October 15, 2006 was the deadline set by the US government for the mass deployment and general availability of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD). Officially, this means that 80% of the diesel fuel available in the US for trucks, buses and the handful of diesel cars still out there had to meet the new lower sulfur maximums. Apparently, the deployment went so well that availability looks more like 90% than the mandated 80%.
According to AutoBlog:
“Older diesel-powered vehicles will see a 10-percent reduction in particulate emissions right off the bat by using the new fuel, while new diesel engines designed to take advantage of it will cut their particulate emissions by 95 percent. This is due to the fact that the new ULSD contains only 15 parts per million of sulfur, compared to the old fuel’s 500 parts per million. The next major step on this path comes on January 1st, when all diesel engines sold in the United States will have to meet these stricter emissions standards. Until then, you can spot which pumps are offering ULSD by looking for the sticker above.”
In a post I wrote a while back, The Prius Deception – Part III, I discussed my belief that the US was greatly ignoring the advantages that a diesel hybrid (where an electric motor replaced the standard turbocharger in diesels) has over a gasoline hybrid. Pure diesel cars in Europe already get much better mileage than hybrids in the US. With the addition of an electric motor to keep the diesel engine at it’s optimum rpm, you’d have an engine system that would produce more performance with lower fuel consumption. The one stumbling block was that American diesel fuel created a load of pollution. The new diesel fuel is the first step to bringing us to a far better solution than today’s gasoline electric compromises.