Thursday, May 1, 2008

diesel car podcast

I created a podcast to discuss the potential of diesel cars in the future of the U.S. transportation mix. Rising fuel costs are leading people to reconsider their choices in vehicles, and I want to know if people would consider diesels. This is important because diesel cars will be coming back to the U.S. market after finally meeting our emission requirements.

I already know what I think about diesel cars (I mean, I drive one), so I created a survey to find out what others think about them. Do you think they're dirty? Clean? Would you buy one? Etc...

What I found out was that the perception of diesels being dirty and slow is still strong. People tend to think of big trucks or old Mercedes Turbo Diesels from the 80's spewing out soot everywhere. This influenced whether people would choose a diesel car, even knowing that it got better fuel economy. But when asked again when a diesel was as clean as a gasoline car, over 83% said they would reconsider the diesel.

This is important because it reinforces another result from the survey, that is: fuel economy and environmental impact are two of the most important aspects of a car. This suggests that diesels might be a promising alternative...but there's a problem. The price of diesel fuel has been significantly higher than gasoline in recent months, so any potential financial savings might be negated by the higher fuel costs.

To determine the savings associated with price increases, I created a basic cost analysis using a diesel fuel cost of $4.19/gal and $3.49/gal for gas. At the current diesel price, gasoline would have to drop to under $2.50/gal for diesel to be uneconomical. Alternatively, at current gas prices, diesel would have to jump to $5.85/gal. It's safe to say for now that gasoline won't drop that low (at least not accompanied by a decrease in diesel as well), or the increase in gasoline costs.

Diesels meet two critical demands for consumers, that is they have potentially lower fuel costs and do this while being as clean as a gasoline car. They also offer great opportunities for biofuels use (non food competing feedstocks, of course) since they require little to no modification. As fuel prices continue to increase and emission standards become stricter, I believe diesels will play a significant role in America.

Look for the podcast on iTunes next week! If you haven't taken the survey, it's still up. Take it here!

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