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Paris Bans All Diesel Cars Made Before 2000

Paris Bans All Diesel Cars Made Before 2000

Photo by Getty David Ramos / Stringer

By:By Avery Thompson Jan 24, 2017

http:// Posted JAN 24, 2017

Cars designated Level 5 in new emissions categories are no longer allowed on Paris roads.

The city of Paris has announced it is banning most cars built before the year 2000, in an effort to curb air pollution. The law, which affects diesel vehicles built between 1997 and 2000, went into effect on Monday.

Paris has long struggled with the air pollution caused by its vehicles. Previously it had attempted to ban odd and even numbered cars from the road on alternate days based on license plate numbers, but that system was discontinued after it was proven ineffective. The new system sorts all vehicles into one of five categories, and requires drivers to display a sticker indicating their category on their vehicle.

Level Five contains all diesel vehicles manufactured between 1997 and 2000, and these cars are now banned from driving on Paris streets. Diesel vehicles older than this are also banned, but are not assigned to any category. It's estimated that around 6 percent of the cars in Paris fall into Level Five.

While this move should reduce air pollution in Paris, some have criticized the measure as unfairly penalizing drivers that are poor, who are less able to upgrade their vehicle. They have argued that the best way to fix the city's pollution problem is by reducing vehicle emissions rather than implementing bans.

'Rolling coal' might be outlawed in Maryland

'Rolling coal' might be outlawed in Maryland

Rolling coal is the practice of modifying a diesel engine to increase the amount of fuel entering the engine in order to emit an under-aspirated sooty exhaust that visibly pollutes the air. It can also include the intentional removal of the particulate filter. Practitioners often additionally modify their vehicles by installing smoke switches and smoke stacks. Modifications to a vehicle to enable rolling coal cost from $200 to $5,000. -- Wikipedia

By:Jake Lingeman - Jake Lingeman is Road Test Editor at Autoweek, reviewing cars, reporting on car news, car tech and the world at large. Posted JANUARY 27, 2017

HB11 looks to pull the plug on souped-up diesels

“Rolling coal” could become illegal in Maryland as a bill makes its way through the state House of Representatives on Thursday. “Rolling coal” is a slang term for when diesel drivers tune their pickup trucks to spew black smoke from the tailpipe on acceleration. It sometimes entails increasing the power output of an engine, and it usually necessitates the removal of some emissions parts. We’ve seen videos of these guys (it’s always guys) doing this while they pass other drivers, runners or bicyclists on the road.

The bill states that it’s illegal for a driver to cause “a diesel–powered motor vehicle to emit certain clearly visible emissions onto another person or motor vehicle; providing for the application of this Act; and generally relating to a prohibition on the discharge of excess diesel–powered motor vehicle emissions.”

Ezra Finkin, director of policy of the Diesel Technology Forum, testified before the Maryland General Assembly House Environment and Transportation Committee in support of House Bill 11:

“Diesel engines have long been a popular option in heavy-duty pickup trucks because of their superior fuel efficiency and towing performance. While we recognize diesel enthusiasts' love for diesel engines and the performance of their vehicles, the practice of tampering with engines and emissions controls for the purpose of generating excess emissions on demand -- ‘known as rolling coal’ -- is offensive, unsafe and harmful to the environment. Most of all, it is not representative of the manner in which diesel engines were designed to operate.”

The bill exempts drivers of commercial vehicles with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more and construction vehicles. It also exempts drivers of standard diesel-powered cars that discharge visible exhaust during normal acceleration.

The bill falls under Maryland’s Section 203(a)(3)(A) of the Clean Air Act that explicitly forbids the practice of tampering with a vehicle’s emission controls and allows states to prohibit the practice.

On a personal note, we think the practice is dumb and the drivers who do it are dumber. We love tuning cars, adding parts and taking them away. But it’s always in pursuit of something nobler: speed, handling, comfort, or even efficiency. It’s never to pollute needlessly and never to anger other people on the road purposely.

To what end, we ask you coal rollers, to what end?

The Diesel Engine at 120

The Diesel Engine at 120

Illustration: Stuart Bradford

By: VACLAV SMIL Posted 23 Jan 2017 | 20:00 GMT

It seemed a no-brainer invention, but it took quite some time to become the world’s leading source of locomotive power

On 17 February 1897, Moritz Schröter, a professor of theoretical engineering at Technische Universität, in Munich, conducted the official certification test of Rudolf Diesel’s new engine. The goal of the test was to verify the machine’s efficiency and hence to demonstrate its suitability for commercial development.

The 4.5-metric-ton engine performed impressively: At its full power of 13.4 kilowatts (18 horsepower) the engine’s thermal efficiency was 35 percent and its mechanical efficiency reached 75 percent, resulting in a net efficiency of 26 percent. With obvious pride Diesel wrote to his wife, “Nobody’s engine design has achieved what mine has done, and so I can have the proud awareness of being the first one in my specialty.” Later in that year the engine’s net efficiency reached 30 percent, making the machine twice as efficient as the gasoline-fueled Otto engines of the day.

Over time, that efficiency gap has narrowed, but today’s diesel engines remain at least 15 to 20 percent more efficient than their gasoline-fueled rivals. Diesels have several advantages: They use fuel of a higher energy density (nearly 12 percent higher than that of gasoline); their self-ignition involves much higher compression ratios (commonly twice as high as in gasoline engines), resulting in a more complete combustion and in cooler exhaust gas; their longer stroke and lower rotational rate reduce frictional losses; they can operate with a wide range of very lean mixtures, burning refined fuel of the lowest quality; they have no throttle valves; and modern common-rail fuel injection systems can spray the fuel into their cylinders at pressures of up to 300 megapascals (up from 60 MPa 50 years ago).

But, disappointingly, in 1897 the record-setting test was not followed by rapid commercial deployment. Diesel’s conclusion that he had “a thoroughly marketable machine” and that “the rest will develop automatically on its own worth” was wrong. Only in 1911 did the Danish vessel Selandia become the first oceangoing freighter powered by a diesel engine, and diesels dominated shipping only after World War I. Heavy railroad traction was their first land conquest, followed by heavy road transport, off-road vehicles, and construction and agricultural machinery. The first diesel car, the Mercedes-Benz 260D, came in 1936, but diesels never made it in the United States: Even now they account for just 3 percent of all light-duty vehicles. In the European Union, about 40 percent of all passenger cars are diesels.

Diesel’s initial hope was to see small engines used primarily by small, independent producers as tools of industrial decentralization, but 120 years later, the very opposite is true. Diesels are the uncontested enablers of massively centralized industrial production and the irreplaceable prime movers of globalization. Diesels power virtually all container ships and all carriers of vehicles and bulk commodities, such as oil, liquefied natural gas, ores, cement, fertilizers, and grain. They also power nearly all trucks and freight trains.

Most of the items that readers of these essays use, eat, or wear are transported at least once, and usually many times, by diesel-powered machines, often from other continents: clothes from Bangladesh, oranges from South Africa, crude oil from the Middle East, bauxite from Jamaica, cars from Japan, computers from China. Without the low operating costs, high efficiency, high reliability, and great durability of diesel engines, it would have been impossible to reach the extent of globalization that now defines the modern economy.

Over more than a century of use, diesel engines have increased both in capacity and efficiency. The largest machines in shipping are now rated at more than 81 megawatts (109,000 hp), and their top net efficiency is just above 50 percent—better than that of gas turbines, which are at about 40 percent (although in combined-cycle generation, using the exhaust gas to do work, turbines can reach 61 percent [PDF] net efficiency).

And Diesel’s engines are here to stay: There are no readily available mass-mover alternatives that could keep integrating the global economy as affordably, efficiently, and reliably as Diesel’s machines, born 120 years ago this month.

EPA accuses Fiat Chrysler of excess diesel emissions

EPA accuses Fiat Chrysler of excess diesel emissions

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne listens during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 9, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

By: David Shepardson and Bernie Woodall | NEW YORK/DETROIT

U.S. | Fri Jan 13, 2017 | 3:04am EST

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV of illegally using hidden software to allow excess diesel emissions to go undetected, the result of a probe that stemmed from regulators' investigation of rival Volkswagen AG.

FCA shares plummeted as the maximum fine is about $4.6 billion. The EPA action affects 104,000 U.S. trucks and SUVs sold since 2014, about one-sixth the vehicles in the Volkswagen case.

The EPA and California Air Resources Board told Fiat Chrysler it believes its undeclared auxiliary emissions control software allowed vehicles to generate excess pollution in violation of the law and each issued notices of violation.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating, Fiat Chrysler said Thursday. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement he is "deeply troubled" by the EPA findings and "will investigate the claims against Fiat Chrysler and stands ready to work with our state and federal partners."

Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne angrily rejected the allegations at a hastily-assembled conference call with reporters, saying there was no wrongdoing and the company never attempted to create software to cheat emissions rules by detecting when the vehicle was in test mode.

He characterized the dispute as whether the automaker had completely disclosed software that protects the engine, adding the company was planning updated software to address EPA concerns.

He said the EPA and the company could have settled the issue in "a more efficient way" without the EPA announcement, and he said "I'm really pissed off" about reports that equate FCA's issues with VW's.

"The way that it has been described, I think, has been unfair to FCA, and that is the thing that disturbs me most," Marchionne said.

He also suggested regulators had a "belligerent" view of automakers. "We don't belong to a class of criminals," he said. "We're not trying to break the bloody law."

The company has no plans to stop selling 2016 U.S. diesel models.

EPA has reviews ongoing of other automakers' emissions systems, but it is not clear if they have found any additional wrongdoing.

Regulators said FCA failed to disclose engine management software in 104,000 U.S. 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-liter diesel engines. The undisclosed software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Cynthia Giles, an EPA official, said Fiat Chrysler had an obligation to disclose the "illegal software" but has not decided whether to label them "defeat devices."

The EPA said it found at least eight undisclosed pieces of software that can alter how a vehicle emits air pollution. Fiat Chrysler had recalled vehicles for one of the undisclosed software.

By contesting the charge, FCA will push the case into the administration of President-elect Donald Trump. It is not clear how Trump’s EPA will handle this or similar issues. Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a critic of federal environmental regulation, to lead EPA.

Efraim Levy, analyst with CFRA, said FCA stands to "get a fresh start with the Trump administration."

U.S.-listed shares were last down 10 percent, cutting their earlier losses. Milan-listed shares closed down 16 percent, weighing on European stock markets.

The EPA announcement comes amid closer scrutiny of automakers after Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) admitted to cheating diesel emissions tests in 580,000 U.S. vehicles.

In 2015, EPA said it would review all U.S. diesel vehicles following an admission from Volkswagen that it installed software in cars allowing them to emit up to 40 times legally permissible level of pollution.

On Wednesday, Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) agreed to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil fines and plead guilty to three felonies for misleading regulators and selling polluting vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler could face fines of $44,539 per vehicle if it is proven that it violated emissions rules.

European regulators have also raised questions about Fiat Chrysler diesels.

Last fall, Germany wrote a letter to the European Commission accusing FCA of using an illegal device to switch off exhaust treatment systems in diesel engines in Fiat and Jeep vehicles sold in Europe.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in New York and Bernie Woodall in Detroit; Additional reporting by Nick Carey in Chicago, Agnieszka Flak in Milan and Giles Guillaume in Paris; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Here's why GM is betting on diesel

Here's why GM is betting on diesel

GMC unveiled the all-new 2018 Terrain ahead of the 2017 Detroit auto show. Smaller and lighter than the outgoing model, the new Terrain gets the choice of two turbocharged gasoline engines or a 1.6-liter turbodiesel. PHOTO BY GMC

By: Ray Ramey, Associate Editor with


While some automakers are quitting diesels in the U.S. market and generally seeking to turn a page, others are taking a cue from European manufacturers when it comes to thrifty engines. Volkswagen recently announced that it will no longer offer diesel engines in the U.S. amid a flurry of new engine announcements by GM and other brands that will give U.S. buyers the diesel option in a number of unexpected vehicles.

One such unexpected vehicle is the 2018 GMC Terrain, which debuted on the first day of the Detroit auto show. When the redesigned crossover goes on sale, it will be available with a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four gasoline engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline four, and a 1.6-liter turbodiesel paired with a six-speed automatic pumping out 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. That's the same 1.6-liter turbodiesel that will be under the hood of the new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, a unit that first surprised industry observers after being announced for the Chevrolet Cruze, where it will be paired with either a six-speed manual or a nine-speed automatic transmission when it goes on sale in 2017 as a 2018 model-year vehicle.

Why the sudden turn to diesels?

As with the Oldsmobile diesels from more than 30 years ago -- an episode GM hopes we have forgotten -- the goal is fuel economy. EPA figures for the three GM vehicles have not been released yet, but the automaker hopes the Cruze will achieve better than 50 mpg highway with that 1.6-liter turbodiesel borrowed from Opel.

But the motivation for GM goes beyond mpg figures. Volkswagen's departure from the diesel game left a sizable diesel audience to be catered to because TDI models made up a large chunk of sales for some of Wolfsburg's cars.

“I am very optimistic about the diesel market in the U.S.," Dan Nicholson, General Motors’ vice president for global propulsion systems told Automotive News earlier this fall. "It has been abandoned by others, and we are happy to step in and be the leader. Frankly, that’s what we’d like to do."

According to Nicholson, the audience for diesels will not dissipate following VW's withdrawal of TDI models, even as electric cars seep into multiple segments.

“There are a lot of diesel intenders and diesel-loyal people who are looking for a brand and vehicles to go after," Nicholson added. "They tend to be more tech savvy than the average customer. And they won’t stop wishing for a diesel. And we’ll go after those customers."

More than simply filling an empty niche, GM believes the U.S. is a growth market for diesel cars and trucks, even as it forges ahead with pure electrics like the Bolt. The Bolt may just be rolling into dealerships, but GM is seeing strong demand for diesel versions of the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado pickups.

GM isn't the only one betting on diesel at a time when VW is walking away from the technology in the U.S. Jaguar Land Rover announced plans to field more diesel models in the months before the VW diesel scandal broke in fall 2015, with the intention of making diesels a major offering on this side of the pond.

Something tells us we'll see the 1.6-liter turbodiesel in even more GM models soon.

$50m fund for plastic to diesel

$50m fund for plastic to diesel

Trimantium Capital MD Phillip Kingston and PK Clean CEO Priyanka Bakaya.
Source: David Swan.

By: David Swan, Reporter - The Australian - December 15, 2016

Melbourne-based venture capital firm Trimantium Capital is raising a $US50m ($67.8m) fund to finance the expansion of PK Clean, a firm that converts plastic waste from landfill into usable fuels such as diesel. By David Swan

PK Clean, the brainchild of Australian entrepreneur Priyanka Bakaya, has already raised funds from Goldman Sachs and government, and has a facility operating out of Utah. It has an agreement signed for its next facility in Canada and has received interest from Australian customers.

Ms Bakaya, who was educated in MIT and Stanford, told The Australian that PK Clean’s technology represented a major breakthrough to the global plastic waste problem, with 300 million tonnes of plastic produced each year and just 10 per cent of that recycled.

“Plastic comes from oil, and we’re reversing that process,” she said. “We take the plastic waste and work with local recyclers and take whatever they can’t recycle, and we feed that plastic into our continuous process; we create fuels such as diesel to be sold for industrial and agricultural usage.”

She said every tonne of plastic would yield roughly 950 litres of fuel while the process also generates its own natural gas, which gets recycled to provide enough energy to heat the system.

“It costs roughly $30 a barrel to produce diesel, which can then be sold for roughly $70 a barrel,” Ms Bakaya said.

“Plastic’s one of those things where they put it in a trash can without thinking where it ends up. Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, this is a huge global opportunity here.”

Trimantium Capital managing director Phillip Kingston said some local recycling firms had already flown to Salt Lake City to see the PK Clean facility there, and he expected particularly strong interest from Australia given landfill costs can be ten times higher than in Utah.

He’s raising a $US50m fund to finance the building of the next few facilities as a social impact bond that will provide a yield to high net worth families and intelligent institutions.

“There is globally a shortage of scalable social impact investment opportunities, as an institutional investor I always have trouble finding deep investment opportunities that have enough safety to be comfortable with,” he told The Australian.

“These plans are tangible, there’s an asset that sits underneath it, there’s a clear environmental benefit and it’s economically lucrative.

“PK Clean presents one of the most investable and scalable social impact bond opportunities for Australian investors seeking strong financial returns and environmental impact at a potentially global scale.”

Ms Bakaya credits her passion for the environment with the time she spent in the Australian outdoors growing up.

“I was always interested in the environment, after leaving Melbourne, I was at Stanford, but I decided to go to MIT to focus on clean energy solutions,” she said. “Plastic waste was a huge global issue no one was tackling. I don’t just want to make an app, I want to make the world a better place; it’s more challenging but ultimately more rewarding.”

New Models Fuel Diesel's Revival

New Models Fuel Diesel's Revival

2018 Chevrolet Equinox

Written by By Mike Hanley

"CARS.COM — "If you think diesel is dead, think again. Volkswagen's diesel-emissions scandal significantly tarnished the engine's reputation in the U.S., but even though VW has decided to stop selling diesels here, other automakers plan to add diesels to their lineups. And they're doing it in one of the hottest segments: compact SUVs. " Posted By Senior Editor Mike Hanley of on December 16,2016

The redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and Mazda's redesigned 2017 CX-5 will both offer a diesel engine in the U.S. next year. Official pricing and EPA fuel economy estimates aren't currently available for either diesel SUV, but some initial specifications have been released.

The Equinox uses a turbo-diesel 1.6-liter engine that makes 136 horsepower and 236 pounds-feet of torque. The engine pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission and GM estimates highway fuel economy will be 40 mpg, which is 9 mpg better than the SUV's next-most-efficient engine.

The CX-5, meanwhile, will offer a performance-focused turbo-diesel 2.2-liter engine. The engine is rated at 173 hp and 310 pounds-feet of torque in overseas markets. Jacob Brown, Mazda product communications spokesman, said those figures shouldn't change much for U.S.-spec engines.

So why are these brands launching diesel models now? "We wanted to give our customers more choices," said Kay Jarboe, Equinox product marketing manager. "The compact SUV is now the largest segment out there. It's a good time to offer a really good breadth of product." The 2018 Equinox also offers two gas engines.

For Mazda, diesel's relative uniqueness aligns with the brand. "Mazda is awfully good at finding buyers who want something a little different, a little off the beaten path," Brown said. "There's an opportunity with this [engine], especially with no dominant player in the diesel segment right now. There are buyers who will be seeking this out who've sought out other Mazda products."

Diesel also gives automakers another way to address government fuel economy regulations, which are poised to tighten in the coming years. "I think, as crossovers become more popular, [adding diesels] is a very easy way to increase your average fuel economy because you're passing your cost off to the consumer," said Dave Sullivan, an analyst with automotive research firm AutoPacific.

The diesel-engine price premium can be significant; the available diesel for the rear-wheel-drive 2017 Chevrolet Colorado mid-size pickup truck costs nearly $5,000. The upcharge for these compact SUVs, however, should be less. "Generally, [the diesel] is likely to be a couple thousand dollars more than the gasoline option," said Stephanie Brinley, a senior automotive analyst at information consulting firm IHS Markit.

Regardless of how the Equinox and CX-5 diesel engines are priced, they'll enter a market populated with increasingly efficient gas engines at a time when fuel prices are low and relatively stable. "The delta between gas and diesel continues to shrink in terms of fuel economy," Sullivan said. According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular gas on Dec. 14 was $2.22, or $0.21 more than the same time in 2015, while the average for diesel was $2.43, or $0.08 more than in 2015.

Modern diesels are nothing like the loud and dirty engines of the past, but the perception remains and it's been compounded by VW's diesel troubles. "The words 'clean diesel' aren't exactly going to be going over well with consumers," Sullivan said. "Trying to come up with a way to make these vehicles sound appealing is going to be a very difficult task."

How Rudolf Diesel's engine changed the world

How Rudolf Diesel's engine changed the world

Written by By Tim Harford

"Rudolf Diesel died in mysterious circumstances before he was able to capitalise on his ingenious invention.." Posted By Tim Harford, FT's Undercover Economist, on

It was 22:00. Rudolf Diesel had retired to his cabin aboard the SS Dresden, travelling from Belgium across the English Channel. His nightclothes were laid out on his bed, but Diesel did not change into them.

The inventor of the engine that bears his name was thinking about his heavy debts and the interest payments that he couldn't afford. In his diary, that date - 29 September 1913 - was marked with an ominous "X".

Before the trip, Diesel had gathered what cash he could and stuffed it into a bag, together with documents laying bare his financial mess. He gave the bag to his unsuspecting wife, with instructions not to open it until a week had passed.

Diesel stepped outside his cabin, removed his coat, laid it neatly on the ship's deck, looked over the railings and jumped.

Or did he? Conspiracy theorists have speculated that Diesel was assisted overboard. But who might have had an interest in the impecunious inventor's demise? Two possible candidates have been fingered.

For context, rewind 40 years, to 1872. Steam supplied the power for trains and factories, but urban transport depended on horses. That autumn, equine flu brought US cities to a standstill. Grocery store shelves were bare and rubbish piled up in the streets.

A city of half a million people might have 100,000 horses. Each one liberally coated the streets with 15kg of manure and 4 litres of urine every day. An affordable, reliable, small-scale engine that could replace the horse would be a godsend.

The steam engine was one candidate: steam-powered cars were coming along nicely. Another was the internal combustion engine, early versions of which ran on petrol, gas, or even gunpowder. But when Rudolf Diesel was a student, both types of engine were woefully inefficient, converting only around 10% of heat into useful work.

The young Diesel's life was changed by a lecture on thermodynamics at the Royal Bavarian Polytechnic of Munich, where he learned that it was theoretically possible to make an internal combustion engine that would convert all heat into work.

Diesel set himself the task of translating theory into practice. He failed. His first working engine was only just over 25% efficient. Today, the best Diesel engines top 50%. But even so, 25% was more than twice as good as its rivals achieved.

Diesel's engine is more efficient partly because of how it ignites the fuel. Petrol engines compress fuel and air together, then ignite it with a spark plug.

But compress the mixture too much and it can self-ignite, which causes destabilizing engine knock. Diesel's invention compresses only the air, and more so, making it hot enough to ignite the fuel when it's injected.

And the higher the compression ratio, the less fuel is needed. Anyone who's researched buying a car will be familiar with the basic trade-off of a Diesel engine - they tend to be more expensive to buy, but more economical to run.

Unfortunately for Rudolf, in early versions these efficiency gains were outweighed by reliability issues. He faced a steady stream of refund demands from unhappy customers. This dug the inventor into the financial hole from which he could not escape.

Still, he kept working at his engine, and it kept improving.

Other advantages became apparent. Diesel engines can use a heavier fuel than petrol engines - specifically, a heavier fuel that's become known as "diesel". As well as being cheaper than petrol to refine from crude oil, diesel also gives off fewer fumes, so it's less likely to cause explosions.

This made it particularly attractive for military transport. By 1904, Diesel had got his engines into France's submarines.

This brings us to the first conspiracy theory around Rudolf Diesel's death. In 1913 Europe, the drumbeats of impending war were quickening, and the cash-strapped German was en route to London. One newspaper headline luridly speculated: "Inventor thrown into the sea to stop sale of patents to British government."

It was only after World War One that Diesel's invention began to realise its commercial potential. The first diesel-powered trucks appeared in the 1920s, trains in the 1930s. By 1939 a quarter of global sea trade was fuelled by diesel.

After World War Two, ever more powerful and efficient diesel engines led to ever more enormous ships. Fuel accounts for around 70% of the costs of shipping goods around the world. Scientist Vaclav Smil argues that steam-powered globalisation would have grown much more slowly than diesel allowed.

The economist Brian Arthur isn't so sure. He describes the rise of the internal combustion engine over the past century as "path dependence": a self-reinforcing cycle in which existing investments and infrastructure mean we keep doing things in a certain way, even if we'd do them differently if only we could start from scratch.

As late as 1914, Arthur argues, steam was at least as viable as crude oil for powering cars - but the growing influence of the oil industry ensured that much more money went into improving the internal combustion engine than the steam engine.

With equal investment in research and development, perhaps today we'd be driving next-generation steam-powered cars.

Alternatively, if Rudolf had had his way, perhaps the global economy would run on peanuts.

Diesel's name has become synonymous with a crude oil derivative, but he designed his engine to use a variety of fuels, from coal dust to vegetable oils. In 1900, at the Paris World Fair, he demonstrated a model based on peanut oil.

He became something of an evangelist and in 1912 - a year before his death - Diesel predicted that vegetable oils would become as important a source of fuel as petroleum products.

A more appealing vision for owners of peanut farms than for owners of oil fields, the impetus to make it happen largely dissipated with Diesel's death. Hence the second conspiracy theory to inspire a speculatively sensationalist headline in a contemporary newspaper: "Murdered by agents from big oil trusts."

There's recently been a resurgence of interest in biodiesel. It's less polluting than oil fuel, but it's controversial - it competes for land with agriculture, pushing up food prices.

In Rudolf's era, this was less of a concern: the population was much smaller, and the climate was more predictable.

Diesel was excited by the idea that his engine could help to develop poor, agricultural economies. How different might the world look today, if the most valuable land during the past hundred years wasn't where you could drill for oil, but where you could cultivate peanuts?

We can only guess - just as we'll never know for sure what happened to Rudolf Diesel. By the time his body reappeared 10 days later, it was too decomposed for an autopsy, or even for the crew to be willing to take it on board at all.

Diesel's wallet, pocket knife and spectacles case were retrieved and later identified by his son. His body was taken by the waves.

Cummins 5.0L V8 Turbo-Diesel Engine Turbocharger using Rotary Turbine Control (RTC) Technology

Cummins 5.0L V8 Turbo-Diesel Engine Turbocharger using Rotary Turbine Control (RTC) Technology

Written by Dennis Brookshire, Engineering Director, Global LD Product Line & Technology Line Leader – Two-Stage Turbo Systems

"Development of Cummins Turbo Technologies Integrated M2 Two-Stage Architecture using Rotary Turbine Control (RTC) Technology for the Cummins 5.0L V8 Turbo-Diesel Engine." Posted By Dennis Brookshire, Engineering Director,

Cummins Turbo Technologies recently launched a pioneering new Two-Stage turbocharger, the next generation Holset M2 TM Two-Stage System with Rotary Turbine Control (RTC) which is Cummins’ most sophisticated turbocharger to date and delivers high efficiency, excellent driveability and low emissions levels. Successfully developed simultaneously to a major new engine development for Cummins, the ISV 5.0L is a new engine platform for Cummins with its flagship launch on the 2016 Nissan Titan XD pickup truck in North America.

This article is a summary of the paper delivered at the 20th Supercharging Conference and highlights some of the system and product development challenges involved in the development of this fully integrated system, specifically looking at the product development challenges of the RTC system.

System Engineering Challenges

The integrated M2 system differs from the other turbochargers in the market by its unique architecture and also the complexity of packaging the turbocharger. Due to the physical size of this architecture, the turbocharger’s most obvious first challenge was to fit or package it in space whilst avoiding surrounding engine components and optimizing for the many potential risks of being in such close proximity to other important engine sub-systems and components. Along with the highly interactive functional requirements, a system thinking mind-set had to be at the core of every team member to achieve program requirements. The project required a high performance team capable with the skills necessary to solve complex problems where both requirements and capabilities were unclear and fuzzy at the outset of the program. The team members had to have the skill and/or tools available to break down critical complex functions into definable functional objectives to execute the project. The full version highlights a few of the more useful system tools used on the journey.

Product Development Challenges

Nowhere was product development more challenging than in the Rotary Turbine Control (RTC) System, which is a groundbreaking development for the industry. This turbo technology had many new, unique and/or difficult (NUD) functions and components where engineering standard work and traditional computer-aided engineering (CAE) models lacked capability and/or real world usage correlation. This created a greater dependence on the use of a combination of critical thinking, Six Sigma, product and systems engineering tools. The repeating scenario that the team often found themselves in can be best visualized using a Mental Model Archetype as shown in Fig 1.

Rotary Turbine Control (RTC) System

The main challenge of this turbocharger development was the RTC system and its many functions required using an actively controlled exhaust-side valve. Figure 2 shows various modes the valve allows. In most if not all conventional automotive sequential two-stage turbo architectures to this point, the state-of-the-art is to use a wastegate style poppet swing valve to achieve the bypassing function between the two turbochargers. For the RTC valve system, it doesn‘t end here. Not only is it utilized to channel (or bypass) flow between two turbines, but it has the additional functional requirements of an integrated wastegate for the low pressure (LP) turbine as well as exhaust throttling functionality to enable engine warm-up and aftertreatment regeneration. These added functions within a single valve design is something not seen in the industry today and represents a significant breakthrough in exhaust-side valve technology.

However, with the added functionality came significant technical challenges:

• Design Packaging Constraints - another NUD for this system was to attach the actuator for the RTC system not on the turbocharger itself, but on the intake manifold cover. This provided easier access to the actuator for serviceability, but introduced design and product development challenges with respect to tolerance stack-up and variation.

• Kinematic Challenges - the RTC control valve with all of its functionality required over 130 degrees of rotation presenting significant kinematic challenges and no fewer than half a dozen design iterations throughout development.

• Reliability - one challenge often seen with actively controlled turbochargers is the ability of the flow control device to operate reliably in a severe non-lubricated, high temperature diesel exhaust gas environment.

• Torque Output - having sufficient torque available at the actuator (i.e. capability or “supply” of torque) vs. the torque required to turn the RTC valve (i.e. mechanical system requirement or “demand” for torque) under all possible scenarios is one of the most challenging elements of developing actively controlled turbocharging systems. Having a positive torque margin is required, therefore solving this challenge involves a delicate blend of design changes to reduce demand whilst ensuring robust supply of torque at all times.

Due to the high degree of system complexity and relative immaturity of advanced computer aided engineering tools, running expensive physical testing often became the most time and cost efficient way to learn about the interactions and product capabilities and iterate on the designs. Developing correlated models was then needed to help drive the validation testing away from hardware toward virtual CAE tools, but often still fell short in capability due to the complex nature of the system.

Outlook for the Future

Developing this fully integrated system brought about many system engineering and product development challenges but the end result is one of the most sophisticated turbochargers that Cummins has developed to date, delivering high performance that enables excellent driveability, low emissions and fuel economy. Cummins Turbo Technologies are confident that we have a product that enables Cummins to achieve many successes in the future on this product. Future variants of this technology are already in exploration and Cummins Turbo Technologies hope to utilize the lessons learned on this program and apply them to future opportunities around the globe. To learn more about the Holset M2 Two-Stage System with RTC and its different modes of operation view our video on YouTube.

Near Zero Emission Clean Diesel Technology is the Most Cost Effective Way to Improve Air Quality with VW Settlement Trust Funds

Near Zero Emission Clean Diesel Technology is the Most Cost Effective Way to Improve Air Quality with VW Settlement Trust Funds

By PR Newswire Oct 11, 2016, 9:39 AM

"Investing the proposed $2.7 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust from the Volkswagen settlement in advanced clean diesel technology would be the most cost-effective and immediate way to reduce NOx emissions in the U.S., according to the non-profit Diesel Technology Forum.." Posted By PRNewswire - USNewswire/ WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2016--

"Replacing older heavy-duty vehicles and off-road equipment with the latest clean diesel technology will greatly reduce NOx emissions and improve air quality," Forum Executive Director Allen Schaeffer stated in letters to state policymakers.

"The most cost effective strategy to reduce NOx emissions from diesel sources are investments in the latest clean diesel technology. As a result of decades of research and investment, clean diesel technology yields near-zero emissions and is widely available today to provide immediate term air quality benefits."

VW Environmental Mitigation Trust Proposal Seeks to Cut NOx Emissions
The partial consent decree opened for public comment in June 2016 and includes a $2.7 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust to "fully mitigate the total, lifetime excess NOx emissions" generated by the 550,000 light-duty VW diesel vehicles found to have been outfitted with the means to skirt emissions standards established by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The Forum expressed concerns that the $2.7 billion trust currently prioritizes less developed technologies, many of which are not currently available. In August, the Forum filed comments with the U.S. Department of Justice noting that the current proposal may fall short of mitigating the lifetime total emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) prescribed by the court due to a funding scheme that favors less effective and sometimes unavailable technologies when compared to proven and documented benefits of advanced clean diesel technology.

The Forum's comments to the Department of Justice, called for a more technology-neutral approach for allocating funds, urged equal treatment of government and private fleets and outlined the additional air quality benefits that several states could achieve if they were to accelerate the replacement of older diesel trucks with newer clean diesel models.

New Clean Diesel Technology Immediately Reduces NOx at Much Lower Cost
"Recent evidence suggests that investments in proven and available clean diesel technology are a more cost effective investment to reduce NOx and achieve the clean air priorities established by the Trust," Schaeffer wrote in his letter to policymakers. "The U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that 1 ton of NOx emissions may be eliminated by investing, on average, $20,000 in clean diesel technology versus, on average, $1 million in electric infrastructure.

"Clean diesel technology has an impressive track record when it comes to improving the environmental performance of older equipment and vehicles through replacement and modernization programs. Through the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA), a program managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 335,000 tons of NOx have been reduced by modernizing or upgrading 73,000 older vehicles and equipment mostly by the adoption of clean diesel technology between 2008 and 2013. State air quality regulators around the country have much experience when it comes to managing diesel emission reduction programs, including those funded through the DERA program and maybe a valuable asset in managing the historic VW Environmental Mitigation Trust."

Chevy Targets Volkswagen Customers, Releases Diesel Vehicles

Chevy Targets Volkswagen Customers, Releases Diesel Vehicles

By Angelie C.

"Chevrolet has targeted Volkswagen customers with a newly redesigned lineup of diesel vehicles. Headlining the line is the new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Crossover and Cruze Hatchback.." Posted By Angelie C. for the - First Posted: Oct 17, 2016 04:25 PM EDT

U.S. diesel sales are down more than 37 percent through September this year compared to the same months in 2015. Despite this, the Dodge Ram 1500 Eco Diesel pickup is the No. 1 diesel vehicle in the U.S. through September with an estimated 39,997 sold. It is followed closely by the Ford Transit diesel van, according to The Detroit News.

The new 2017 Cruze hatchback, which was announced this month in the U.S. with a 1.4L turbo gasoline 4-cylinder, will join the sedan in offering a diesel version late next year. The redesigned 2018 Chevy Equinox 5-passenger SUV coming early next year also will get the 1.6L turbodiesel option.

The company seems to be targeting Volkswagen customers due to the emissions scandal with the extent of Chevrolet's diesel lineup- including the new Equinox, as well as the Colorado pick up and the Silverado.

GM started dabbling in latest-generation, light-vehicle turbodiesel technology several years ago with a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine for the Cruze, which nabbed a place in the 2014 10 Best Engines awards. Despite the vehicle's success, however, it was recently was discontinued, according to Wards Auto.

There's a subset of the market that enjoys the performance it offers and We can deliver something that they're looking for: high torque, high range, and we'll see what happens." says, Steve Majoros, Chevrolet marketing director

Diesel engine maker to build training center in Cherokee County

Diesel engine maker to build training center in Cherokee County

By David Ibata

"The American unit of a Japanese diesel engine manufacturer has acquired more than 50 acres in Cherokee County for a $20 million training and “customer experience facility” for outdoor demonstrations of heavy equipment, the company and state economic development officials announced.." Posted By David Ibata for the AJC 12:06 p.m Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 Metro Atlanta / State news

YANMAR America Corp., the Adairsville-based affiliate of Yanmar Co. Ltd., Osaka, will build at Ga. 92 and Old Alabama Road near Acworth. Groundbreaking is scheduled for Nov. 16, with the facility opening in August 2017.

The company will bring 25 jobs to the area, with employment opportunities related to administration, marketing, service, training and management, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

The nearly 50,000-square-foot facility will have classrooms with dedicated space for each of the company’s product lines: industrial diesel engines and generators, commercial marine diesel engines, agricultural and construction equipment, utility vehicles and energy systems, Yanmar said.

There also will be an auditorium, museum, gift shop, cantina, offices and meeting space. Croft & Associates, Kennesaw, is the project’s architect, and Carroll Daniel Construction, Gainesville, the general contractor.

Lawsuit: Fiat Chrysler, Cummins misled on Ram pickup diesel emissions

Lawsuit: Fiat Chrysler, Cummins misled on Ram pickup diesel emissions

By Greg Gardner

"A Seattle law firm alleges Fiat Chrysler and Cummins, an Indiana-based engine manufacturer, intentionally misled owners of Dodge Ram diesel-powered heavy-duty pickup trucks about their emission levels.." Posted By Greg Gardner , Detroit Free Press 5:28 p.m. EST November 14, 2016

The class action case was filed Monday in federal court in Detroit by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro. Four plaintiffs are named in the complaint, but Hagens Berman seeks to bring thousands of other owners into the case.

They allege that the particulate emissions from the trucks were greater than FCA US advertised. Hagens Berman contends the trucks' emissions caused catalytic converters to wear out more quickly, resulting in the vehicle burning fuel at a higher rate.

“The sheer level of fraud and concealment between Chrysler and Cummins is unconscionable, and we believe we have uncovered a deeply entrenched scheme,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, in a statement.

In response, FCA said it is reviewing the complaint, adding "based on the information available to it, FCA US does not believe that the claims brought against it are meritorious. We will contest this lawsuit vigorously."

Separately Fiat Chrysler is cooperating with a recall that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board demanded for 2013 through 2015 model year Ram 2500 pickup trucks with 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engines. The agencies found that moisture can cause deactivation of the catalyst reduction system, causing excess nitrogen oxide emissions.

But in August the automaker sued Cummins for $60 million Fiat Chrysler attorneys said the company has already spent to repair the emission systems on about 42,000 of the diesel trucks.

In September Reuters reported that an FCA attorney estimated the eventual cost to be as high as $200 million.

The Hagens Berman case seeks to broaden the issue to include owners of Ram 2500 and 3500 diesels going back as far as the 2007 model year. The lawsuit also charges that much of what FCA and Cummins did was similar to Volkswagen, which put devices in about 11 million diesel cars meant to deliberately cheat on emission tests.

The German automaker is facing penalties up to $19.5 billion. Similar charges have been made against Mercedes-Benz, but that company has denied them.

The recall of the Ram heavy-duty diesels is different from the Volkswagen case.

FCA and Cummins contend the problem involves a component that didn't function as designed and that there was no intention to mislead regulators or consumers. They disagree over which of them is responsible.

Bosch rejects diesel allegations as 'wild and unfounded'

Bosch rejects diesel allegations as 'wild and unfounded'

By David Shepardson

"In a filing in U.S. District Court in San Francisco late on Monday, Bosch responded to attorneys who are suing Volkswagen AG on behalf of U.S. owners of the polluting VW diesel vehicles, who had said Bosch was a "knowing and active participant in the scheme.." Posted By David Shepardson on the News Room of the Economic Times website

Auto supplier Robert Bosch GmbH said claims it was a knowing participant in Volkswagen's decade-long scheme to evade U.S. anti-pollution laws were "wild and unfounded."

In a filing in U.S. District Court in San Francisco late on Monday, Bosch responded to attorneys who are suing Volkswagen AG on behalf of U.S. owners of the polluting VW diesel vehicles, who had said Bosch was a "knowing and active participant in the scheme.

Bosch makes an engine control unit used by several top automakers including VW. It supplied software and components to VW but has said responsibility for how software is used to regulate exhaust emissions or fuel consumption lies with carmakers.

The plaintiffs' attorneys said Bosch had worked with Volkswagen to develop a so-called cheat device to circumvent U.S. emissions tests and trick regulators.

The Bosch filing said an initial review of the plaintiffs' documents "indicates that the plaintiffs have made wild and unfounded allegations" that in some cases are based on speculation.

Most of the allegations involving Bosch remain under seal because the documents have been designated as confidential by Volkswagen.

Bosch said it did not oppose making public most of the allegations under seal, except to keep the names and job titles of Bosch employees confidential, citing strict German privacy laws. Bosch said the plaintiffs' complaint cites 38 Bosch employees - in addition to its chief executive, Volkmar Denner, who is a named defendant.

Bosch said the allegations are supposedly based on documents turned over by Volkswagen "but in many cases based only on speculation, and oftentimes directly contradicted by the terms of the documents cited."

Bosch has not been charged with any wrongdoing. German prosecutors said in December that they were investigating whether staff at the Stuttgart-based company were involved in the rigging of emissions tests by VW.

The engine control system for VW's clean diesel engine was customized through years of close collaboration between the carmaker and Bosch, plaintiffs' lawyers said.

Denner said in January he had ordered an internal investigation and was cooperating with authorities. In April, Bosch said it had set aside 650 million euros for potential legal costs, including for a continuing investigation into the company's role in Volkswagen's diesel emissions manipulation scandal.

Reuters reported in November that U.S. federal prosecutors were investigating whether Bosch knew or participated in VW's efforts to cheat on U.S. diesel emissions tests.

In June, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates said the VW investigation is looking at "multiple companies and multiple individuals."

Reuters reported last week Volkswagen has held preliminary talks with the U.S. Justice Department to settle a criminal investigation of the emissions cheating case.

Nissan adds a famed diesel name to its Titan line

Nissan adds a famed diesel name to its Titan line

By Jim Bray

"It’s big, it’s brawny - and, for those who want maximum hauling performance, now you can get it with a torquey and businesslike Cummins diesel engine" Posted By Jim Bray in Canada Free Press

It’s the Nissan Titan, and I just spent a week in Nissan Canada’s sample 2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel Crew Cab 4x4 (one of five versions offered), tooling around the city and environs, cutting a swath through lesser vehicular traffic - which is most vehicular traffic!

If you’re a regular reader of my stuff - and thanks,  by the way! - you’ll know I’m not really a truck guy, so to ensure as much fairness and accuracy as possible I enlisted the help of a couple of friends,  one of whom owns a first generation Titan and one of whom owns two big Ram trucks, including a diesel. I defer to their knowledge and experience, though of course I also have my own opinons for whatever they’re worth.

One of my early experiences with the big Titan was driving it downtown, on a street the city poohbahs deemed should suddenly become two way instead of the single direction it has been since before I moved to Calgary 30 years ago. The big Nissan had no trouble staying in the lane, and I found the big convex mirrors below the main side mirrors a great help here (and elsewhere), but its front parking sensors freaked out at the tall, skinny cones the city folk had dumped between lanes to delineate eastbound from westbound traffic. Not a big deal, and you can shut off the sensors, but it just goes to show how technology and civil idiocy can combine to freak out a driver. And his truck.

Nissan’s sample carried a starting price of $74,900,  though they also said they’d knock seven grand off that for a cash purchase.  That’s a lot of lucre, but not out of line with the competition, and to be fair you get a lot of truck and a lot of comfort and convenience features for that amount of after-tax disposable income.

The Cummins diesel is a five litre engine Nissan says is good for 310 horses and 555 lb.-ft. of torque. Torque is what diesels are best at (well, that and fuel mileage, though one shouldn’t expect Prius like sipping from this big bruiser of a beast) and the Cummins does a great job here. Nissan says the turbo diesel doesn’t have any lag, but that’s, well,  hyperbole. I didn’t find the lag to be particularly annoying or off putting, but it’s definitely there. But so what? I doubt many Titan diesel owners will be doing drag races with them!

The other engine choice is a 5.6 litre gas V8 rated at 390/401 horses/torque.

Nissan says the diesel Titan will carry 2000 pounds of payload and that it’ll tow over 12,000 pounds. I did neither, though just putting my portly posterior into it might have challenged its payload capacity…

One thing I’ve always hated about full sized pickup trucks is trying to back up in them. Nissan, though not alone in this, answers this conundrum via a rear view monitor mounted in the "one handed operating" tailgate, as well as a "top down" monitor on the LCD screen inside the cabin that looks as if there’s a camera floating about 10 feet above the truck. Dunno how they (and others) pull that off, but it’s sure convenient! Ditto the parking sensors, despite my experience outlined above.  Combined, they help a lot when you’re docking the Titanic, er Titan.

Another thing I noticed about the parking sensors was how they work with the LCD screen: my wife walked in front of the Titan while it was parked and the front sensors not only went off but the screen lit up with a truck’s eye view of her walking in front. This would be great when pedestrians are all over the place, helping prevent you from knocking them all over the place.

Angle parking the Titan is still a challenge, though. The truck has a decent turning circle considering its size, but I had to take a couple of tries when pulling it into a typical parking lot. This is more a truck thing than a particularly Nissan Titan issue, though.

Nissan’s sample also came with the Utili-track cargo system, which includes flexible rails and LED bed lights and a 110 volt power outlet; it also had locking boxes mounted over the wheel wells that would be good for holding tools or whatever, though they probably aren’t subtle enough for contraband.

Titan’s tow-haul mode helps cut down on the transmission hunting and pecking for gears while you’re towing and/or hauling. A trailer anti-sway control feature helps keep your "haulee" lined up behind you despite crosswinds, and the integrated Trailer Brake Controller on the centre stack lets you activate or adjust the trailer brakes for better directional stability.

Inside, the cabin is very nice. The sample had lovely brown leather trim and the seats are very comfortable, though my neighbour with the Rams and I both found the bottom cushion too long for our short legs. But that’s about all the suffering you can expect other than just getting in and out, which in the sample was helped by a good set of flat running boards running beneath front and rear doors.

There’s so much nice stuff inside the Titan you might forget you’re in a truck until you open your eyes.  It even comes with a remote engine start system with intelligent climate control you can set to warm up the truck in winter or cool it down in summer before you leave the house.

Instrumentation is straightforward and complete. The controls on the left side of the (heated)  steering wheel are laid out a tad weirdly, with differently shaped and mounted rockers that require too much thought and too much time with your eyes off the road. For example, the volume control is fine, but to switch radio presets you have to go up two controls on the wheel and use one that’s tilted 90 degrees from the volume control. You’d probably get used to this stuff before too long,  but it isn’t as intuitive as it could be.

The audio system is from Rockford Fosgate and it’s powerful and clean, but overly bassy. The seats front and rear, except for the bottom cushion’s length (which may not bother you), are comfortable and more supportive than some bosses I’ve had.

As for how my friends liked it, the Titan owner - who loves his truck - said that except for cosmetic details and the Cummins it hadn’t changed a lot from his version. That wasn’t a complaint, since he’d buy his truck again, just an observation. Most of the interior changes he noted,  for instance, were things like differently designed and mounted buttons,  switches and the like. 

I think that’s actually a good thing, certainly better than change merely for the sake of it.

The Ram owner loved the one touch, softly lowering tailgate and said the Titan ran more quietly than her truck, though part of it may be due to differences in tires between the two vehicles (hers is equipped with heavier duty off road rubber). She was also taken by the flat running boards (her Rams’ are tubular so she has to pay more attention when getting in and out) and said the Titan’s steering and braking was tighter than on her Rams.

She also lauded the rear view camera and top-view camera and the Titan’s reasonable turning circle.

Nissan and Toyota have been trying to be accepted as full sized pickup truck manufacturers for quite a few years now, and the Titan and Toyota’s Tundra (nee T100) have come a long way. Whether they’re going to finally knock Ford’s F-150 off its perch at the top of the market niche is doubtful - the other two of the "Big Three" haven’t been able to do it, either - but they’ve at least shown that they can be - and are - competitive.

The Cars That Killed GM: The Oldsmobile Diesel

The Cars That Killed GM: The Oldsmobile Diesel

By J.S. Smith

"As far as I know, Rudolf Diesel and Richard Milhous Nixon had little in common, other than being white guys. But had Herr Diesel kept an enemies list like Nixon, at least one from beyond the grave, I’m certain that GM would have been at the top of the list. No single engine did more to sully the good reputation of the diesel engine in North America than the Oldsmobile Diesel. Nor did any single engine do more to kill GM. The Olds division – one of the few nameplates ever to sell more than a million cars in a year in the USA – may even be among the living had it not been for the diesel that bears its name." Posted By J.S. Smith in Autosavant Features

Like many GM blunders, the fundamental concept was good. In the early 1970s GM was not only the largest automaker in the world, it was the largest corporation in the world period. Most shocking to our younger readers, it was also the most profitable. Yes, kids, GM was once a profit machine-it even made money during the Great Depression.

But back to the early 70’s. GM based its vast cash-generating empire on the sales of large automobiles at relatively premium prices. Sure, GM dabbled in compacts and even subcompacts, but the real money was in Impalas, Delta 88s, LeSabres and Caddys. And they were good, solid cars, with chic styling, zippy acceleration and loads of profit-laden options. Most importantly to the bean-counters in the GM building, they made piles of cash.

Then came the OPEC oil embargo of 1973. Gas prices soared and sales of full-size cars plummeted. People shunned large cars like never before and GM worried, with good cause, that fuel prices and shifting consumer tastes would slay the golden goose. And Americans at the time, like those today, were not willing to pay a premium for a small car.

People at GM recognized that they needed to keep people buying their large cars. At the same time, large cars use much gasoline and people were looking for fuel economy. The solution was clear: put diesel engines in the large cars. That way, the public could keep alive its love affair with large cars without paying in appendages at the pump. This strategy would admirably preserve the corporate profit line. Good idea.

Even better idea: make diesels optional at significant additional cost. The plan was diabolically perfect-sort of what we’d now expect from Exxon or Microsoft. There was, of course, the intermediary step of downsizing the land yachts to more reasonable levels of excess-a job both well-conceived and well-executed with the 1977 model year. Next Exit: Diesel Town.

GM settled on a 350 cid V8 for its foray into oil-burner territory. It also decided that it would be an Oldsmobile engine. I’m not exactly sure why Olds was given the project, but GM often let Olds introduce new technologies, as it did with the Hydramatic transmission and front-wheel drive. Contrary to popular myth, however, the engine was not simply converted from Oldsmobile’s Rocket 350. It was a new design, with the same bore and stroke, but it did use many parts from its gas-powered sibling.

One of problems was that it used too many similar parts-more on that later. But initially, when the cars were thrust before the public for the 1978 model year, it seemed like pure genius. Full-size comfort and luxury with economy car gas mileage. Your gargantuan Olds 98, the one with the red leather seats and power everything, now gets almost 30 MPG on the highway. And when the Iranian Revolution caused a second oil shock in early 1979, was downright prescient. Along with the introduction of the X-cars, GM was miles ahead of the competition and appeared-appeared-to be managed by a psychic cabal of super geniuses.

To put it in perspective, in 1978, Olds made a hair over one million cars. Of that number, 33,841 were diesels. And you had to pay $850 to get one in your 88 or $740 in a 98. The base V8 four-door 88 only cost $5,659, so this represented a 15% premium. By 1980, the diesel was even more popular, and available in the best-selling Cutlass and the Toronado. And Olds made 126,885 diesel-powered cars that model year-out of a total of 910,306-each and every one sold at a considerable premium.* And it soon became available company wide-even in Cadillacs.

Performance left much- namely, everything- to be desired. For instance, the 1979 Cadillac Eldo diesel wheezed to 60 MPH in 16.9 seconds and the quarter mile mark passed in a leisurely 20.7 seconds. When the horsepower dropped to 105 with the 1981 model year, it only accelerated the decline (pun intended, sadly). The 1981 Seville Diesel-Cadillac’s top-line prestige vehicle-limped to 60 MPH in an embarrassing 21.0 seconds.

Putting this in perspective the 1980 Chevrolet Caprice Wagon with a gas V8 reached 60 MPH in 13.9 seconds and ran the quarter in 20.0 seconds. Its diesel counterpart needed nearly six more seconds to get up to 60 MPH, getting there in 19.6 seconds and reaching the quarter in 21.7 seconds.** That’s just plain shameful, even by the anemic standards of malaise era iron.

I am too young to remember the particulars of the Olds Diesel. No one in my family owned one. But I recall a sense of optimism surrounding it. I remember my grandparents saying “Olds Diesel” this, and “Olds Diesel” that. They were GM people working in Lansing, which was an Olds town. The paychecks, until 1984 or so, still said Oldsmobile on them. We built the Cutlass, America’s most popular car. GM even built a new plant in 1979 or 1980-Plant Five-on the outskirts of town to make the diesel V6. The nation was mired in recession, but here was a new plant in Lansing. It was new and exciting. And it would, once again, show the world what GM’s Mark of Excellence meant.

Sure, performance was bad-real bad-but economy was great and the diesel allowed Americans to keep their land yachts. And it allowed GM to reap a handsome profit-and we’re talking a Johhny Depp or Brad Pitt Profit, not some measly Tom Hanks or Ewan McGregor money. It seemed too good to be true.

And so it was.

As previously mentioned, The Olds Diesel used too many parts from the Rocket 350. As the discriminating autophile knows, Rudolf’s cast-iron kinder achieve ignition via compression rather than spark. The corollary is that the high compressions needed to achieve combustion create much higher pressure and stress in a diesel than in a similarly situated gas engine. This means that the head stud pattern and bolt strength needs to be much more heavy duty. Instead of a heavy-duty stud pattern with extra-strength bolts, GM used the same ones as on the gas 350. Remember this.

In addition, diesels rely on a precise dollop of diesel fuel to be injected at precisely the correct moment. And the fuel delivery system has to be precisely calibrated in order to do this. Many of the parts of this complex system are made of steel. Needless to say, steel has a tendency to rust when exposed to water. In addition, water in the combustion chamber is bad-real bad-for diesels. It leads to stuff like the bent connecting rod pictured here. For that reason, an indispensable part of the diesel engines is a water separator in the fuels system. GM, however, dispensed with the indispensable. Remember this too.

Finally, the diesel presented Mr. Goodwrenches at each of GM’s thousands of dealerships with issues they’d never before faced. And neither GM nor dealerships apparently ponied up for diesel training. So they serviced and repaired the Olds Diesel like they would a gas engine. Remember.

These flaws, like Medea’s rage or Oedipus’ quest for truth, inevitably led to a tragic conclusion. The head bolts and studs could not cope with the pressure of the diesel’s compression. This led to head gasket failures. This, in turn, allowed coolant into the combustion chamber. While there, it joined water from the fuel system. Water doesn’t compress-witness the wonders of hydraulics. Thus, the water, plus the weak head bolts, plus the failed gaskets meant the dreaded hyrdralock, which treated your engine’s precious bodily internals like Sherman treated Atlanta. Not good.

So, off the engine goes to Mr. Goodwrench. Who repairs it just like he would a gas engine. And reuses the head studs and bolts, just like on a gas engine. Thus, the main cause of the problem continued unabated. Adding to the carnage, the head bolts and studs were already weakened by the initial failure. So they would fail again. Only sooner and forever.

That $800 or so you plunked down, or more likely borrowed at 18% interest at the time – you know, that cash that seemed like a good investment after the Shah’s ignominious exit-remember that? Your “investment” just laid an egg. A very brown, malodorous one.

So your newly rebuilt engine, only a year or two old, is a pile of scrap iron. Whatever money you saved in fuel economy you probably lost in wrecker bills, rental car fees and lost work time. If nothing else, GM paid for the repairs and replacement. In fact, problems were so legion that GM dealers had a code specifically for diesel warranty repairs-they were AFA: Automatic Factory Acceptance. But GM couldn’t help with your resale value, which was burrowing deeper and deeper into the earth, like the super-heated core of a nuclear reactor.

But there’s more. The water in the fuel system corroded the delicate internal parts, which ruined the system, leading to exceedingly poor performance. And when the Old Diesel peaked at a walloping 125 HP***-in a nearly 4,000 pound car no less-you can’t afford anything other than peak performance. But the internal parts merrily oxidized away, and the precision delivery of fuel fell further and further out of synch with the needs of the engine.

Still more! People with water in the fuel line have, since time immemorial, used dry gas, which is basically a water-absorbing alcohol. So they used the same stuff in their Olds Diesels. But the alcohol destroyed a fuel injector governor ring. This further damaged the engine’s timing.

But it’s not finished yet! The leaking head gaskets also led to loss of lubrication over bearing surfaces, with predictably negative outcomes.

Now comes the cherry on top: the Olds Diesel was unrefined, leaving a cacophony of clatter and rattle in its wake. It emitted a foul, tractor-trailer-like smell. So, when you weren’t renting a car while Mr. Goodwrench further maimed your engine, you got to drive a loud, stinky and laboriously slow car. Mark of Excellence? Not so much.

There were probably even more problems with the engines, but you get the point. Eventually, most of them were solved-anemic performance being a notable exception-but demand declined and the engines retired after 1985. But like other GM disasters-Vega, X-cars, Fiero-it was too late. The damage was done. Reputation is hard to overcome. Let’s face it, you’re not probably going to visit the doctor who mistakenly removed your mom’s right leg, no matter how much he tells you he’s improved. Hell, it tanked diesel sales for a generation.

The Olds Diesel not only tarnished GM’s reputation for building big cars-a market they dominated-but it also dealt another stunning blow to its reputation for engineering and production prowess. Buyers simply could not trust that GM’s cars were well-engineered or well-built. Another disaster that left millions unlikely to every buy another GM car. Another legacy burden GM must overcome if it is to succeed.

Which is greener, biofuels or diesel?

Which is greener, biofuels or diesel?

From 2016

"When writing my recent post on EcoCor, an interesting Passive House prefab company in Maine, I had some fun with the owner's choice of vehicle, given that Passive House is all about reducing energy consumption. I wrote at the time (and have deleted since from that post as not really relevant):- Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter) Energy / Renewable EnergyJune 20, 2016

When writing my recent post on EcoCor, an interesting Passive House prefab company in Maine, I had some fun with the owner's choice of vehicle, given that Passive House is all about reducing energy consumption. I wrote at the time (and have deleted since from that post as not really relevant):

I thought it hilarious when EcoCor owner Chris Corson showed up in at the NAPHN conference in New York City in this, the the biggest personal vehicle I have ever seen ever. I suspect that just driving to a Passivhaus jobsite in it uses more fossil fuels than the house uses in a year. Really, if you are going to sell Passivhaus to a bunch of TreeHugger types, you had better show up in the front of a Tesla or a Biekfiet.

I meant it to be funny, but it in fact sparked a serious discussion in Twitter among people who were at the Passive House conference and others following TreeHugger and me on Twitter . Chris Corson responded by noting that his main mode of transportation is a Prius, but that he had a lot of stuff to carry to New York. He also noted that he runs his truck on 100 % biofuels.

This actually raised a number of questions, the most interesting being, are biofuels better than diesel? It is a subject we have covered for years on TreeHugger, but what's the latest thinking? According to the World Resources Institute, "any dedicated use of land for growing bioenergy inherently comes at the cost of not using that land for growing food or animal feed, or for storing carbon."

Roughly three-quarters of the world’s vegetated land is already being used to meet people’s need for food and forest products, and that demand is expected to rise by 70 percent or more by 2050. Much of the rest contains natural ecosystems that keep climate-warming carbon out of the atmosphere, protect freshwater supplies, and preserve biodiversity. Because land and the plants growing on it are already generating these benefits, diverting land—even degraded, under-utilised areas—to bioenergy means sacrificing much-needed food, timber, and carbon storage

Their researchers note that bioenergy is really inefficient, and that solar farms are better:

Fast-growing sugarcane on highly fertile land in the tropics converts only around 0.5 percent of solar radiation into sugar, and only around 0.2 percent ultimately into ethanol. For maize ethanol grown in Iowa, the figures are around 0.3 percent into biomass and 0.15 percent into ethanol. Such low conversion efficiencies explain why it takes a large amount of productive land to yield a small amount of bioenergy, and why bioenergy can so greatly increase global competition for land. Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems’ conversion efficiency—and therefore their land-use efficiency—is much higher. On three-quarters of the world’s land, PV systems today can generate more than 100 times the useable energy per hectare than bioenergy is likely to produce in the future even using optimistic assumptions.

The two main biofuels used in North America are soy, turned into biodiesel, and corn, turned into ethanol. According to Jeremy Martin of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the use of soy for biodiesel is leading to significant imports of vegetable oils for biofuel production in America.

Biodiesel is made from all sorts of different sources, ranging from used cooking oil — which converts a waste into a valuable fuel — to food-grade vegetable oil — which turns valuable food into less valuable fuel. Unfortunately, despite encouraging growth in the production of waste-based biodiesel, the majority of the expansion is coming from soybean oil — causing the problems detailed in the infographic below and which does more to drive palm oil expansion and deforestation in Southeast Asia than increase planting of soybeans in the U.S.

Andrew Steer and Craig Hanson of the World Resources Institute conclude:

One of the great challenges of our generation is how the world can sustainably feed a population expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Using crops or land for biofuels competes with food production, making this goal even more difficult. The world’s land is a finite resource. As Earth becomes more crowded, fertile land and the plants it supports become ever more valuable for food, timber and carbon storage—things for which we don’t have an alternative source.

New Volvo hybrid T5 engine means fewer diesel cars will be produced

New Volvo hybrid T5 engine means fewer diesel cars will be produced

From Autocar, 2016

"New plug-in petrol and electric hybrid powertrain and tougher diesel emissions standards will lower the manufacturer's diesel output- by Mike Duff 12 June 2016

Volvo's new three-cylinder T5 plug-in hybrid powertrain will significantly reduce the number of diesel cars it produces as it reacts to increasingly tough diesel emissions standards. The new T5 hybrid system was shown in Gothenburg last month, alongside two 40-series concepts, and it will appear for the first time in the production XC40 next year. It uses a 74bhp electric motor that can power one of the shafts of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox alongside a 180bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre three-pot petrol engine.

Electrical power comes from a 9.7kWh battery pack, which will give around 30 miles of electric-only range. According to Volvo’s head of R&D, Peter Mertens, the set-up is more efficient than rival hybrids and easier and cheaper to produce.

“It is a very attractive alternative to a diesel engine,” Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said in Gothenburg. “It offers much lower CO2 levels but more or less the same performance in both horsepower and torque. On cost, I would say that within a couple of years, we will see a crossover, the diesel getting more expensive and the [hybrid system] going down.”

Volvo hasn’t released any emissions or economy data yet, but insiders indicate the T5 will manage substantially better than 95g/km on official tests and deliver diesel-rivalling economy in real-world use.

When asked if diesel cars will still be on sale in 10 years’ time, Samuelsson said: “Diesels will be more expensive. They will have much more advanced after-treatment, with additional fluids that have to be filled not once a year but probably every time you fill the car.

"It’s very realistic that the percentage will go down. If it will go down to zero, I think we don’t need to speculate; let customers decide. We are flexible enough that we can make petrol and diesel cars on the same line.”

The T5 system will be used in all the 40-series variants. Samuelsson said it is also likely to be offered in 60-series cars but not the largest 90-series models, where Volvo has a four-cylinder T8 that uses an electrically powered rear axle.

Two catalysts efficiently turn plastic trash into diesel

Two catalysts efficiently turn plastic trash into diesel

From Science Advances, 2016

"Recycling plastic can be difficult, but maybe we could squeeze something else out. by Scott K. Johnson - Jun 19, 2016

Plastics are great. They can take any shape and serve an endless variety of roles. But... the beginning and end of a plastic’s life are problematic. While some plastics are made from renewable agricultural products, most are derived from petroleum. Plastics are not as easy to recycle as we'd like, and a huge percentage ends up in landfills (or the ocean) where they can be virtually immortal.

The easy way to recycle plastic is to just rip it up, melt it down, and pour a new mold. But that only works when the plastic is all the same chemical type, which is a level of purity you rarely find in a recycling bin. Without separating plastics precisely into different types, you get a mixture that is much less useful than pure plastics. We’re limited in what we can make out of it. Other methods for recycling plastics require serious energy input, like high pressure and temperatures over 400°C. That can produce a variety of hydrocarbon compounds, but they can be difficult to work with.

Recently, a team led by Xiangqing Jia of the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry decided to try some chemical tricks to turn some of these plastics into something useful, even if it’s not more plastic. They worked with Polyethylene, which makes up the majority of the plastic we use. Polyethylenes are essentially long chains made of repeating links of carbon, with hydrogen hanging off the side. The challenge is to break that resilient chain into shorter pieces so we can use the pieces to make other compounds.

The new process involves two steps, each run by a catalyst. The first catalyst is a molecule including an atom of iridium. This catalyst pulls some of the hydrogens off the carbon backbone of a polyethylene. With the loss of these hydrogens, some of the single-electron-pair bonds between carbons become double bonds. That opens up vulnerability for the second catalyst.

That second catalyst, which can be based on atoms of rhenium and aluminum, teams up with some short chain petroleum compounds that the researchers added in. The long chain plastic is sliced at the double bond, and pieces of the short chain petroleum molecules are glued to either side. Where there was once a single, very long chain, there are now two chains.

But the whole process is cyclical and doesn't stop there. The first catalyst releases some hydrogens as it pulls them off the plastic, which can be used to convert any double bonds back to single bonds. The same series of reactions can play out again. Repeat this for a few hours, and only shorter chain compounds remain. Heat does still have to be added to fuel this process, but temperatures around 150°C are sufficient.

The end result is three basic types of compounds. There are very short chain compounds (things like butane) that can be used to get the reaction started for the next batch of plastic. (The catalysts can also be separated out and reused.) There are some longer chain wax compounds that are useful inputs for the plastics-making process. And in between, you get diesel fuel.

By tuning different parts of the process, the researchers were able to control the proportion of wax vs. fuel that came out, as well as the range of wax compounds. Most of the plastic can easily be turned into fuel. Some of the chemicals that are added to plastics to modify their properties should be recoverable, too, so they can be used again.

Of course, this isn’t as good as recycling plastics into further generations of plastics, particularly when the first generation was born of petroleum. But imagine if all the packaging your food came in could fuel the next shipment instead of clogging up landfills for centuries. And if we grew our plastics instead of pumping them from oil fields, we could get two for the renewable price of one.

Despite the VW fiasco, Diesel Engines are Still a Good Bet

Despite the VW fiasco, Diesel Engines are Still a Good  Bet


"Although Volkswagen single-handedly tried to torpedo the diesel engine market with its recent emissions scandal, diesel engines aren't going anywhere any time soon." - Ben Miller contributor / Denver Business Journal

Although Volkswagen single-handedly tried to torpedo the diesel engine market with its recent emissions scandal, diesel engines aren't going anywhere any time soon.

American truck makers still offer diesel engines in their trucks and for good reason: They deliver oodles of powerful torque for pulling trailers and for pulling trees out of the ground.

Ram, Ford, Chevy and GMC all have diesel truck engine options and although you probably won't need a diesel-powered truck in Seattle for its stump-pulling torque power, the diesel's better-than-gas fuel economy makes it worth looking into.

I recently tested a midsize GMC Canyon crew cab four-wheel drive pickup that was powered by an optional 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine.

If you haven't driven (or listened to) a diesel engine in the past few years, you may be surprised. The days of waiting for a diesel to warm up are long gone. And they no longer sound like a semi-truck under hard acceleration.

The Canyon's diesel engine sounded hardly any different than a gas-powered engine. When you let off the accelerator on the highway you could hear some "diesel-like" sounds, but not the rest of the time.

The Canyon's horsepower is rated at 181, but the truck's strength is in its torque: Its pulling power (in case you do have to pull tree stumps out of the ground) is 369-lb-feet of torque.

But what impressed me the most was the Canyon's mileage. With the diesel engine, I averaged about 27 miles per gallon in a test of combined driving. The official EPA mileage is 20 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway, or an official combined EPA rating of 23 mpg.

For heavy-footed me to obtain 27 miles per gallon in a truck with four-wheel-drive was pretty impressive.

And this was no small, cut-down truck; it had a crew cab with a back seat where full-sized people could feel comfortable, and a long cargo box.

Inside (just like my full-sized pickup truck comparison last month), the interior was ready to work, with four USB ports, and a self-contained wi-fi hotspot that's free for the first three months.
All this room and good mileage doesn't come cheap, though. The base price of the 2016 GMC Canyon four-wheel drive SLE crew cab, with a long cargo box and diesel engine, is $35,585. The test model came equipped with these options: the diesel engine package ($3,730), an all-terrain package that included heated seats, an off-road suspension and other items ($3,585), a Bose audio system ($500), navigation system ($495), "cyber-gray" metallic paint ($395) and a trailering package ($250). The additions brought the final price to $43,790.

It's not just me. Friends of mine with diesel-powered trucks and cars swear by their vehicles' mileage, which will be especially important if gasoline prices begin climbing into the stratosphere again.

At less than $44,000, a diesel-powered midsized pickup truck that delivers 27 miles per gallon in combined driving (and totally devoid of any emissions scandal!) seems like a pretty good deal.

(View this press release online here.)