The Diesel Dilemma

Published Jan 11, 2004


Increasing concerns over oil dependence and climate change have prompted renewed U.S. interest in diesel technology for cars and trucks despite a history of poor sales in the American market. Diesel also continues to carry the stigma of being a “dirty” fuel. This image has the potential to change as a result of new technology, but questions remain about how much cleaner diesel vehicles can get.

If emissions challenges can be overcome, diesel cars may be able to incorporate and compete with other fuel-saving technologies, such as more efficient engines, better transmissions, improved aerodynamics, and high-strength materials. Diesels may still carry a higher price tag, however.

Should Americans invest in diesel or gasoline cars and light trucks to reduce oil usage, global warming pollution, and toxic air contaminants--while saving money at the pump? The Diesel Dilemma: Diesel’s Role in the Race for Clean Cars explores this question by comparing the cost, fuel economy, and emissions performance of conventional, advanced, and hybrid-electric diesel and gasoline cars.

This report presents a new “apples-to-apples” comparison of diesel and gasoline technologies, applying each to the five major classes of passenger vehicles (small cars, larger “family” cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans, and pickup trucks).

Related resources