If you told me 10 years ago that diesel technology would come as far as it has, I wouldn't have believed you. I could have expected big advances in diesels designed for cars, where fuel economy and noise levels are the highest priority, but not trucks, where preserving towing capacity and cargo-hauling ability is a top priority.
Yet by looking at SUVs from Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz; and heavy-duty trucks from Ram Truck, Ford, and GM, it's evident diesel power is the cleanest it has ever been, still has stunning amounts of torque, offers the best towing and payload money can buy, and does it all at the quietest noise levels to date. Fuel stations have new pumps for ultralow sulfur diesel, and more stations carry it, so it's easier for people to make the switch.
And this isn't the end of diesel innovation. The ultimate dream for hybrid technology that could make the most sense for trucks and passenger cars is a diesel/electric system. This would create fantastic fuel economy in city traffic, where hybrids truly excel. Then, on the open road, the power source would be the engine, providing excellent fuel economy on the highway, where diesels truly excel.
The stumbling block is the double-whammy cost of hybrid hardware and a diesel engine. But Mercedes-Benz has already presented one of these hybrids at a recent auto show, and is said to be working on another. And Land Rover plans to unveil a plug-in diesel/electric hybrid Range Rover Sport at the Geneva show. It will be tough to get the two systems to work together, but the payoffs would be huge.
Also encouraging are signs that more than one American truck company has a diesel appropriately packaged for use in a half-ton. The engines were said to be ready to go when the economy collapsed, and we hear they're currently getting tested. I have a feeling that, if one manufacturer has success with a diesel half-ton, everyone else will dive in, too.