Diesel vs Electric Cars: The Pros and Cons

Diesel vs Electric Cars: The Pros and Cons

Photo courtesy of RushLane.com
Photo courtesy of RushLane.com

There currently are 24 different models available in the US that are diesel powered.

Most Sold Diesel Vehicles

2009 Volkswagen Jetta

2009 BMW 3 Series

2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2009 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD

2009 Ford Econoline Cargo

Most Popular Diesel Vehicles

2009 BMW 3 Series

2009 Volkswagen Jetta

2009 BMW X5

2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

Up and Coming Diesel Vehicles

2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

2009 Volkswagen Touareg 2

2010 Audi A3

2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

2009 Volkswagen Jetta

Why is diesel practical? how is it comparable to a regular car? Does it make sense?

At one time, diesel cars were a relatively common sight in the United States. In Europe, they still are, accounting for about 40% of new cars sold each year. Diesel fuel has:

•    higher energy content than gasoline,

•    diesel performance is better in terms of engine output.

•    diesels put less pollution into the air.

•     Good diesel performance offers better fuel economy and less carbon dioxide

What about the higher up-front cost of diesel technology?

There’s also a catch when it comes to comparing mileage estimates for diesel and gasoline vehicles.

•    higher energy content and its efficient combustion process, diesel performance enables cars to travel at least 30% farther on a gallon of fuel than comparable gasoline models.

•    improved efficiency of diesel engines can also help reduce oil consumption.

Which is Better Overall? Diesel or Gasoline?

The fact that a gallon of diesel costs more than a gallon of regular gasoline and the $1,000 to $3,000 extra a buyer will pay when purchasing a diesel model instead of a comparable gas-powered model.

Diesels cost $1,000 to $3,000 extra — while very true — misses a key point. If you actually look at the long-term cost of a diesel engine, you’ll find that it’s less than a gasoline engine due to the fact that diesels typically last two times as long as a gas engine. We’re talking 150,000 miles (for a reliable gas engine) compared to around 350,000 miles for a diesel.

True, gas is currently around a dollar less than the same quantity of diesel. However, you can go farther on that gallon of diesel than a gallon of gas. Just check the EPA Web site, that actually lists the costs per gallon of fuel for cars and trucks. You’ll find that diesel fuel costs less despite costing more at the pump.


Electric cars

The problem with hybrids when they first came out was that they were VERY expensive…what are the price benefits now to owning an electric car.

While hybrid vehicles generally provide better mileage than like-sized vehicles in their class, drivers should be aware it will take more than just a gasoline-electric powertrain to get the fuel economy they think they’ve been promised.

•     Gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles typically are priced higher than non-hybrid counterparts—anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to several thousand dollars.

•    For example, the Honda Civic Hybrid has a starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price of more than $22,500 for a base, 2007 model. A 2007 Civic LX gasoline-powered sedan with many comparable amenities carries a starting MSRP that is some $4,800 less. True, the 2007 Civic Hybrid is rated by the EPA at 49 mpg in city driving and 51 mpg on the highway, for a combined 50 mpg. This is 30 percent better than the combined rating of 33 mpg for the gasoline-powered, 2007 LX model.

•    Some of the price difference also may be recouped by a one-time federal tax credit.

•    Some companies offer money to employees who buy hybrids if they buy a new gas-electric hybrid vehicle.

•    It is projected that hybrid vehicle prices will come down as more vehicles are sold and become more plentiful and there are greater economies of scale.

•    The technology mates an electric motor to a gasoline engine so the electric motor supplements the engine at times. This reduces greenhouse gases as well as optimizes the use of gasoline.

•    Hybrids store electric energy on board in large battery packs. The packs are warranted for eight to ten years, depending on the manufacturer, but it’s uncertain what the cost will be for replacing old battery packs down the road. Current prices are about $3,000.

•    Some groups have complained that hybrid battery packs are toxic and likely to become troublesome to dispose of. But automakers say current nickel-metal hydrid batteries are recyclable.

Consumers don’t need to venture from conventional gasoline models to find fuel-thrifty vehicles. However, they need to focus on small, lightweight vehicles in order to maximize the gas they use.


In the end, I’ve concluded that the real gains in fuel economy are to be found in driving habits, not necessarily in either drivetrain technology. The hybrids do better in urban, stop-and-go driving while the diesels come into their own over the long haul, especially when towing or climbing grades.

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