Thursday, December 5, 2013

Diesel Powered Ranting

There are many animal and pet stewards in my life and often I hear about "rescues", which, for all intensive purposes are discarded pets who are intercepted by their rescuer on their way to being euthanized. While I love the company of pets, I'm not one to accept the responsibility or ethical conundrum of captivating a animal for my own emotional needs. However, very recently I adopted a "rescue"'s this cute 2002 GLS Black New Beetle, Mk4 chassis 1.9L TDI. Since towing my rescue home from the shelter, I've been scouring the Google for help understanding its unique issues. The best information came from, so I created an account, and found myself ranting in my description box. It seems there are few folks who can appreciate my built up frustration around the inanimate object we know as the spark plug. It all came out in my profile description, as follows.

My name is Evan, and I am an economically hatched Do It Yourselfer, who shouted out an immense "I told you so!", when Audi's TDI began dominating the LeMans. In the US, affordable diesel cars are rare, my first was a '77 rabbit without power brakes-scary driving among autos with modern braking. It blew up in 2006, after who knows how many hundred thousand mile odometer rollovers. After 4 years on new spark plugs and wires, my Ford van recently dropped a cylinder and I removed the front seat, coolant, and AC hoses to diagnose and replace the spark ignition coil after 140,000 miles. Any truck produced in 1996 could and should have had a diesel engine! Maybe glow plug repairs are just as annoying, but the control system and diagnostic process is far less delicate than spark ignition systems.

One hundred years ago, making an ICE with adequate compression may have been difficult. A century ago, the Wright brothers were 'wright' to choose a spark plug engine for restrictions of reliability and weight, to propel their prototype airplane. We have learned, tested, proven a lot since the time of the Wright brothers, today Cessna is converting to compression ignition, before most US passenger automobiles have even caught the clue.

It seems capitalism likes disposable goods, and planned obsolescence, quantity over quality. Arguably, technology benefits from high turnover and iterative prototypes are appropriate. In the US auto industry, there are certain norms in production of scale, which change often, without improvement, and seem just plain stupidly wasteful to me. From the perspective of lacking diesel transit engines, I've been one who's view of the planned obsolescence trend, is misplaced and ugly. Here are some reasons I feel this way.

1 Most of the world's imperative automobiles (trucks, busses, trains, tractors, airplanes, etc) have a LONG history of diesel and/or compression ignition technology. If the compression cycle were not efficient, powerful, cost effective, and reliable, why would these critical vehicles use it?

2 The LeMans has long been dominated by the compression cycle. High performance and competition has proven compression ignition superior. Ever hear of a fuel injected gasoline automobile engine? Turbo? Can you guess where these technological developments were first tested? the diesel compression cycle!!

3 Ethanol is not going to fuel the US-and as a fuel additive, is arguably decaying critical rubber components; o-rings, seals, diaphragms, gaskets, hoses, etc. of the "obsoete" automobiles still rolling. Maybe there is a spark plug argument for abundant, clean burning, extended engine life, CNG fuel, but the range is sill limited, requiring two fuel tanks anyways. Diesel engines, especially utilizing computer control systems, can probably adapt to mixtures of CNG, propane, H2, biogas, and liquid fuels just as well.

4 Few new autos produced for the European, and third world are designed with spark plugs. The rest of the world cannot be wrong.

5 Diesel is the safest, lowest cost (US gasoline prices are a thermodynamic/political lie), lowest overall energy/environmental impact transportation fuel-period.

5 Diesel emissions used to be less desirable than gasoline emissions, but that is no longer as true. Inner city smog is mostly attributed to inefficient forced air climate control systems for buildings, and less on automobiles. Automobile sourced smog problems need to first be addressed on a social, cultural, human plane before we praise more electric hybrid spark plug automobiles, which have a larger manufacturing footprint than the diesel REAL Hummer. Americans are fat, sit down too long, have too little free time, and drive too much....bicycles in the city? Proper outdoor clothing?......Anyone?

What is a little more settleable/filterable dust particles, as compared to the un-separable excess of damaging chemical compounds discharged by spark plug engines? Compared with gasoline emissions, diesel emissions seem a much easier problem to solve. Why can't the US remove the band aid (spark plugs) already? Please, somebody provide me an answer, a clue. Spark plug lobbyists?

1 comment:

  1. Yes! More bikes is the answer. It just sucks that the U.S. infrastructure is built around the freeway system. Compared to most major European cities where getting around by bike or public transit is way more efficient and environmentally friendly... Anyway.. How you been man.? That's cool you led your first route. Nice work.. Sport climbing is a great way to build your leading skills for trad .. Keep it up dude. Stay safe this winter dude. We have to hook up for a Goodwin Greene reunion real soon!