MPG on the Highway... Just Not Our Highways
Mini Cooper Countryman can get 63 MPGs highway just not on our
Like so many
other diesel-powered vehicles, it's not available in the United
States. Instead we get gas-electric hybrids like the Toyota Prius
which maxes out at 48 MPGs on the highway.
It's very strange.
(well, maybe calling it "our" government is a stretch) has been
browbeating the car industry to produce more "fuel efficient" cars
for decades, yet at the same time, for decades, made it very hard
to sell high-efficiency diesel-powered passenger cars. VW, Mercedes,
BMW, Audi, Land Rover and other European brands have been selling
their cars here for a long time just not their diesel-powered
cars. In Europe, diesel cars constitute about half the new cars
sold; over here, less than 5 percent chiefly because only a handful
of diesel-powered passenger cars are even available.
For two reasons,
years, we had not-so-great (for emissions reasons) diesel fuel that
was fine for big rigs (which until recently could pollute to their
hearts content, legally) but wreaked havoc with the finely tuned
pollution control equipment fitted to modern passenger car diesel
This, in turn,
set up the potential not just for lots of warranty-related expenses
and hassles for potential diesel-car buyers but also for even greater
hassles and expenses for the car companies that sold them, when
the government went after them for selling "dirty" diesels.
So we don't
get diesels like the Mini Countryman D.
No 63 MPGs,
our diesel is now "clean" diesel and the warranty/pollution control
issues have been dealt with.
car companies are still super leery of bringing to market vehicles
that could lead to problems for them with the EPA politburo. Their
diesel-powered cars may be "cleaner" (in terms of tailpipe emissions)
than a nun's conscience but there's still the endless pedantry of
slightly different American vs. European regulatory codes. And not
just federal codes, but also the different state codes, notably
"California" codes that are both different and stricter than "49
state" codes. Some Northeastern states have also adopted "California"
codes which makes achieving compliance with all the varying codes
essential to being able to profitably sell a given car, nationwide
very difficult and very expensive.
spend beaucoup bucks on lawyers and other forms of paper-pushing
to make the EPA happy, the European car companies cut their losses
and (mostly) keep their diesels to themselves, selling a few token
the government (federal and state) would make it a priority to ease
the regulatory chokehold a little, to get these high-mileage diesels
into mass circulation. Think what a difference a 1015 MPG average
uptick in the fuel economy of the typical passenger car would mean
not just in terms of reducing the aggregate fuel consumption of
the nation but also in terms of placating the great god of global
warming. Less fuel burned means less greenhouse gasses emitted
and a 1015 MPG uptick in fuel efficiency spread out across say
2030 percent of the passenger car fleet would mean a huge reduction
in "greenhouse gasses." And it could be done without elaborate technology
(hybrids) or another round of government edicts (CAFE) that just
make new cars more and more expensive to achieve minimal, incremental
upticks in their average "fleet" economy numbers.
They make sense. They work. People would love 'em if only they had
a chance to drive 'em.
But they don't
because they do (make sense).
will change. I don't expect them to.
is run by lawyers, not engineers. Talkers, not doers. I doubt one
out of 100 of them even knows how a diesel engine differs from a
gasoline engine (other than the fuel it uses). So I'm not surprised
by the government's inability to see how much it would help everything
from "the environment" to the economy by knocking down the stupid
regulatory roadblocks that are keeping diesel cars on the other
side of the pond.
the Vulture of the Western World!
[send him mail] is an
automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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