BMW Transfers Shares in Tritec Motors to Chrysler
UCS: Increasing Fuel Economy Would Generate Jobs in the US Economy and Auto Industry

Lutz: GM Will Have Tier 2 Bin 5 Diesel Passenger Cars in North America, But Diesel is Not a “Panacea”

In a recent video post on GM’s Fast Lane blog, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz confirmed that the automaker would be introducing V-6 and all-aluminum V-8 diesel engines in light-duty diesel passenger vehicles into the North American market soon.

He noted that the Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions standards can “only be met through the use of urea“—i.e., with the use of a urea Selective Catalytic Reduction system for NOx control—and that broadly, GM light-duty diesels will likely not be a fifty-state solution for the US.

The good news is the standard [Tier 2 Bin 5] can be met. The bad news is that meeting these standards is about another $2,000 to $2,800 of emissions hardware and control systems on top of the already existing premium of a diesel engine over a gasoline engine which is anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000.

Making vehicles Bin 5 Tier 2 compliant is not the answer to a low-cost CAFE solution...I’m just cautioning you, do not assume that the diesel engine is the panacea and it’s going to get everybody to a fleet of 36 mpg.

In fact, even with Euro 5 [a more lenient standard than Tier 2 Bin 5], many European producers, including ourselves, are starting to ask ourselves, “Are the buyers of smaller cars actually going to pay a $4,000 - $4,500 premium to get a diesel engine which...the tougher the emissions you meet with diesels, the more the fuel economy advantage of diesels versus the modern gasoline engine shrinks?”

—Bob Lutz

Although diesel starts out with a significant advantage in lower fuel consumption over conventional gasoline engines, that advantages is being whittled away by increasing emissions requirements on the diesel, and increasing efficiency in gasoline engines, Lutz said.

With the modern Tier 2 Bin 5 engine, Lutz said, the diesel fuel economy advantage will be sharply reduced to around 15% improvement or maybe even only 12%.

Lutz pointed the use of gasoline direct injection as one of the enablers for increasing gasoline engine efficiency in the short term. In the medium-term, the advent of the homogeneous stratified charge gasoline engine will basically eliminate the differences between gasoline and diesel, Lutz said.

GM is about half-way through a three-year project working with supplier Robert Bosch and Stanford University to accelerate development of HCCI (homogeneous charge compression ignition) engines. (Earlier post.)

At best, the diesel engine in the future is going to be tremendously expensive, it’s going to have a sharply reduced fuel economy advantage over gasoline engines, and it’s not going to be a fifty state solution. It’s going to be minus California and minus whatever states adopt California standards.

—Bob Lutz



At best, the diesel engine in the future is going to be tremendously expensive, it’s going to have a sharply reduced fuel economy advantage over gasoline engines, and it’s not going to be a fifty state solution. It’s going to be minus California and minus whatever states adopt California standards.
—Bob Lutz
Bob is obviously speaking for GM....and no one else.


Strange... it's as if GM operates in a vacuum...


I'll just wait for a Honda Civic diesel, thanks...


Kicking and screaming, GM might actually be embarrassed into surviving. But not without some serious childish petulance.....


Now before everybody starts on the Bob-bashing bandwagon, if you watched his video clip on fastlane or Youtube, you'll see he mentions plans to bring a myriad of diesels to market for GM, despite their pending less competitiveness with coming gas engine technologies. Many people still think you can get something for nothing or that diesels will be a cure-all.

I like diesels as much as anyone, but we have to consider the price difference and do the math when comparing to other technologies these days. The upcoming VW's and Honda diesels are not going to be cheap either. This is just a warning to our pocket books of the upcoming pinch when you write a check out for your new clean diesels.


Bob Lutz, as a recent poster so aptly said, is just GM's official circus announcer.

He decried that meeting proposed CAFE standards would cost the US consumer and additional $6,000 per vehicle.

$4,500 extra for clean diesels- really?

Let's see... VW will re-introduce their TDI's (50state legal- mind you) in 2008. Mercedes will also be selling 50-state legal CDI's. The average additional cost between gasser and diesel models from these manufacturers is projected to be LESS THAN $2,000. (a premium that is quickly recovered within the first year of ownership- unlike current Hybrids)

So once again, Lutz (GM) is full of hot air. They have been crying "wolf" for so long- it's difficult to trust their figures. Didn't they fight seatbelts, catalytic converters, and other technologies with similar "excessive cost to the consumer" arguments?


If they are dirty, more expensive and the fuel cost more, why would you want one? Seems to me that Toyota's HEV or a PHEV would be a better buy, especially if they can get the price down as they claim.

Unless of course you are caught up in the mystic of compression explosion engines and want the experience; or the salesman sees you coming.

Harvey D

The same old (cost) scare tactics over again.

Why not produce clean diesel engines in China, at less than half the cost.

If that's not enough to satisfy US customers, have the complete vehicle built in China for less than $20K.

That's what has happened with LCD HDTV and the price dropped by more than 50% in the last 3 years.


"If they are dirty, more expensive and the fuel cost more, why would you want one?"

Diesel fuel in my area is currently selling for about $2.79/gallon, which is about 20 cents less than regular unleaded. In the winter it does go up sharply (because diesel is the same chemically as fuel oil except for added dye), but people drive more during the summer.

This isn't including the fact that you can run biodiesel in them, and making your own biodiesel costs about 20 cents/gallon. Also, I biodiesel is readily available to me, but E85 is still nowhere to be found.


It could be that SVO and biodiesel have a better net energy return when derived from waste oil, high yield tropical crops and algae than corn based ethanol. In the long term transportation will probably by bicycles, small electric cars and electric mass transit.


Harvey: Diesel fuel in my area is currently selling for about $2.79/gallon, which is about 20 cents less than regular unleaded. In the winter it does go up sharply (because diesel is the same chemically as fuel oil except for added dye), but people drive more during the summer.

Do household heating systems in America have the same stringent controls as cars?#

I remember reading that 2-stroke petrol lawnmowers chucked out 10s of times more pollution than a petrol engined car, as there was no legislation on these. Is there any point in having ultra tight diesel emission standards if home fuel can't be burnt uncontrollably?


I assume Lutz does great work behind the scenes. He has been paid millions for years by companies for his automotive skills.

But his public statements seem arbitrary and almost mischevious. More or less whatever comes to mind this morning.

Relying upon them for actual information is, IMO, about like watching a DVD of Bambi to learn how animals live in the woods.



No, we have a separate product called "heating oil" that has much higher sulfur content than diesel fuel. They are chemically similar otherwise, though; you basically take the sulfur out of heating oil and then you have diesel fuel.

Keep in mind that heating oil is generally only in common use for heating in the northeastern states. Natural gas is generally used anywhere the pipes are present. Outside of the northeast, where the pipes aren't present, heating is either done with LP or electric.


Hmm... I think there is some progress toward taking the sulfur out of heating oil on a phased-in schedule delayed behind the roll-out of ULSD. One rationale for the delay is that the additional refining that takes the sulfur out of the ULSD, on top of strong demand for gasoline (which also takes more refining than it used to), is pushing refining capacity to the limit. And the sulfur reduction gets more benefit in vehicles because it allows for the exhaust aftertreatment systems to work- they clog up using higher-sulfur fuel. There is no aftertreatment to clog up as yet on any of the domestic systems.

Some parts of the US have NOx emissions standards for domestic furnaces, boilers, and/or water heaters fired by natural gas. There are now special low-NOx models of all of those products using special burner designs to be sold in areas where they are required.

Emissions rules are rolling out for all sorts of dirty non-road equipment- construction equipment, generators, yard equipment, etc. As usual it started in California first, EPA is following along few years behind them, and it will take a long time to have the new products replace the dirty old ones that are already in use.


...Although diesel starts out with a significant advantage in lower fuel consumption over conventional gasoline engines, that advantages is being whittled away by increasing emissions requirements on the diesel, and increasing efficiency in gasoline engines, Lutz said....

I am becoming increasingly skeptical that this decrease in the fuel economy gap will ever really materialize. Motor Trend magazine recently conducted a study (reported in the May 2007 issue) of vehicles with the latest in hybrid, FFV, diesel and gasoline engine technology. The diesel (MB E320 Bluetec) still gets the best fuel economy when differences in performance, weight, aerodynamics, etc., are taken into account, and is very close to the hybrid (a Toyota Camry Hybrid) in energy-equivalent fuel economy. MT used a "real world" driving cycle that was roughly equivalent to the FTP75 "combined" drive cycle.

The latest in conventional gasoline engine technology was a 2.0 liter turbocharged DI gasoline engine in a VW Passat. The fuel economy gap was still 55% and even 40% when taking diesel fuel's higher energy value into account.

I'm sure the turbo DI gassers could achieve higher fuel economy using "lean-burn" technology, but that introduces the same emissions challenges that diesels currently face.

Spokane Walt

Not sure how the poster above makes bio for 20 cents a gallon, but for most folks the cost is around $1 per gallon for materials and cost of electricity to do processing.

That assumes that the feedstock (Veg Oil, Animal Fat Oil, etc.) is free. In my area, one can buy clean waste oil that is good feed stock for about $1.50 per gallon, or some are able to gather and filter their feedstock for free.

Total Cost of BioDiesel from Waste oil is still under $3 for most areas, and Commercial BioDiesel is usally at or slightly above or at Petro Based Diesel Prices in the the North West (Oregon/Washington/Idaho). Oregon is now offering a 50 cents a gallon break on your income taxes for every gallon of B99 that residents buy in state (up to $400 per year). That makes even commercial Bio Cheaper than Petrol Based Diesel at pump in Oregon.

My only question is: "Would use of 5% Biodiesel (B5) in all diesel at the pump result in less need for treatment of the emissions?" Seems we are requiring 8% to 10% ethanol in just about all fuel for gasoline engines to help with emissions - I am wondering what 5% bio would do to the needs for emissions treatment?

VW Claims 2008 Car Models with Diesel engines will be 50 state compliant without urea injection, so maybe GM should just buy engines from VW for it's small cars. I think a 2L VW Engine would move that Daewoo Designed Checy Aveo down the road just fine, while beating it's current EPA estimates all to heck. (37MPG Freeway is the current number)


My recollection is that VW says that for small engines that they can be 50-state compliant without urea injection, but for larger engines the urea injection is required. Of course, GM doesn't care one bit about small engines - they want oversized 6 and 8 cylinder engines, so I suppose that the statement that urea is needed is essentially correct given the size of engines that GM has in mind.


Lutz to every possibility for changing business as usual:

"I think I can't, I think I can't, I think I can't"

John Schreiber

Lutz needs to be impeached. Saab (owned by GM for many years, and OPEL/Vauxhall, both have 4 cylinder diesel cars. No mention of a single 4 cylinder offering from Lutz. The guy is a Caddy man, he is cannot be trained.


Ive been driving one of those 4cyl GM diesel cars for 85K now and Lutz needs to quit pulling Gs and sniffing JetA...its obviously affecting the grey matter.

Retire Bob, Impeach Dick.


Lutz-think is saying that the major stockholders of GM only support American vehicle sales where the profit is measured in multiples of $5000. For the remainder of GM's world sales, something like half that will suffice.

He's saying that for the American market, his future high mileage vehicles will therefor only be attractive to prospective customers who are willing to pay a stiff premium for the environment (ironically, the same people who own multiple cars, homes, etc.)

Lutz is writting off the sub $20K/transaction car market for the States. He's been burned one too many times by promises from his own staff, who said that they could build a profitable vehicle for the masses. He's saying that he's not going to be suckered into replacing the Malibu or the Cobalt for a very, very long time. He'll import a relatively small number of Opels to keep Saturn from being a mini-stable like Buick.

Future Chevy platforms will be spun from the top down, after they've been used for Cadillac or Pontiac, a policy reminiscent of the utterly disredited "supply side economics" of the Reagan era. It's just as if a bunch of old men in a board room sat around and said that they knew that they didn't have a chance of being competitive, so they might as well build something that they (all fat cats) wouldn't mind being seen in.

If Lutz had half a brain, or gave two shits about GM's American employees, he'd be up on Capitol Hill every day, demanding Medicare for all Americans. Instead, he's decrying that tomorrow will dawn a new day.


I do think that GM will soon offer the Duramax V-8 turbodiesel engine on all of their higher-end pickup trucks and SUV's by 2009. And we'll see a 3.3-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine that will find its way into the Buick Enclave/GMC Acadia/Saturn Outlook models at the the same time, too.

Petr Tesar

Lutz forgets that not just petrol engines are under development (turbo, direct injection). If petrol engines get better results, diesel engines will get even better results (twin turbo, injection pressure 2000 to 3000 bar.) With incresing of injection pressure NOx decrease. Then smaller problems will be with aftertreatment.
Lutz looks like some people 10 years ago in Europe, who simply did not like diesel engines and decided not to promote them (unfortunatelly GM). Then the competition (even Ford of Europe) dramatically increased diesel versions sales and GM had to do the same. But with some delay and they lost some customers and money...


Hi All,

Well, the cost of hybridization is $2000 or less, per Toyota comments. In the case of the Camry, the V6 costs more than the Hybrid. If the V6 was down-performanced to the Camry Hybrid, with something like a 5 1/2 cylinder engine, the cost would probably be dead even. That along with the better fuel economy and less maintanence cost of the Hybrid.

Diesel has an advantage in towing, and bio fuels now. Maybe that will change, and we will see Butanol bio-fuel that a gas engine will run on. Or, the Prius/Camry might be modified to use the variable compression ratio to take advantage of E85 fully. So, in the long run towing looks to be the only diesel advantage.

This is all from the consumer point of view. From the car company point of view, they only need 1/3 the engineering time to come out with the diesels, than the hybrid, due to the european developed technology in-house. Diesels are a good match for the over-the road holiday boat towing rig. Which is what they apparently want to sell. To hell with the daily consumer grind, that is, what people want to buy. So, this looks to me to be another play for next years profits, and damn the future.

I look forward to being able to rent these diesels for the holiday trip. But I will never buy one.


"Diesel has an advantage in towing, and bio fuels now."

I disagree with the latter part of that statement. Without a breakthrough in algae-based bio-oil, we don't have that much more production capacity of biodiesel. While B20 blends are being pushed, it has nothing to do with availability. In my opinion, we are much closer to mass-produced cellulosic ethanol/butanol than biodiesel from algae.

Personally, I don't see how anything that Lutz said was that inappropriate. Diesels do cost significantly more (especially when you just compare the costs of the engines/emission control systems).

I think the benefits of diesels are greatly exaggerated. People believe their % increases in mpg directly translates into the same % decrease in crude oil consumption. I have read that diesel only lowers crude oil consumption by around 10% as compared to gasoline.

With that said, I think Lutz has a point. You have to consider the cost-benefit analysis into the mix. Plus, even with the expense of all of the emission control equipment to meet the Tier 2 requirements, they will still pollute far more than the best hybrids. He also has a very good point about other technologies closing the combustion efficiency gap. Other than heat recovery systems, I don't see much room for advancement in diesels. However, HCCI gasoline engines are right around the corner.

The comments to this entry are closed.