hard numbers, but it's my feeling that we've passed the Point of Diminishing Returns and that efficiency should take precedence over emissions. By rolling back some regulations we can put more diesel cars on the road and expand the market for biodiesel.

Regarding ULSD, though, I am ambivelent. On one hand, it will make diesel more expensive. On the other, we'll finally start getting the diesel tech from Europe I've seen people clamoring for.

Bryan Walton

Joseph, in answer to your question, under the upcoming federal tier 2 standard, the same emission standards apply to all vehicle weight categories, i.e., cars, minivans, light duty trucks, and SUVs have the same emission limit. As CARB currently sets the rules, only diesel passenger vehicles are banned. They have no ban on the sale of diesel pickup trucks, regardless of how inefficient those trucks might be.

Joseph Willemssen

A Prius might cost more to buy than a VW TDi

Actually, a base Jetta TDI with automatic costs about the same as the Prius. Factor in the $3,150 credit for the Prius, and it's clearly less expensive than the Jetta TDI.

Nick

NBK: right on!

Although I moved from CA within the past year, I was born there and spent most of the previous 56 years there. Needless to say, California has changed a lot in that time, mostly due to in-migration and the resultant population boom. The combination of coastal urbanization in front of high mountains and persistent westerlies creates a potent setup for temperature inversions over densely populated, car-oriented cities. Despite the efforts of CARB, etc., people are still dying of dirty air in California, and some of the particulates from diesel are particularly nasty. I support reduced GHG emissions as much as anyone, but you also have to deal with emissions that are killing people *right now*.

Over time, reducing the need to drive is an obvious winner for everyone. Green cars will help some, but don't solve any of the other problems created by the car-based transportation system.

Joseph Willemssen

Good sense and good science seem in short supply in certain vocal parts of the environmentalist movement. Allowing them to control state agencies makes for awful policy. The quest to remove every last pollutant from exhaust emissions is an unreachable goal. And these groups will never settle for a status quo.

We cannot allow the hard core environmentalists to control emissions policy for just that reason. Cost doesn't matter to them. And they are a small minority to begin with.

Speaking of good science, is there any evidence that "hard core environmentalists" control CARB? And could you demonize a bit more by claiming that people who care about the environment don't care about costs? Seems like a very large strawman you're constructing there, and certainly not very scientific.

I don't have any hard numbers, but it's my feeling that we've passed the Point of Diminishing Returns and that efficiency should take precedence over emissions. By rolling back some regulations we can put more diesel cars on the road and expand the market for biodiesel.

So, you're decrying the lack of scientific reason in "hard core environmentalists", yet you're basing your ideas on your "feeling"?

California has had huge problems with air quality for a long time, and as you know, the geography works against the populated places - particularly the LA Basin. I just took a look at the national air quality maps, and that area is showing some of the highest PM 2.5 readings.

http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.showmap&pollutant=PM2.5

And PM is the pollutant which is the most troublesome with diesel, along with NOx. Biodiesel may bring down the PM emissions, but studies show it will actually increase NOx emissions, which will lead to more smog.

California may have made improvements, but its air quality is still quite poor relative to most of the rest of the country, so I'm hard-pressed to think that there isn't still a lot of room left for improvement.

Bryan Walton

NBK, as I stated, I can give credit where it is due regarding CARB. They have been the major driving force that has been forcing the automobile industry to clean up its emissions. However, I still say that their ruleset is politcally biased to favor the big three US truck makers.

You say, "Not allowing diesel cars is not proof that California does not care about GHGs, it is simply proof that, under certain circumstances, they care more about some other things than they do about GHGs. That other thing is smog." If that statement is true, I don't understand why I can purchase a low-mpg diesel pickup truck that pollutes more than most any other car on the market (including the diesel passenger cars) everywhere in California. You still haven't addressed this.

Also, I don't know if you have heard of the "weekend effect", but new studies are showing that the crack down on diesel vehicles is ironically INCREASING smog problems in California:
http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/sb/July-2004/4_weekend.html

I'm not saying that CARB needs to go away, but I would like their rules to apply across the board. As it is currently implemented, CARB appears to have a problem NOT with diesels generally, but only with highly efficent diesels. I find that unfortunate.

Joseph Willemssen

I don't understand why I can purchase a low-mpg diesel pickup truck that pollutes more than most any other car on the market (including the diesel passenger cars) everywhere in California.

That's interesting. So which specific diesel trucks can you buy in California right now?

d

And PM is the pollutant which is the most troublesome with diesel, along with NOx. Biodiesel may bring down the PM emissions, but studies show it will actually increase NOx emissions, which will lead to more smog.


Actually, most of CA is VOC limited, so more NOx won't lead to more smog (although I agree with CARB's treatment of NOx). Diesel has more PM10, but I haven't seen anything definitive on fine and especially ultrafine, which are the more serious pollutants. In any case, gasoline doesn't score well here either. Especially if you look at the larger picture, including evaporative losses in producing, transporting, and filling of gasoline vs diesel. Not only does the higher vapor pressure of gasoline lead to more VOC emissions (in a region that's mostly VOC limited), it also leads to more organic aerosol. Biodiesel of course has even lower vapor pressure than petrodiesel.

Not that I blame CARB, on the whole I think they're doing an excellent job. They can't rule on ultrafine and especially on secondary organic aerosol because much is still not known about them, and they have to wait on the science. The fact that they rate an H3 as cleaner than a VW TDI is an artifact of their methodology, but in the not-too-long run that will only lead to cleaner diesels. The fact that they don't regulate CO2 is not their fault, and certainly not for lack of trying. IMO their major shortcoming is, however, with diesel: they should have demanded ULSD years ago, ideally when they banned leaded gas. But that's water under the bridge, and even if CARB's restrictions nix diesel cars for the moment, that will just provide further incentive for automakers to treat diesel exhaust more comprehensively, just as gasoline exhaust is comprehensively treated.

Andrey

Josef:

As you rightfully noticed, biodiesel produces more NOx emission (about 15-20%, reported numbers differ significantly). This pollutant is especially hard to control in diesel engines. However, with switch to low-sulfur diesel fuel this year, amount of PM produced by combustion of regular diesel fuel diminished significantly, so currently both biodiesel and diesel fuel produce fairly same amount of diesel soot.

And of course, CO2 is not smog-forming or carcinogenic substance, and labeling it “pollutant” together with HC, VOC, NOx, or PM is self-deceiving practice.

JN2

Cervus, if you like inhaling diesel fumes, try living in a town in Europe. Biodiesel fumes aren't too bad but regular diesel stinks and the resultant air quality is atrocious. Time for plug-in biofuel hybrids!

Bryan Walton

Hi Joseph,
I didn't spend much time looking, but I quickly found this:

Drew Ford in La Mesa, CA has the Ford F250 with a 6.0L Power Stroke Turbo Diesel engine for sale, in stock.

Downey Dodge in Los Angeles has the Dodge Ram 2500 SLT with the 5.9L Cummins Diesel engine, in stock.

I didn't look for the GMC Duramax diesel trucks, but I'm pretty sure I could find them.

Chingy

It is odd how just when the current gas crunch started, the new CARB restrictions on light & medium duty diesel vehicles came into effect (model year 2003-4). Probably just a coincidence, but a bad one. Even with the current rule, biodiesel demand is growing at a dizzying rate. The next couple of years will smooth everything out with ULSD and the emissions controls that can arise because of it.

Joe, you should know that the reason most heavy diesel equipment owners (the majority of that 21% you mentioned) do not use BD in any huge quantities is fear. They usually run these machines for very long periods and they are considered mission critical. So without 20 years of testing, they tend to shy away.

Price is the very reason they could have gone with BD long ago. See, all that off-road diesel equipment could run home brewed BD without restriction. Since BD can be brewed for 20-30 cents a gallon in large quantities, companies could have easily created their own refineries to save huge amounts of money. Trucking companies could have done the same, met fuel quality standards, paid federal road tax, and still saved millions of dollars over the past 10-20 years. Illogical, but typical human behavior.

t

I heard on interesting comment on externalities from Hunter Lovins recently. Paraphrase: If they installed the tail pipe of the automobile in the passenger compartment, then you'd see some real action on emissions.

Carl

I agree with "d" in that most of California (and ALL urban areas studies so far) is VOC limited, meaning that decreases in NOx will not improve smog (ozone) and may actually make it worse unless VOC and CO emissions are restricted even more (reverse of what the current regs require). Evaporative VOC emissions are NOT accounted for in the Tier 2/LEV II regs, making the EPA's "Green Vehicle Guide" misleading at best.

According to the DOE "weekend ozone effect" studies:

"…NOx controls in Southern California (and other urban U.S. locations) are counterproductive for reducing ambient ozone, and they actually increase ambient ozone levels. Were it not for large concurrent HC emission reductions on weekends, weekend ozone would be even higher than it is, and the weekend/weekday ozone difference would be even larger....

…Gasoline exhaust and gasoline vapor account for ~80 percent of ambient NMHC in on-road samples and at regional air monitoring locations suggesting that gasoline emissions are responsible for the majority of ozone found in the SoCAB…."
http://www.osti.gov/fcvt/deer2002/lawson.pdf

See also:

http://www.arb.ca.gov/aqd/weekendeffect/envair_wsp...

http://www.raqc.org/ozone/Workshop/October%202,%20...

http://www.arb.ca.gov/aqd/weekendeffect/dri_sti_co...

http://climateark.org/articles/reader.asp?linkid=3...

http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.19067,filter...

http://www.osti.gov/fcvt/deer2005/lawson.pdf

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