Diesel Power...

... some say that the real diesel revolution started in Europe about 20-25 years ago, and that that era is about to end with the introduction of higher efficient and smaller gasoline engines. Plus, one of the largest car markets in the world, the United States, has steered clear of using diesel engines on a large scale at about the same time when the Europeans were just getting the hang of really improving it.

So it happens that oil-burners are currently making over 40% of ALL the cars sold in Europe, since, unlike the 'mericans, the demand for diesel was also encouraged by a relatively higher cost for gasoline at the pump. In the US it became the complete opposite, since diesel fuel is slightly more expensive than gasoline. Although the European continuous development of diesel engines has put a lot of oil-burner myths to sleep, the Yanks haven't yet jumped into bed with this technology for old times' sake.

Why would that be, you might ask? Well, apparently most Americans still associate diesel engines with farming equipment, pollution and a complete and utter lack of performance. Well, believe it or not, things have really changed for this type of internal combustion engine. Gone are the long trails of black smoke coming out of diesel cars' exhausts, while the noise they make is much less evident than before, with some of them actually sounding good to a gas-freak's ears.

The "diesels are slow" myth is also starting to fly out the window, and this fact has become much more obvious for me right after we tested the BMW 330d xDrive. As we mentioned in the test drive itself, this diesel-powered car is faster than a first generation M3 AND can use only 5.5-6 liters per 100 km (US 42.8-39.2 mpg) while going at highway speeds. It didn't sound or feel like a tractor either. Add all that to a particulate filter that stops over 90% of all those soot particles (Diesel Particulate Matter) and we should have a winner.

No convinced yet? Mercedes-Benz has gone so far as to actually inject a pee-derived substance known as AdBlue, based on urea, into the exhaust system to eliminate even more of those pesky soot particles. Problem is, not even this radical technology is enough to make them as safe for humans as their gasoline counterparts. And yes, I'm well aware of how oxymoronic that sounds, but let's just take a look at some facts about the "benefits" of diesel exhaust to the human body.

There are three distinctive types of soot particles, which are oh-so-much brought into the atmosphere by diesel cars:

- the largest ones, which are larger than 10 microns can get into your nose, throat and even your lungs, causing nasty irritations and maybe some coughing seizure. They are not THAT bad for your health since they can be ejected from the body by sneezing, coughing or by blowing your nose. Plus, particle filters found on most modern European diesels won't even let them come out of the exhaust in the first place;

- the medium-sized ones are around 10 micron and can escape most particle filters, after which they are inhaled straight into your trachea, causing even nastier irritations and coughing. These cannot be ejected from the body with a simple sneeze;

- the finest pieces of soot particles are less than 2.5 microns in size, which makes them pretty much awesome at traveling straight into your lungs. After settling inside you, these particles can cause inflammation and even mutations of the alveoli, technically making breathing heavier and putting more strain on your heart to compensate for the lack of oxygen.

If that's not enough, these devilish particles can also give you asthma, bronchitis (of the chronic kind), can make you more prone to respiratory infections and last, but certainly not least, they can give you cancer. On the good side, there's much less CO2 coming out form a diesel's exhaust, since they use much less fuel than gasoline ones, so the polar ice caps will last longer.

Honestly, I'm not a promoter of either gasoline or diesel (although I have a higher affinity for the sound of gasoline ones), but we should all take another thing into account. Diesel cars use much less fuel that gasolines ones, right? But by becoming the number one fuel in the world for automobiles, diesel's contribution to the end of Earth's oil won't be smaller than that of gasoline, since it takes about 25% more oil to manufacture a liter of diesel fuel than a liter of gasoline. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, along with the fact that the US is on the verge to welcome "highly efficient" diesel engines once again.


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