Manufacturers to promote U.S. diesel sales

By | January 24, 2007
On the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show in late November, Daimler-Chrysler announced that it had teamed with Volkswagen and Audi to promote diesel sales in North America under the brand name Bluetec. This shared concept will involve each of the manufacturers developing their own systems meant to meet the world's strictest exhaust prohibitions. According to Tom Fulks of the Maryland-based Diesel Technology Forum, diesel vehicles will make up 13 percent of the U.S. vehicle market by 2012, and 15.5 percent by 2015.

This increase in diesel vehicle sales opens more opportunities for biodiesel. "Focusing on the efficiency of diesel technology and the ability to use biodiesel in these models means that targeting the environmental customer is clearly a part of their marketing strategy," says Joe Gershen, managing director of marketing and sales for Tellurian Biodiesel Inc., a fuel marketer and distributor based in Santa Monica, Calif. This company was recently formed through a merger of L.A. Biofuels and San Francisco Biodiesel, and plans on breaking ground for the construction of its first production facility in southern California in the coming months.

The Mercedes E 320 Bluetec, which entered the U.S. market in mid-October, is the first production passenger car to bear the Bluetec name. The E 320 Bluetec is the first and only diesel engine that generates emissions below the extremely strict US BIN8 exhaust gas standard, which is administered by the U.S. EPA and particularly rigid on NOx. Also, the system burns up to 30 percent less fuel than similar vehicles with gasoline engines, DaimlerChrysler stated.

While European companies are offering their diesel models in America, Chevrolet-in turn-launched its Lacetti line in late 2006, which includes the first diesel options that General Motors has made available in Europe's auto market. According to Chevrolet, the Lacetti hatchback gets 58.8 miles per gallon, while the station wagon model charts 52.3 miles per gallon, numbers that may help to lure consumers away from gasoline engines.

The demand for diesel-fueled automobiles may be increasing worldwide in part because of legislation like the Clean Air Act and the Kyoto Protocol. Therefore, automobile designers are charged with reducing emissions-especially NOx-from vehicle models. One particular design combines an oxidizing catalytic converter and particulate filter with an extra-long-life NOx storage converter. Another system injects urea, a water-based additive, into the exhaust stream, causing ammonia to be released and reducing NOx molecules in a downstream catalytic converter. Gershen stressed that this design doesn't, require any added responsibilities on the part of the user. "They have eliminated the spare tire compartment and replaced it with a reservoir for urea," Gershen said. "It is simply serviced and refilled as a regular fluid change during routine maintenance."
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