The Cruze Offers B20 Mass Appeal

MTV brought music videos to the masses. Can the diesel Chevy Cruze do the same for B20? The Cruze is a potential game changer because it bridges the gap between biodiesel and the average consumer/motorist, delivering the first B20-approved sedan.
By Jenna Higgins Rose | January 09, 2014

I still remember the day my parents first installed cable television in my childhood home in Colorado. It was in the early 1980s when the man came to our door with the faux-wood cable box. This installation happened to correspond with the early years of MTV’s existence, and as a preteen this literally rocked my world.  

From that box, I would come face-to-face with the “real-life” personas lining the walls of my bedroom: Duran Duran, David Bowie and Madonna. The same box would later expand my horizons beyond Top 40, to bands like the Smiths, Love and Rockets and New Order. The band names aren’t important, but the music to which we come of age defines a piece of us for life, and the introduction of MTV helped infuse the sounds of that decade into many people my age.

Of course, I couldn’t know at the time that Channel 31 on my cable box would also lead to shattering changes in the music industry, its relationship with consumers, and how music would forever be delivered. Remember that iconic clip of the astronaut planting his MTV flag on the moon?  How apropos.    

A Game Changer on Four Wheels  
I’m reminded of that time now, because unlike my teenage years, these days I thoughtfully consider new technology and products in a cultural and historical context. As a diehard fan of biodiesel and other alternative energies, the object of my more recent desire (post-Simon Le Bon) arrived with the introduction of the 2014 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel four-cylinder Chevy Cruze, approved for a 20 percent blend of biodiesel (B20). 

Like my much-loved MTV of years past, I see the diesel Cruze as a potential game changer. This is because it bridges the gap between biodiesel and the average consumer/motorist, delivering for the first time a sedan that is B20 approved. 

Although more than 78 percent of major U.S. auto and equipment manufacturers approve of B20 in some or all of their diesel models, the Cruze is an exciting development for biodiesel. It means every ordinary consumer, in addition to fleet managers, farmers, semi-truck drivers or pickup owners, can now relate to B20. It makes America’s advanced biofuel tangible and real to potentially everyone. It builds a bridge between B20 and the masses, even if mostly symbolic for now. (For one thing, there was no evidence in the showroom that GM is marketing the B20 approval as part of its green branding, the way some other automakers have.)

The Cruze’s launch also verifies a resurgence in diesel technology interest from the automakers as an ultra-fuel-efficient and clean technology that rivals any hybrid. With 36 new clean diesel vehicle models available now or launching in the 2014 model year, 2013 shaped up to be one of the most exciting years for clean diesel vehicles in U.S. history. In fact, Popular Mechanics named 2013 the “Year of the Diesel” in a recent article, saying, “The dirty and unreliable diesel cars of the 1980s gave this tech a bad name in the U.S. But Rudolph Diesel’s engine delivers long range, excellent torque, and high mileage, and a stable of new cars is ready to revive the diesel in America.”

We’ve hoped for an American diesel passenger car for years. Now, we actually have one. And I have one, too!  

I bought my crystal red Cruze in early August, the first one my local dealer had sold. It has many amazing mechanical and techie features which you can find more about on or other sources. All I know is my car has some great “toys,” like XM Radio and Pandora, a reverse camera, Bluetooth with audio streaming, remote start and more. My Cruze also has two car seats in the back for now, and a few Cheerios, which personally I don’t think detracts from its stylishness.  

Of course the responsible environmentalist in me cares most about the B20 approval and its 46 mpg EPA highway fuel economy rating. In the first week I owned the car, which included the usual school, work and gym runs, a lunch meeting, an airport run (40 miles roundtrip) and a trip to the National Biodiesel Board headquarters in Jefferson City, Mo. (70 miles roundtrip), I used just less than a half tank of fuel. 

A Deep-Seated Belief
Before buying, I did some research on the Cruze’s main competitor, a brand I drove for 100,000 miles prior to my latest purchase. But my loyalty to biodiesel and its potential to alter our energy landscape surpasses any other brand loyalty I may have formed, and I never even went to the competitor’s showroom. 

Hopefully the B20-approved Cruze spurs further approvals among the holdouts. With 36 new clean diesel vehicle models available now or launching in the 2014 model year, automotive industry experts predict that consumers will have more than 54 diesel vehicle models to choose from in North America by 2017.

I have a deep-seated belief (that’s a pun) that using alternative energy is a serious commitment. To me it is a personal value as important as good nutrition and recycling. As Americans, our values are often reflected in our purchases. If more of us chose the wealth of cleaner-burning fuels like biodiesel that we have between our shores, it could propel us away from fossil fuels and imported oil faster than “Video Killed the Radio Star” hit the top of the music video charts.  

Maybe that day is closer to us than we think. Renewable energy use will grow at a much faster rate than fossil energy use through 2040, according to projections in the Annual Energy Outlook 2013, a product of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  

Alternative Fuels Rock
Someday, my five-year-old’s first car could be my Cruze. Technologically speaking, he will grow up in a very different world than mine. Even my three-year-old can navigate the iPhone and iPad without asking for help. And they won’t need MTV like I did. Today’s teens have all the music and videos they want at their fingertips. They will never know what it’s like to have to wait. What used to be novel and exciting has become ordinary.  

My hope is that the same will be true for renewable energy. When my kids come of age, maybe B20, B100 and other alternative fuels won’t be the alternative anymore—petroleum will. And my kids won’t understand why we ever chose fossil fuels when we had a bounty of renewable energy at our fingertips. 

Did video kill the radio star? Actually it didn’t, but it did change our expectations. And so might the diesel Cruze. 

Author: Jenna Higgins Rose
Founder, Rose Media LLC
[email protected]

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