Diesel vs. Clean Diesel: What’s the big difference?

Different types of alternative fuels and vehicles are making waves across the industry and with consumer interests. People have an eye on the future, and are interested in the latest fuel technologies. Everyone recognizes the incipient fuel, diesel. In fact, it has been around for over 120 years when it was included in the first car! Diesel is used in cars, railroads, armored fighting military vehicles, transportation vehicles, boats, and many more instances. Although diesel is widely used, it also has high amounts of sulfur, which can be damaging to the environment and the health of people and animals alike.

Lately there has been a lot of attention on “clean diesel”. Clean diesel includes a three-part system:

  1. Ultra-Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD)
  2. Highly Efficient Diesel Engines
  3. Advanced Emissions Controls

Industry leaders are releasing new and improved versions of clean diesel vehicles with the three part system, like the Volkswagen Jetta TDI shown below. 


Clean diesel is actually the standard in the U.S.  Diesel vehicles must contain 97% less sulfur than previous diesel blends. With the substantial cut in sulfur, clean diesel vehicles produce 10% less soot emissions without taking any additional measures. When the efficient engines and advanced emissions controls are taken into account, clean diesel vehicles are actually reducing their emissions by about 95%.
1 Biodiesel is also considered an ULSD because it contains very low levels of sulfur.2 To compare biodiesel cost and mileage to traditional mileage, check out the Alternative Fuels Data Center cost calculator here: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/diesel.html

Why keep choosing diesel? 

Diesel has the highest energy density among transportation fuels.3 This means that it provides more power and efficiency than competing fuel types. The Diesel Technology Forum explains the largest difference between diesel engines and gasoline engines:

Fuel combustion is the primary difference between gasoline and diesel engines. Gasoline engines ignite fuel with spark plugs, whereas diesels ignite fuel with compression. Inside the engine, the combustion of air and fuel takes place under pressure and heat created by compressing the air-fuel mixture so intensely that it combusts spontaneously, releasing energy, that is transmitted to powering the wheels on a vehicle, the piston’s motion and creating mechanical energy.

Another popular reason people are switching to clean diesel is the cost savings. Below is a chart from clearlybetterdiesel.org outlining how much a driver can save annually living in Pennsylvania through their fuel purchases and more efficient driving style. Perform your own search to learn the savings you could experience in your state. 

With its rise in popularity, publicity, and cost-savings, it’s no wonder that “clean diesel” is a buzzword these days. As people continue to explore new, more advanced fuel sources, clean diesel is sure to continue making a splash in the alternative fuel world. 

1: http://www.dieselforum.org/about-clean-diesel/what-is-clean-diesel-

2: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/diesel.html

3: http://www.dieselforum.org/about-clean-diesel/what-is-clean-diesel-

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