A new study promoted by the Diesel Technology Forum, which represents manufacturers of engines, fuel and emissions control systems, has told California policymakers that encouraging the use of diesel passenger vehicles will yield substantial reductions in fuel consumption.

The report – conducted by M.Cubed, an economics and policy research firm in Davis, California – finds that gradually increasing the use of currently available clean diesel technologies in cars, trucks and SUVs to levels seen today in Europe could save California 141 million gallons of petrol per year by 2010 and up to 930 million gallons per year by 2030.

Diesel-powered passenger vehicles range from 35 to 50% more fuel efficient than similar sized petrol-powered vehicles, and diesel economy cars can attain up to 78 miles per gallon.  New developments in diesel fuel injection systems have significantly increased the fuel efficiency.

M.Cubed partner and specialist in environmental and energy resource issues, Richard McCann, presented the findings at the US Department of Energy-sponsored Diesel Engine Emissions Reduction (DEER) Conference in San Diego.  About eight popular European diesel cars and SUVs are available at the conference for test drives.

“These vehicles are on the roads in Europe right now,” said McCann.  “They are not years away or in a limited, prototype stage.”

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“Clean diesel technology is a proven, efficient and readily available solution for California’s interest in reducing petroleum consumption,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum.  “Other petroleum reduction strategies such as fuel cell-powered cars are not commercially available and may take 15, 20 or even 30 years of research and development to reach the market,” added Schaeffer.  “And even then these other technologies would not be as cost effective as diesel or even use less net energy to produce.”

DTF commissioned the report to provide economic and technical input into California Assembly Bill 2076, which instructed the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) to develop strategies for reducing the state’s dependence on petroleum.  The joint CARB-CEC report was due in April 2002, but state officials expect the report will be delivered to the legislature early in 2003 due to the complexity of fully evaluating the options.

“Our study provides CARB and CEC with hard data on what diesel’s inherent fuel efficiency could mean for California,” continued Schaeffer.  M.Cubed found that diesel vehicles consume on average 38% less fuel per mile than comparable petrol-powered cars and light trucks.  Using publicly available data and methodologies developed for CEC and CalTrans models, the report then forecasts the fuel savings California could enjoy based on two different assumptions concerning projected market penetration of light-duty diesel vehicles.

The state could save over 530 million gallons of petrol-equivalent fuel per year by 2030 if diesel vehicles grow to 25% of the California market, according to the report.  Under a second, more aggressive scenario where diesel grows to 32% of the market – a level comparable to diesel’s penetration in Europe – California could save up to 930 million gallons per year by 2030.