Sunday, August 11, 2013

Diesels are Coming

The US automakers are investing in diesel tech and rolling out new diesel offerings. The Japanese are doing the same. VW's success with a limited distribution network and modest goals is why. Mercedes and Land Rover are taking the diesel efficiency story to the next level with diesel hybrid designs. VW sees the future too. Even the NY Times approves of this new diesel development. Elon Musk is probably angling for some form of government obstruction, but if GM, Chrysler and major automakers who employ thousands of Americans spread throughout America are up for diesels, then he is shit out of luck. Diesels have two things going for them that other transportation fuels or energy sources don't have in challenging gasoline, higher energy density allowing for greater vehicle mileage with the same size tank and a nationwide distribution system already in place.

My dreams of a natgas system are just dreams. Natgas can be a metrobus transit network fuel, but it won't be a near term solution for our vehicle fleet. Diesels get far better mpg than regular gas vehicles, which is needed for car manufacturers to meet the new EPA fleet requirements. The premium on diesel vehicles is $2000, and despite the normal diesel premium over gas at the pump, which occasionally inverts, the payback is there for diesel vehicles. Marketing has to overcome the dirty stigma of diesels, but how difficult will that be when commercials can discuss lower fossil fuel use and lower greenhouse gas emissions? SWPLs will love that because they can use two sound bytes on why it's better than regular gas vehicles at "Fondue + Butterfly Collar" parties.

The national distribution system is already in place with diesel. Over half of all gas stations in America have a diesel pump already. No natgas station build out or car battery exchange network to build. Convenience is in place. This will allow for quicker adoption or conversion as well. Does anyone really think gas is going down in our age of dollar devaluation? Are gas mpg standards going down? Even if forced to comply with environmental standards, American consumers still think of the bottom line and convenience. The payback on diesel is there as is the reliability of refueling stations. If companies do truly get diesel-hybrids going, the SUV and truck market will see real winners as mpg gains affect them much quicker due to the greater fuel usage. Elon Musk will lie awake at night at the thought of luxury niche diesel hybrid Mercedes getting 80 mpg with fueling stations everywhere since it is the same market slot he is tapping.

If every car manufacturer, except Ford and Toyota is investing seriously in diesel (and Ford does have a foreign diesel already), the timeline must be a few years out. If someone does not think that is enough time to swing marketing and messaging on diesels being good for the environment, think back to 1990. Carbon monoxide was the enemy because CO destroyed the ozone layer (CO + O3 = CO2 + O2, eating the ozone layer). CO emission dropped in cars, but then we were told CO2 was the enemy. This discussion and switch was between 1990 and 2000. Diesel marketing can happen in 5-6 years. It will also have the added boost of reducing overall consumption of fossil fuels. With our transportation fuel use making up over 50% of overall America oil use, every reduced barrel counts. The big auto makers and big government's fuel standards are behind them, diesels are coming.


nydwracu said...

What kind of diesel? Has biodiesel gotten anywhere?

Son of Brock Landers said...

Regular diesel vehicles. VW has brought back their turbodiesels with good success the last couple of years. All other car comps are investing in it now for a later release like 20116-2018.

I dont know much about biodiesel, but still think the problem is scale.