Climbing down from the cab of his mid-2000s Dodge Ram pickup, James swallows hard as he judges his non-existent selection of fuel. Diesel has just this morning climbed to $3.50 per gallon, and the Ram’s tank is sitting on empty. With a 35-gallon tank, it will cost him nearly $123 to fill up. Should I buy a gas or diesel pickup truck? I remember him asking me three years earlier. Later in the week, he’ll be visiting a local dealership looking for a new 2012 model pickup truck, and the same question will no doubt be asked.
Should I buy a gas or diesel pickup truck?
Ten years ago, the question of should I buy a gas or diesel pickup truck was an easy one to answer. Diesel pickups might have been more expensive, but they also had far greater towing and hauling capacity, got better fuel economy, and lasted longer than their gasoline-fed brethren. Typical Diesel engines from Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge suppliers were and still are, known to run for in excess of 300,000 miles with relatively few problems except for interior components wearing out or braking. The engines are known for their excellent reliability and power. Thanks to tecnological advances in high compression ratios and lean-burning combustion, diesel engines have been noted to be more efficient and at many levels better, than competing gasoline engines. Over time, the distinction between work-truck diesel and commuter-truck diesel became blurred, with gasoline engines across entire ranges unable to keep up with competing diesels.
Changing Pickup Truck Technology
That particular bias may be changing, however. Several technologies have begun to make the new gasoline engines in pickup trucks nearly as powerful and efficient as diesel engines, whose exhaust-cleansing systems, required by tightening emissions regulations typically reduce the power advantage found in opting for diesel over gasoline engines. Gasoline engines also have the benefit of being quieter than diesel engines. Since manufacturers still are not installing smaller Diesel engines into light-duty pickup trucks, but rather their medium-duty cousins, the prices for purchasing these trucks with diesel engines can be $7000 or more over comparably-equippped light-duty pickup trucks with gasoline engines.
Uwe Grebe, GM’s director of global advanced engineering, has said that “There is certainly a convergence in efficiency levels between gasoline and diesel engines. While diesels will always maintain a slight advantage, the gap will nearly close in as little as 10 years.”
2012 Pickup Trucks
You may have heard of a few of the new technologies that are being incorporated into today’s large V8 engines, particularly those in pickup trucks. Direct injection, cylinder shutoff, hybrid assist, all have begun to raise the bar for gasoline pickup trucks, making them far more capable of the tasks that were previously relegated solely to diesel pickup trucks as large-displacement gasoline engines are now beginning to see the increased fuel economy to be obtained by these engines. You might also begin to see smaller-displacement pickup truck engines fitted with superchargers and turbochargers in the near future, both of which would facilitate more energy-rich fuels to be used in current engine platforms. Much of the technological advancement in blurring the line between diesel and gasoline engines is overcoming the 14% energy deficiency that gasoline has under diesel.
If you’re asking yourself, should I buy a gas or diesel pickup truck, and your current truck is still running fine, you may want to hold out a year or two and see what surprises the automakers have in store. In the next few years, significant advances will have made the next generation pickup truck, whether it be gasoline or diesel, and extremely attractive purchase.
Truck Trend.com: Gas Vs. Diesel Comparison Review: Chuck Schifsky, 2002: www.trucktrend.com
MSN Autos: Don’t Be Fueled: Gas Vs. Diesel Vs. Hybrid Power: Anne Job; editorial.autos.msn.com