19th Century technology saves oil

Is it a coincidence that diesel fuel pumps are green?

Is it a coincidence that diesel fuel pumps are green?

Who needs ethanol-laced gasoline, electric-only cars, an over-rated hybrid or a car that fits in the bed of a standard-size pickup when you can power a four-door sedan down the road, with the A/C on, utilizing modified 19th Century technology, and average 46 mpg city and highway? Hint: No spark plugs required!

Thanks to my dad, who asked me during a phone conversation a few weeks ago if I’d seen the new television commercial advertising the Chevy Cruze and its optional turbo diesel engine, I now own one.

Diesel fuel offers a more efficient means of combustion than gasoline.

Diesel fuel provides a more efficient means of combustion than gasoline.

When I first heard news of the diesel-powered sedan made by Chevrolet my initial reaction was one of guarded excitement. After all, American car manufacturers have predicted for years now that they too were going to unveil diesel versions of their popular vehicles, but yet they never did. I recall my response was “we’ll see, but if they do and the fuel economy is significantly higher than their gasoline versions, I’ll buy one.”

Given the bulletproof nature of diesel technology and my experience with diesel engines, my decision to buy a diesel-powered car was much quicker and more decisive than American automakers have been in unleashing them here in the United States. The only thing holding me back would be the overall design of the car itself, and of course, the price.

After renting a gasoline-powered Chevy Cruze recently I enjoyed how the car handled and rode going up the freeway. Little did I realize that the diesel-powered version would boast significantly more power and torque, or ride as nice as it does with the leather seating that is standard in the diesel model. Moreover, with the 37 mpg I averaged in the gasoline version running up the freeway and on city streets, the diesel version would need to achieve significantly more miles per gallon to justify the added expense of the diesel version.

Let me say right now that I have no financial ties to Chevrolet or General Motors. While my salesman is a local friend, this story is purely my own. I was not coerced or otherwise asked to write this.

As one would expect, I decided to take a short road trip in my new car this weekend. Given our typical triple-digit summertime temperatures in the Central Valley of California the thought of heading west to stand barefoot in the sand as cool ocean waves roll in was simply too enticing. That my trip to the Central California Coast where the high temperature would be in the low 60’s would be in a new car made my decision a no-brainer. I couldn’t have been more pleased all the way around.

The car rides like a sporty sedan. It handles well in the curves and provides the comfort of a larger sedan. The road noise, even with the low-profile tires and diesel engine is negligible. It’s certainly much quieter and more comfortable than the import I recently rented for a 500-mile business trip. While it’s easy to tell you’re rolling with a diesel power plant under the hood while moving through a parking lot at 10 mph with the windows down, it’s certainly not as severe as some pickups or a big rig.

My instant fuel economy readout this morning while driving on a flat, smooth road surface with the cruise control on.

My instant fuel economy readout this morning while driving on a flat, smooth road surface with the cruise control on.

Creature comforts aside, you can’t argue against the kind of fuel economy I saw today. While my 250-plus mile average to the coast and back was 46 mpg, the onboard computer showed me getting 55-60 mpg on flat, smooth roads for a good number of miles with the cruise control set at 55 mph. How’s that for conserving fuel? In spite the fact that today’s diesel technology comes augmented with turbo chargers, it’s the same basic technology that Rudolph Diesel patented in the late 19th Century.

This proves that America doesn’t need to tinker with food-based ethanol technology that has no legitimate benefit and is directly responsible for double-digit inflation in the price of animal feed and groceries in your local market. Moreover, we don’t need to subsidize crazy ideas such as the Chevy Volt, which according to the window sticker can travel a paltry 38 miles on an electrical charge and about 200 miles total with the help of what little gasoline the car does carry. Just don’t run the A/C or lights in your Volt unless you want to severely reduce your range. At 46 mpg my Chevy Cruze will go more than 700 miles between fuel stops, doing so in comfort and style with the radio and A/C on as I sip on 44 ounces of my favorite soft drink.


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