Not that long ago, finding a diesel car or truck - a truck with fewer than 18 wheels, anyway - on an American highway was about as rare as an icy road in July. Not so today. The era of dirty, smelly and noisy diesel vehicles has gone the way of the 8-track tape player, clearing a path for high-profile and increasingly popular diesel sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks.
- Fueling great mileage: One of the main advantages of diesel vehicles is their excellent fuel economy. Diesel fuel costs about 7 percent more than gasoline at the pump, but it can take a car or truck much farther down the road. On average, a vehicle running on diesel fuel gains 30 to 35 percent in fuel efficiency over a vehicle running on traditional gasoline. Diesel fuel has a greater amount of energy per gallon than gasoline, says Neil Hoff of CHS, a company that produces diesel fuel for fleet operations across the country. This is why a diesel car can average closer to 50 mpg on the highway.
- Responding to demand: Though long popular in Europe, diesel vehicles have not yet enjoyed widespread popularity in the United States. However, American automakers are taking a cue from consumers who desire an alternative to gasoline-fueled cars. For example, Chevrolet has introduced its 2014 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, a compact car that boasts 46 mpg on the highway; and the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel claims to drive up to 730 miles on one tank of gas. Other companies, including Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche all offer diesel varieties that carmakers hope consumers will warm to. Trucks are not left out of the equation, with diesel pickups available from Chevrolet/GMC, Ford and Ram.
- Powered by technology: Diesel engines, too, have undergone great advances, such as high-pressure injection technologies that promote engine health and longevity. "Diesel engines have come a long way in the past decade and are certainly more marketable than they used to be," Hoff said.