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Diesel fuel: Strengths and Weaknesses

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Details on biodiesel fuel.

Damien Civiello

Consider this:

1) A gasoline engine (or spark-ignition if you want to get technical) is at BEST, 20% thermally efficient, and most of these are these small new 4-cylinder vehicles. On the other hand a diesel is close to 40% thermally efficient. In many cases, such as the new Mercedes Diesel, they have to actually add a heater, two in reality, one electric for immediate heat and the other a diesel burner just to provide cabin heat.

2) In a recent issue of the SAE (society of automotive engineers) magazine they did an article on both Cummins and Detroit Diesel (which is owned by DCX) developing a smaller displacement diesel (or compression-ignition engine) of about 4 liters for use in sport utility vehicles. Their test bed was a Dodge Durango with a 5-speed and a 5.9L V8.

The Cummins unit was a modified version of one of their industrial engines which did well but was not as powerful. The Detroit Diesel motor was a brand new design specifically for this market. Both were turbocharged and mated through the same 5-speed.

The results with the new Detroit Diesel motor was impressive. Gas mileage improved to about 22 city and close to 30 highway (almost the same as my Shadow), towing and hauling capacity were increased, and 0-60 times were almost identical (off by about 0.1 sec in favor of the 360 [gasoline V-8]). The diesel was no louder than the gas engine and was designed with a minimum life of 100,000 miles of operation, and this was just the first generation prototype without all the bugs worked out. The good part is that since DCX owns Detroit Diesel this motor has a good chance of making it.

I've got lots more info but since most of you have probably deleted this by now I'll just say that one reason I love the 3.0 is that I have gone up some pretty steep hills here in central PA and watched in amazement as the car downshifts while climbing the hill to get closer to the 2K RPM sweet spot! Hell, my truck fights the whole way up this same hill because of the low gearing, the Shadow loves it.

One last thing, the 413 is approx. 6.7 liters, I was curious since I have one, it's one impressive motor. I have enough power to twist the back end around from a standstill yet if I stay out of the 4 barrels I got almost 17 MPG from my hometown to Carlisle PA (about a 2 hour drive south of me) and back, including the time I spent running around town.

Central Editorials Page | Details on biodiesel fuel, click here.


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