Fuel Economy: Is Diesel An Option?

In response to my previous kvetching about the scarcity of cheap fuel efficient cars, JWK commented that his 2001 Golf TDI gets 48 MPG (it’s rated for 44). Meanwhile, TreeHugger pointed out that Volkswagen’s Polo BlueMotion gets 62 MPG (Volkswagen UK claims the current Polo hatchback gets up to 72 MPG in diesel (I assume that’s about 60 MPG in US measures), and TreeHugger points out the 157 mpg Loremo AG).

Sadly, the Polo has never been sold in the US (and there’s no sign that VW plans to bring it here), and looking around the Volkswagen US website leaves a reader wondering if VW ever did sell diesel cars in the US. In fact most every diesel passenger car has been taken off the US market (compare 2003) because manufacturers are having trouble meeting LEV II regulations.

The irony here is that while the diesel Polo consumes significantly less fuel and emits correspondingly less CO2, it still has greater NOx and particulate matter emissions than a similar gasoline-powered model. L. David Peters thinks keeping diesel passenger cars off our highways is foolish when the potential for reduced greenhouse gas emissions is so great (easy to say, I suppose, when you don’t live with California’s smog (downtown, highways, hills, up high, on the desktop, and creeping into the wilderness)).

Manufacturers are developing newer, cleaner diesels that should be released soon. The Smart Fortwo I mentioned previously appears to actually be a diesel after all (see 2005 review that claims it gets 48 MPG) and it should be available in early 2008.

I’m contemplating signing up for the Smart reservation program, as the car is clearly a leader in all the features that I named the other day, but that 157 MPG Loremo would be a winner for me if it ever gets off the drafting table and into production.