Another Car We Can’t Buy

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Here’s another car you can’t buy because of government rigmarole – the Ford Kuga.Kuga 1

Well, not quite. You can buy the vehicle – it’s sold as the Ford Escape in this country. I just reviewed it last week (see here). What you can’t buy here is the Escape with the same engines that are available in the European version of the Escape, which is called the Kuga. The high-efficiency diesel engines. Or the available manual transmission. In the United States, the Escape is sold only with gas engines (and only with automatic transmissions). The best mileage you can get from these is 23 city, 33 highway – with the available 1.6 liter “Ecoboost” turbocharged gas engine and automatic transmission, which isn’t bad for a small SUV. But it’s terrible compared with the 40-plus MPG the Euro-spec Kuga equipped with the available 2.0 liter TDCI diesel engine and manual transmission delivers (see here for more).kuga engine

So why doesn’t it deliver that mileage here? Three letters: EPA.

European-spec diesel engines don’t conform to U.S. EPA spec emissions requirements. They’re not legal to sell here. To make them legal – to make them acceptable to the EPA – would entail modifications that would make them too expensive at the individual retail level; they’d be at a competitive disadvantage relative to other vehicles and probably would not sell well. Which is why they aren’t sold here.kuga rear

It’s not that the European Kuga diesel – or other diesel models sold by other manufacturers in Europe – are “dirty.” If anything, countries such as the UK are more fastidious about air quality than the US. The problem is their regulatory regime – and the standards that new motor vehicles must comply with – are different than ours. They have a different bureaucracy, with different definitions and different measures. It’s tough enough – expensive enough – to get a vehicle past muster with the Euro bureaucrats. Doing it a second time – to placate American bureaucrats – is just too much. Not worth doing.Kuga sideview

On top of the federal red tape, there is  state-level red tape. Motor vehicles must in many cases also comply with additional regulations that apply to vehicles sold in certain states – California, for instance. A car that might be okey-dokey to sell in Virginia might not be ok to sell in CA. But California is a big market for cars.  To not be able to sell a given model in CA (or other large markets) amounts to a big incentive not to sell the car anywhere. It’s not worth the trouble.EPA logo

Which is why don’t get the diesel Kuga – or diesel versions of Land Rovers, Volkswagens and so on that are readily available in Europe. They all get much better mileage than their US-equivalent counterparts. Some deliver numbers that nothing on four wheels – including the most “efficient” gas-electric hybrids – can approach. Well, nothing on four wheels that’s available here.

For example, the 1.2 liter TDI VW Polo (see here) which averages 60 MPG. Yes, it’s a bit on the slow side: Zero to 60 takes about 14 seconds. But if the criteria is fuel efficiency – and in particular, affordable fuel efficiency – a car such as the Polo is the ticket. Sticker price – over there, with the obnoxious 20 percent Value Added Tax folded in – is $15,635 pounds (UK), which translates to $24,498 U.S. dollars. Without VAT – about $3,127 pounds in this case –  the cost of the Polo would be $12,508 pounds – or about $19,598 dollars at current exchange rates. polo 1

That’s about the same amount Toyota charges for its least expensive (and smallest) gas-electric hybrid, the Prius C ($19,080). This car rates 53 city, 43 highway – 50 MPG combined. Which means it can’t touch the Polo diesel when it comes to fuel efficiency. And as far as performance, the Prius isn’t much quicker (zero to 60 in about 11.4 seconds) and once rolling, the Polo actually beats the Prius C. It (the VW) has a top speed of almost 120 MPH. Certainly sufficient margin for steady-state cruising at US highway speeds of 70-80. polo engine

But we’ll never know, because we’re not allowed to have the Polo – or the diesel Kuga – or a panoply of diesel-powered cars and SUVs that are commonly available everywhere else. Not because they’re “dirty” – but because of EPA (and state-level little EPA) ukase.

Unfortunately, not many people are aware of what’s been denied them by the same politicians and bureaucrats who sermonize us about the need to conserve fuel. That takes some chutzpah. pol picture

If they were really interested in us using less fuel, they’d throw down the gantlet and remove every bureaucratic obstacle to the importation of state-of-the-art European diesels. The fact that they have effectively closed off this country to such cars and continue to make it economically unappealing for major car companies such as Ford and VW and Land Rover to bring such cars to the U.S. speaks volumes about either their catatonic ignorance or their outright malevolence.

I’m not sure which it is – but ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Whether as a result of stupidity – the righteous ignorance of politicians and bureaucrats who know nothing about cars or how they work yet presume to dictate terms and conditions to those who do know how they work – or just because they  have the power and enjoy flexing their muscles by denying us things. denied pic

In the end, we’re still denied.

Remember the Kuga – and the Polo – next time you hear a political suit warbling about the need to be more “efficient.”

Throw it in the Woods?





    • It was actually the last luxury tax that destroyed the boat builders for good. What a shame. An entire industry not rivaled anywhere in the world, destroyed by one idiot law passed by a collection of fools extraordinaire.

      • Fools? From our POV, yes, but from their POV? Was it really a mistake or was it a “mistake”? Where someone advances their career, their business, their government department budget, or in some real way gains over what looks to most people like simple stupidity?

        The luxury tax sure looks like real stupidity, but it is so rare for pure stupidity to happen in government, I have to wonder who benefited?

        • Brent, that’s why I called them fools. eric compares the Mafia to govt. but I maintain, having known a few Mafia types, they are much better to deal with than govt. They realize killing the goose that lays the golden egg is not a good business regimen. The govt. bureaucrats and pols don’t understand this and that’s the very reason their attempt to garnish more wages often backfires and causes an actual decrease in the wages they hope to garnish, i.e. taxes. In all cases the best course of action is to follow the money. In this case it’s obvious that they screwed not only an entire industry and the resulting taxes of those boats that buyers would have to pay causing a net decrease in taxes they wanted to legislate for friends, business associates, family, etc. Who says govt. doesn’t make some really lousy decisions? History is replete with examples.

          • A Mafia Don is like a king. He is there for life. He can pass something down if he so wants. His motivation is long term. A elected office holder could be out with the next election, his vision is short term. A CEO at best is maybe looking to his retirement date. Medium term at best, but often just the quarterly earnings.

            The elected office holder has two motivations.
            1) Get while the getting is good.
            2) Kick the can.

            They have no interest in seeing the goose live for the next guy. They need all they can get today. Problems are to be kicked down the road for other people to deal with.

            So I don’t see stupidity. They are parasites with only a very short time window in which to extract as much for themselves as possible. So that is what they do.

      • Divide and Conquer…..

        The U.S. enacted a luxury tax in November 1990, established by Congress and signed by President George H.W. Bush. Buyers of private yachts, planes, furs, jewelries and luxury cars are levied excise taxes. When luxury goods exceed certain prices, they are charged with excise taxes. For example, yachts below $100,000 are taxed at regular rates, and for yachts above $100,000, in addition to the regular rates, a 10 percent tax is charged on the excess amount.

        At that time, the bill was idealistic and simple to understand — only the rich can afford luxury items, and a tax on the rich fulfills social justice. Although the bill violates Bush’s election promise to “not raise taxes” during his term as president, he did not receive much opposition in proposing the luxury tax.

        However, in August 1993, two years after its introduction, the U.S. Congress decided to end the “luxury tax” because the tax revenues were disappointing and the livelihoods of common folks who made a living by selling “luxury items” were negatively impacted.
        The lesson learned in this period has been written into U.S. economic textbooks. The “luxury tax” fundamentally violates economic principles and market theories. Under supply and demand, the demand of luxury goods is quite elastic. In other words, the luxury tax imposed on certain goods will prompt the rich buyers to seek alternatives. They may find other entertainments than buying yachts, perhaps flying to Panama for a vacation and buying a yacht there.

        The elasticity of supply for luxury goods is rather inelastic. Can yacht producers easily switch production to alternative products? Can yacht workers easily find new jobs? These problems can’t be easily handled.

        More importantly, problems slowly emerge from the shortfall of luxury tax collection, and the the yacht industry took an unexpectedly hard hit. Within a year, sales plunged 70 percent, and many firms had to lay off workers and even declare bankruptcy. Large numbers of workers lost their jobs. In Florida, 13,000 yacht workers were unemployed, and related industries were also affected. The impact was significant.

        Ironically, the largest shortfall was in the tax revenue. After the luxury tax introduction, the 5-year tax revenue was estimated to be $9 billion. However, in its first year, the tax revenue was only a few tenths of a million dollars. In addition, the government also had to pay unemployment and food stamp benefits

        Since the U.S. Congress decided to end the ‘luxury tax’, boat and yacht building has had a vigorous come back in the US. Watching America.

    • Indeed, Liberty –

      I remember when they “luxury tax” was passed. The mentality behind it is the looter’s mentality described in Atlas Shrugged. I read that book as a kid and thought (at the time) it was exaggerated to the point of absurdity. But real life has turned the book into a movie. It is called, Life in Modern America.

  1. Sorry to be pedantic, but the blame goes to California’s Air Resources Board (CARB), not the EPA.

    CARB hates diesels, to put it bluntly, and so mandated a nitrous oxides (NOx) standard so low that conventional diesels and lean-burn gasoline engines like in the old Civic HF simply can’t be sold anymore.

    It will be several years before European standards on NOx emissions are anywhere close to ours.

    • It’s not pedantic, Bill – you’re right.

      But CARB and EPA are the same things – government bureaucracies that dictate regulations which have the force of law. They’re tyrannical by definition.

    • Right you are, Jim!

      The fact that these cars exist – are readily available and would address all concerns about “fuel efficiency” – tells us that’s not the real concern of our Dear Leaders.

    • Jimpatton63…., UK MPG figures are based on the ‘Imperial’ gallon which is quite a bit larger then the US gallon, so figures are skewed in relation to our MPG’s. Imperial gallon = 4,56 Litres/US gallon = 3.79 Liters. UK Imp G … .77 liters more then US gallon.

      • I’m aware of that. So it only gets 66 mpg US gallons! How awful! But I agree with Eric; if mpg was what they were concerned about they would allow us to have these cars immediately.


        • Jimpatton63′ ‘They’_ are not the ones stopping US availability. The MFG’s don’t want to bring the vehicles up to US specs, because they believe that the market won’t support their diesel models, and at this time, it won’t. The US market is already saturated with already available diesel models. BMW, Audi’s, and the Mazda CX-5 diesel models, should go along way to changing the perception of diesels in the US market.

          • Tre, what you say is true however not everybody wants that expensive a car for a diesel or Jetta’s wouldn’t be so popular. I think it’s a mistake on their part, since so many Asian cars are made in the states to not go to the expense of having software, parts, etc. at the dealers. They don’t have to put the complete onus on the dealer to get their brand started, and yes, I know the other side of the equation and that only looks at the current or next year bottom line. You can’t sell what people can’t look at and touch and sit in and drive. I’ve found most diesels to be quieter than their gas counterparts.

          • Eightsouthman; For what it is worth. . . . .

            The BMW, Audi’s were only mentioned, because of their potential to change US customer opinions, therefore, producing interest, then a market for diesel cars at the lower consumer levels, and the diesel Cruze is a great little car.

            With fuel so cheap here in the US, we won’t see a lot of interest in diesels here(Like we did in the early eighties), until fuel costs elevate to a price point that makes diesels a viable alternative. And the real problem diesels face, is the new high efficiency gas models, A $20,000 Cruze Eco will get 42MPG/Hwy versus the $25,000 Diesel at 46MPG.

            In 1980 you could get a Chevette diesel for around $4,000 dollars, on sale or just over invoice. The diesel was dropped(87′) from the Chevette lineup when fuel prices stabilized, momentarily, in the mid 80’s.

            There were several million Chevettes built for NA consumption, and even the gas models got great mileage. So if you want/need a high MPG vehicle for basic transport, and pretty fair handling with its Opel platform, except in the snow and ice, it is hard to beat an old Chevette gas or diesel, or Isuzu/S-10-S-15 with the 1,9L Isuzu diesel engine.

            The EPA rated the base 1.4-liter gas engine at 28 miles per US gallon (8.4 L/100 km; 34 mpg-imp) city and 40 miles per US gallon (5.9 L/100 km; 48 mpg-imp) highway. And Consumer Guide testers managed “an honest 29 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway with the bigger 1.6L gas. I think the Diesel Chevettes were rated by the EPA at around 40+ MPG urban and 55 MPG Hiway.

            Well, off to a hot rod cruise-in. Got to check out a beautiful 1940 Studebaker ‘Commander’ coupe that has such a high build quality it is exceptional among any custom hot rod ever built.>

            Regards . . . Tre


  2. Back to the diesel manual Escape.

    I’d buy one in a heartbeat. I love my Dodge Ram Cummins diesel. A diesel escape would be awesome.

    I have four kids. Any trip with th entire family requires a six passenger vehicle. Now I’m not a big fan of mini-vans, but they are a handy, practical and comfortable way to move six or seven people to an from a destination.

    We’ve had four Chrysler Town and Country vans over the years. Decent reliable transportation.

    But it ****** me off to know that they make a diesel Town and Country which is produced in Canada, yet we can’t buy it in the US. Again it’s the ****** EPA.

    Here’s a link with info about the diesel Town and Country. I would absolutely love to have one of those.

    • Hi Tom,

      Absolutely. A minivan is the sort of vehicle that cries out for a diesel. It is large and heavy and used primary to carry people. A high torque, low-RPM (and highly fuel efficient) diesel engine would be ideal.

      Instead, these vehicles are among the greatest gas guzzlers on the road. I’ve driven all of them extensively and they all average low 20s, at best. That’s only marginally better than a V-8 powered 1500 series truck or full-size SUV.

      With a diesel, these same vehicles could be in the 30s – and have 500 miles ranges in between fill-ups.

      It’s disgusting that “our” government” denies us the right to buy them.

      • ‘Mithrandir’…. It costs a bunch, but the point of it is.. that the technology will filter down to the mass produced consumer vehicles.

        In 1981 I bought a new Chevette diesel for my wife. Wish I still had it, it managed mid to high 40’s in the urban environment, and mid 60’s on the road. The early 80’s Isuzu and S-10/S-15 diesel pick-ups also got very good MPG. Go find one and restore it.

        By the way, UK MPG figures are based on the ‘Imperial’ gallon which is quite a bit larger then the US gallon, so figures are skewed in relation to our MPG’s. Imperial gallon = 4,56 Litres/US gallon = 3.79 Liters UK IG … .77 liters more then US gallon.

        For a chance to see Diesels perform in a racing environment, watch the Le Mans 24 hour race this weekend. The Audi’s will probably kick butt again with their amazing Diesel/hybrid machines

    • JdL, two reasons for certain. Gasoline pre-detonates causing a huge increase in temp inside the combustion chamber. It will put holes in pistons as well as it’s non-lubricating properties will destroy cylinder walls and the valves can get warped quickly. I’ve had gasoline in my fuel tank and watched the temp soar instantly. You have to baby it till you get things mixed up and can add more diesel.

      • On the other hand some old-timers advocate adding kerosine to the diesel tank for cold weather operation of some old tractors and such. Not sure how a new Diesel with closed-loop engine control would handle that though. (O2 sensor equipped).

        The low sulfur requirement is also partly an O2 sensor issue. Those beasties (O2 sensors) are poisoned by many different elements, calcium being one of the most destructive.

        Diesel, kerosine, jet-a and home heating oil aren’t very far apart in their distillate compositions. Diesel fuel and jet fuel do have the paraffin compounds mostly removed though. I’ve heard of some old-time diesels running just fine on filtered light crude.

        • Diesel is No.2 fuel oil and as far as I could ever tell, No. 1 was just kerosene. Back in the day when some places sold it for a slightly higher price, I used to fill up with it every time I’d come across it just for the cleaning and increased cetane rating. I haven’t seen any in decades though. Tre, even though they don’t speculate for the price of the VW, it would have to be something only some ultra-rich person with little sense would buy. Selling 250 units is ridiculous. This is a sure sign auto companies make too much money, hence too much power. $1B investment? Of course the payoff is getting govt. to buy it for reasons known only to lawmakers and bureaucrats.

  3. The funny thing is that the EPA’s unreasonable demands have probably resulted in dirtier air. Many people, when confronted with the exorbitant cost of a new or nearly new car, opt to keep driving their 12 to 15 year old jalopy. That 12 to 15 year old jalopy likely pollutes far more than a new Ford Kuga.

    • Absolutely.

      The acquisition cost of new cars is preposterous. Then add to this the cost to insure/maintain the thing. Plus (as in my area) annual property tax, which is based on the car’s “book value.” If you own a new/recent model car, you can easily end paying $500-plus a year just for the “privilege” of owning it. On top of the monthly payments for the next 5-6 years.

      The average American isn’t earning more today than he was in 2000 (in real, inflation-adjusted terms). Yet the average new car is a lot more expensive than it was in 2000.

      It’s no wonder so many people are going belly up, financially.

  4. I was there in the 8o’s and the naturally aspirated conversions of gas engines operated by newbie diesel
    owners who would occasionally throw some gas contaminated fuel in their tanks was distressing for mechanics…we hate to see machine abuse. Re: fuel standards and price of diesel….we made low sulphur to meet the EU HEATING STANDARDS to expand the market for American fuel and that pretty much explains why supply and demand here no longer represses prices.
    Injectors don’t hold up to the new fuel…but they love the soy-bean fuel and you get an extra kick of power….smells good ,too………..oh yeah…another great article ,Eric.

  5. I have read almost of the comments and find them interesting. And as a EPA/ARB Consultant, I would like to clear up a few of the misunderstandings.

    1. The Euro emission standards are different and particularly lower emission standards than the US, and the Euro emission standards are much more politically influenced than the U.S. Regardless, the Euro standard and U.S. standard through U.S. and Euro organized talks and agreements. will become closer and closer to the same standard in the years ahead (2014 -2016). Diesel emission quality has become much better and often exceeds gas engine emission standards, with new technology of after-burners, pre-heat chambers and particulate filters. But, diesel engines in the 1980s were dirty engines. CNG is still much alive but it has one or two major obstacles with consumer vehicles. The biggest obstacle is the size and weight of the required steel pressurized fuel tanks that are required for natural gas. That is why it is used extensively by government and corporate fleet vehicles for vans, utility trucks and buses that can handle the very large size and weight.
    Progress is actually happening very quickly with both electric hybrid, diesel and CNG…Not to mention Hydrogen Fuel Cell. And, as far as the “Big Oil” argument on preventing progress. If you probe a little more, you will see that “Big Oil” companies are buying up natural gas reserves, producing more diesel fuel, and buying up NiHi and Lithium battery companys as they plan for their profits for the future, as oil reserves have now peaked and will soon begin to decline over the next 50 years.

    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your input…

      On CNG: I mentioned in an earlier post my experience, back in the ’90s, with “dual fuel” CNG crown Vics. These cars were ideal platforms for a CNG conversion since they had huge trunks, so plenty of room for the tanks – and big V-8s with plenty of power to handle a heavy car.

      One reason why no such vehicles are available today is that no one sells a car like the Vic today. Yes, there are large/RWD cars, but they are almost all high-end luxury cars, which means they’re too expensive for the advantages of CNG to matter much to prospective owners.

      It’s too bad. CNG has a number of very attractive attributes that go beyond feel-good stuff such as “reducing dependence on imported oil.” These include, for example, being able to drive a large, V-8 powered vehicle instead of a downsized hybrid car. CNG also burns very cleanly, which increases the service life of the engine as well as reduces maintenance costs.

      I hope it makes a comeback.

    • “as oil reserves have now peaked and will soon begin to decline over the next 50 years.”

      When did it peak? Today?

      One trillion barrels have been added in reserve over the last 7 years.

      BP was almost able to tap the HUGE reserve in the Gulf of Mexico but extremely high mantle pressure blew that one up. I am surprised they were able to cap that well! Political/MSM-manipulated public outrage from the Public School Retard(PSR) class and Eco-terrorists/CO2-is-bad Fucktards have probably stopped attempts in the Gulf for the next 30 years or more.

      • I’ve heard we reached peak oil starting with 1970 but it just ain’t so. The truth is, nobody knows or if they do, they’re not saying. Some of the old timers in Tx. who drilled some of the best wells in east Tx. say the pool levels are back up to where they were in the early 70’s. A friend who’s tight with the petroleum producing crowd sent me an e yesterday with a pdf of their latest take on abiotic oil and that is a growing theory as in more petroleum drilling experts and geologists are beginning to see signs that it’s true, it does replenish through an abiotic process. As far as the Gulf is concerned, there are right now several leaking wells there. I can’t say other than nobody, including the company that drilled them wants the expense of stopping them. But what BP did and continues to do is unforgivable. They stepped over a dollar to pick up a penny and now we’re all paying for it. Things in the Gulf right now ecologically are not good. At the end of last year for instance, EXM sold all their ventures in Alaska. I suspect, out of sight, out of mind as well as “they no longer own anything near it”. There are a couple of industry rags you can take to keep up on a highly biased version of oil producing news. Rigzone and Viewzone are a couple of them.

      • The entire BP gulf of mexico thing was a result of and failure of government control and regulation. Regulation forced a less safe way to drill and then regulation failed to regulate big oil correctly. Then the disaster was compounded by more corporate and government political BS with the dispersants.

        But we are supposed to have faith in government?

        Let’s just dismantle corporations and have companies with owners who have their ass on the line if things go wrong and this will not happen again. If we have corporations with unaccountable ladder climbers we’ll get disaster after disaster.

  6. Eric you are absolutely right about diesels being great cars. My wife has a volkswagon Jetta TDI which she just loves,plenty of power and she fills it up about once a month.

    • jake, so what year is it? I have considered a Jetta for well over a decade but it was always too small for my bunch(and me). I never could get my shoulders right in the front seats and wouldn’t even try to get in the back of those ten year old models. Still, I knew people who drove them and they got great fuel mileage and the latter ones would run like stink with a chip job.

  7. Time to put personal responsibility back in the mix and maybe think about not reproducing so fast(and I’m not talking about abortion either{I dont think abortion is ever justified,except maybe in a medical crisis[no late term stuff please]) we can save the Earth and ourselves too,stop thinking about this 120 year”pie in the sky” as long as you can,as healthy as you can and let others live as well-We are only responsible for our own well being as long as it doesnt infringe on others rights.By the way-taxation is not a right,its a curse.

  8. What the bestest government money can buy won’t let us buy this Gaia friendly vehicle? Someone should tell dear leader messiah so he can put his laser like focus on it.

    • The first step is cluing the unknowing volk into the scam. They may not be interested in Libertarian-minded ideas about non-aggression and voluntary cooperation, but they are self-interested. And it is not in their interest to be denied access to 50-plus MPG diesels for no reason at all beyond the caprice – and malice – of their “representatives.”

  9. Further to my above:

    “Informed consent is at the heart of ethically engaging in any kind of human testing.”

    National outrage over the federal government’s abuse of power has seemingly hit critical mass over the past month as news about the Internal Revenue Service engaging in political targeting, government spying on AP reporters, the pending government prosecution of a Fox News reporter, and the revelation that the National Security Agency has likely been collecting data on every one of us has dominated the news.

    Ignored in all the conversation about abuses is perhaps one of the most heinous of them all.

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s continued practice of exposing human subjects to extreme levels of particulate matter and other toxins in tests designed to justify expanded air quality regulations.

    Subjects in EPA studies conducted at the University of North Carolina were allegedly exposed to up to 21 times of the legally allowed fine particulate matter (microscopic soot particles) in tests that left at least one previously healthy man still wheezing for air two years later.”


  10. Those 3 filthy little words again: EnvironMENTAL Protection Agency. They’ve been allowed to become a law unto themselves over Knobama’s reign, but have slowly been climbing that ladder since inception.

    This is probably just one of the many reasons for stifling diesel engines:

    From the article:

    “The suit, filed in United States District Court in Alexandria, Virginia (US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia No. 1:12-cv-1066,) describes in detail how six EPA employees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Medical School intentionally pumped what they termed “lethal” amounts of diesel exhaust, specifically small particulate matter termed “PM2.5,” directly into the lungs of human volunteers who were not properly advised of the risks.

    “It is difficult to overstate the atrocity of this research. EPA parked a truck’s exhaust pipe directly beneath an intake pipe on the side of a building. The exhaust was sucked into the pipe, mixed with some additional air and then piped directly into the lungs of the human subjects,” said ATI Environmental Law Center Director Dr. David Schnare.”

    I wonder how necessary trying to kill your fellow man is when you’re supposed to be protecting him.

    In any case, I saw talk above of CNG disappearing. It’s probably something to do with it being a supposed “greenhouse gas” (CH4) and the greens managed to scaremonger enough and kill it, but I’d need to look into it further. In the late 90’s, for about a decade, we had gubberment subsidied LPG gas conversions going like crazy. How’s the LPG thingie looking over there?

  11. Hi Eric,
    I spend a lot of time in South America, specifically Colombia. I am amazed at the number of models like this car in the article that are available to them that are not to us. Its not just a few, its hundreds of different models considering all makes not sold here. But what eats at me the most is the american cars sold there that are not sold here. Maybe not all,, but most models are available with different motors and stick trans and probably 40% are deisels that we do not see here. When have we ever seen a Gran Cherokee deisel? I wonder if they are built in the USA or come from factories overseas. I would love to have a modern s-10 or ranger deisel,,, but its not possible here thanks to our police state regulatory government. They also have a full line of chinese made vehicles there. Dont know if there are any good or not but the styling looks good. I did ride in a small deisel chinese made taxi and the driver said he was happy with it and had no problems. So much for the USA being the land of freedom when 3rd world countries have more freedom than we do. KF

    • It’s not just a matter of being illegal to import them. VW makes a small (1.4? 1.6?) TDI in their Tennessee plant that can’t be sold here, must be exported, mostly to Brazil and other parts of Latin America. Why won’t the EPA allow it here? Because it has slightly higher emissions per gallon than the accepted TDI, etc. But it uses 30-50% LESS fuel, so the emissions/mile are much lower. Gunverment logic is non-existent.

  12. Hey Eric what ever happened to the plans for CNG vehicles? I see buses and some (usually gas company) commercial vehicles that run on CNG, and there are a few (and far between) filling stations, but for the most part it’s not happening. Meanwhile natural gas is so cheap the producers are just keeping enough in the pipelines to keep the equipment from rotting.

    Of course, we are using natural gas, for producing electricity. This is about the most screwed up plan ever, yet because of short term thinking and massive subsidies for renewables (that have disrupted the markets so bad they end up paying grid operators to take excess power from wind turbines), electricity producers are replacing coal fired plants with natural gas turbines. Bad ideas multiply.

    I think the real reason we don’t have diesels in this country is because US manufacturers don’t produce them. Chrysler has made a few small diesels and they keep promising a diesel Jeep, but that’s all it is, a promise. The diesel truck market has been good for Ford (ask anyone who had to tow a 5th wheel with one of their V10 gas trucks what they drive now), but they just don’t seem to want to push on the EPA or states to get a practical, logical standard in place. Until the manufacturers start to complain we’re stuck with gas hogs.

    • Hi Eric,

      The CNG thing is a mystery. Back in the ’90s, I was invited by both Ford and GM to test drive CNG prototypes of several vehicles, including the Crown Vic and Impala. These were full-size/RWD cars – ideal platforms for CNG because of their large trunks (for the fuel cannisters). They drove beautifully – just like the standard-issue versions of those cars – and (unlike a hybrid) had room for six as well as the power/performance of a V-8 engine.

      They seemed like the ticket to me. Even the refueling infrastructure was at least partially in place – since there are already natural gas lines in/near almost every major population center. Yes, some work would need to be done to make it so that the average person could refuel his tanks easily and safely. But the major infrastructure already exists.

      My personal belief is CNG went away because it worked too well. Too cheap (for us) not enough profit in it (for them) and no power in it for the government.

      • Hey Eric,

        Back in the 1990’s, I was doing Noise and Vibration development work on CNG Crown Victorias. As you say, the cars drove beautifully, just like the regular octane versions. It looked very promising. Then, all of a sudden…..*POOF*….. It all just fizzled out. I think you are right when you say that CNG worked “too well”.

        As for diesels…..most Americans just don’t like them. Back in the early 1980’s, diesel-powered cars were a total disaster and that image largely remains the same today with most people, especially women……..that image being loud, slow, stinky, and smelly. Personally, I don’t think this is very fair, when you consider how far diesels have come. But there has been no real effort to change that image.

        Also… doesn’t help matters when you pull up to a dual-side diesel/gas pump and the diesel section of it looks and smells like a toxic waste dump. It just reinforces the negative image that so many people have.

      • eric, same reason we don’t get these cars, too cheap to operate. Everything in this country is controlled by big oil. I’m sure I don’t need to make a list.

          • Eric,
            Is there any reason other than taxes why diesel fuel is more expensive than gasoline? For financial reasons alone, when you factor in the additional cost for the diesel option then the price of the fuel, it becomes harder to justify. Environmentally the justification becomes easier. I wanted a Jetta SportWagon TDI but I just could not justify it in my head.
            Keep up the good work, hopefully more people will become aware of how the government limits our freedom of choice.

            • Hi Nutbags,

              The main cost driver is the refining process necessary to meet “ultra low emissions” diesel fuel standards. Diesel used to cost less than gas because it cost less to refine than gas.

              Not anymore.

          • nutbags, while you didn’t address me, I’d like to address your question. Diesel is produced much more easily than gasoline which should tell you it takes less energy to process than gas. Sure, it now has to contain less sulfur but that’s not a difficult chore….however, what do you do with all that sulfur. A few years ago before the ultra-low sulfur content diesel, the oil companies made enough sulfur to supply every need for sulfur, not something the sulfur industry wants to hear. I’d say it cheapens sulfur just on a best guess. I believe diesel is actually more expensive than gas now simply because it affects a different market. Consumers don’t put the price of diesel with the added cost of everything they take delivery of including ag products they don’t even use. It’s a great way to gouge and not raise the public’s ire. I noticed in certain places in the US, diesel was cheaper than gas. Now how does that figure? Well, probably those places aren’t high ag use. In Tx. we’ve been getting raped on diesel for years. I find it hard to believe it costs $1/gal. more to sell diesel than gasoline because of refinery costs. That’s $40/barrel more in refinery cost if you believe that. I don’t. All of a sudden in this state, diesel has dropped to about $.50 more than gas….huh? And why is that? I’d bet it’s because the big 3 automakers make more money off a diesel pickup than any vehicle they make, their actual bread and butter and diesel sales have fallen off due to gas engines getting much better mileage, pulling almost as well as diesels and the $12K-$15K hickey in buying a new diesel pickup. I’d much rather have a diesel but the price of one is always $43K and above for them. Now it has become a question of “is it worth it?” and many people are saying No, not that kind of money.

          • There is a finite amount of diesel from a barrel of crude depending on the HC type of the crude. Light Crude has fewer long string HCs than Heavy Crude and Sweet Crude has far less sulfur content than Sour Crude. If everyone went to the the energy dense long string HCs, then more of the short string HCs would just have to be burned off due to lack of demand. I suspect diesel fuel prices are coming down here due to less demand in Europe as their political terrorists enslave the EuroBorg Serfs(TM) further. Me thinks America is designated as the gasoline consumer and that diesel cars seem to be only a half-assed attempt by Detroit (Cruze/Jeep Diesel) in order to keep demand for diesel lower in America…Just a theory.

          • 2 more points:

            1. I think Euro6 emissions kicks in the EuroBorgZone in September which will reduce demand for diesel cars there.
            2. Texas crude tends to be Light/Sweet whilst mid-east tend to be heavy/sour. I don’t know the crude type they are pulling from the Bakken…Anyone?

          • Thanks for all of the information. Seems diesels do not make much financial sense, at least at this time.
            What are your thoughts on advantages/disadvantages between diesels and hybrids? I like the idea of using a small displacement motor as a generator for an electric motor(s). I read an article several weeks ago that Lotus was working on a prototype with hub motors or electric motors at wheel – seemed quite interesting.

            • Hi NB,

              Diesels have a number of advantages over hybrids, including simpler layout, longevity and (typically) better performance *

              The key to making a diesel “work” for you, financially, is to amortize the up-front costs over a period of years. A diesel, assuming the design is basically good and you maintain it properly, ought to be able to go for at least 300k and 15-20 years before major service is needed. A hybrid’s useful life (in particular, the batteries) is going to be less – and because of the greater complexity (you have two “engines” – one gas, one electric – plus the battery pack and additional hybrid componentry) there is an inherently greater likelihood that something is going to break/need repair or replacement. Hybrids also tend to be heavy, which hurts their handling.

              * Caveat: There are high-performance hybrids, but these are not representative for purposes of this discussion

          • eric, I’d like to point out gasoline has to have the sulfur removed from it also. It has many more additives and takes more energy to process. It’s also more expensive to produce because of the alcohol BS. I hit a fuel price forum now and again and look at prices everywhere. I know the refineries that serve each area and it doesn’t compute as Data would say. Someone mentioned Europe using more diesel these days but finished fuels are supplied from the US with them having their own refineries. I recall in late ’08 when it began to look like Insain McCain wasn’t go to be a winner, fuel started going up by leaps and bounds. I remember exactly the truckstop I was using the first time I paid $5,23/gal for diesel. Regular was over a dollar cheaper. The hammer had just dropped on the housing market so the economy doing better wasn’t a solution. As the election approached, rumors in the Republican party were that oil prices and fuel had better fall before the election or it would be a wash for the Dems. Suddenly, fuel started falling, all the way to just under $4 with gas being well below $3 before the election. Then there was a run up of prices again immediately following it. It didn’t go back to nearly where it had been though and dropped again late that winter. Many said it WS speculators driving up the price of oil but if you looked at the percentage that didn’t work either. And when does speculation drive up the price of good on hand? I can answer that. When the people who control the industry decide to gouge. Diesel sales fell like a rock in Tx. and people were either not using it, tractors sitting idle, pickups sitting and truckers taking it on the chin and finally getting a much cheaper price in spring when fuel normally increases. Gouging I tells ya, plain old gouging. I was roofing at the time the market crashed so what did I do about it? I went to the house, licked my wounds and used the car everywhere I went. And that’s what most people did too.

      • I was looking for a Ford One Ton Extended work van with windows a few years back, wanted the Powerstroke but was not finding one. I ran across a number of those vans running as airport shuttles in the LA area, had been converted to CNG fuel. I asked how… they gave me the name of the manufacturer of a complete kit to retrofit any model gasoline injection V-8 by changing the injectors, brain, and parts of the fuel rail and feed system. You could instantly change between CNG and standard petrol. The tanks were available as well for specific models of vehicle. I think these vans were all mid to late 1990’s. Little convenient availability for CNG in my area back home, though. The vans had 3 to 400 K on them, were still running fine, no smoke oil consumption, were converted when bought new for the shuttle service. I finally found the diesel I wanted, still own it at 276K miles. The working one ton extended delivers 17 mpg mixed, and I am almost always hauling at least half a ton in it. Towing is really amazing…. I’ve had 16K lbs hanging off the ball, another 5K inside, got 14 mpg at normal freeway speeds, 15 on flat sections. STILL does not use oil, and runs just like the dayI got it.

        I’ve heard recently of some company midwest that is converting highway trucks with standard Cummins, Cat, Detroit, Volvo diesels to run on CNG or LNG. It costs a few thou, I guess, but they get almost the same mileage, run longer as they do burn cleaner, and the fuel is generally about half what highway diesel costs. They lose a little power, but can be retuned to regain most of it. I am thinking of following up on that, as I’ve an International with a DT 466 facing a rebuild, and think perhaps changing to CNG or LNG at that time might prove economical. Expecially if I can purchase the pump to compress my own and refill out of the pipe at my own facility. Might pay for itself in a year or so.

        • The only one I know of is an experimental thing and the deal is not straight up. I guess someone is getting a bye on taxes or some other deal but it’s costing the company anywhere from $40,000-$80,000 each to convert those big trucks. There was no reason given for the huge difference in conversion price. I was astounded the company was doing it. The article didn’t reference how they were able to spend that much more but it was in conjunction seem like with a govt. agency or university, something like that. They did admit they’d never recoup that sort of money but it’s all an experiment.

          • I can actually answer your question about why those conversions were setting that business back $40K – $80K apiece. I dove into that world briefly two years ago when I was looking at rebuilding a late 90s Expedition back into a CNG vehicle. And what I discovered will make you crack up laughing all the way back to the bar.

            There are multiple companies that sell gasoline conversion kits, and it is exceedingly simple to convert gasoline engines to CNG because you simply do not need to touch the fuel rail or injectors… you just turn off the relay that powers the injectors and begin injecting the decompressed NG straight into the airbox so the engine’s natural vacuum sucks the mixture in directly (no need to ‘carbuerate’, the intake manifold does that for you). So, it’s a new brain, a de-compressor and a couple of relays + wiring. The physical storage and high pressure lines, likewise, very simple to install. All told, the kits are available for about $800, the tanks (brand new w/ 15 year life certification) about $2,500 and the high pressure lines for about $200… so $3,500 in parts all in and about 8 hours of mechanic’s labor (assuming you don’t do it yourself, say another $500).

            Then you get to the STOPPER. Before any state will certify your vehicle to be road ready, you have to get the EPA certification on your car… and THAT will set you back anywhere between $5,000 and $8,000 for your vehicle. So where you started off with $3,500 which you could easily recover in two years’ normal driving on saved fuel costs… suddnedly your project is not $8,500 to $11,500… in the ‘don’t even think about it range’ because you would have to drive about 200,000 miles to ever recover it in fuel saving.

            First I thought the garages ‘certified to certify’ me were just trying to rip me off, so I took the shop owner out for a beer and got the whole story. His garage was a family business that worked on both personal trucks and large highway diesels. He explained to me that it was the EPA permitting fee structure that forced him to refuse to do any such certification for under $5,000…. at $5,000 he was breaking even! Why? Well it turns out that to get the EPA to allow you to certify a CNG anything, you have to tell them which specific engine block you want the right to certify… and the process to get the ‘right to certify’ for a specific engine block costs all in roughtly *gasp* a quarter of a million dollars. So he was one of the only shops in this corner of the country that actually had the license to certify the Ford 4.6 liter small block V8. If I had had the 5.4 liter big block V8, he would have had to send to his buddy in the next state over to do it because his buddy had put up the quarter mill to buy THAT license.

            Basically, in a given region of the country, no one shop is insane enough to actually buy the ‘right to certify’ any more than 2 or maaaaaybe 3 specific engines and they all work in a netowkr sending people around to each other… but in order to recoup that quarter mil they simply cannot do it for less than $5,000 or $6,000… which pretty much eliminates the entire cost incentive for ever converting your truck to CNG… and if you have a gas truck it is sooooooo easy, anybody who is handy with electrical couplings and high pressure fittings could do it.

            What the EPA is effectively doing is imposing a stiff tax on anyone that wants to convert to CNG that makes the whole venture uneconomical… and they are doing that through the EPA who cannot in any rational way justify the imposition of that quarter million dollar in fees on the ‘right to certify’ shops.

            So you are left with two options… forget about it and just keep burning gasoline, or do the conversion yourself, don’t tell anyone and just flip the switch to ‘all gasoline all the time’ when you go in for your state inspection… of course assuming you don’t wind up with a mechanic nosy enough to ask question like ‘key what are all those high pressure lines snaking around your engine for?’

          • Interesting Danny. I’m curious do cops in your county actually ask to look under your hood? I would have never known what you shared, and I might as easily forget that fact if I decided to try CNG on my car. I have a very short term memory but I’ll really try to remember that it has to be certified 😉

            Best Regards

          • I always remember looking into some raw land that I wanted to develop some years back. Decided that I would need to bring in double wides trucks for the modular home. The bridge over a dry creek bed was a bit weak and narrow so we would have to reinforce with railroad ties and build it a bit outwards. The land planning department told me it was a no go because putting the ties down in a dry bed would disrupt the dirt and cause that dirt to flow into the tributaries and rivers next rain. Me be younger man at that time and the neigbor being wiser and older told me that it was better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission. I don’t know why I’m saying this as it doesn’t pertain to anything we are talking about right? Anyway, life is strange when a person feels they have to get permission for everything that hurts nobody anyway.

          • Hot Rod, Danny, I guess I’d never have gotten much done at all if I’d asked permission, a common failing in Texans. We get it done and simply go on. I have done things and then found out they weren’t quite legal but it was already done and someone would have to give a damn to even investigate it and nobody would care to begin with. I ramble, sorry. I’ve rearranged roads, diverted waterways, all sorts of things and did it as if I owned it which I normally did. It’s up to someone who doesn’t want me to do those things to figure out what I did and jack me up over it. It’s the reason I won’t do business in many other states. When I moved where I am now, there were no power lines so I went to the electric coop and asked the manager, my dad, what I needed to do to get power. It wouldn’t have mattered if it had been my dad or not, other people I knew there in high places would have done the same. He said I’d have to pay this exorbitant price unless I conformed to a certain standard so that’s the way I listed it. I pulled all the construction trucks around with a 350 HP 4 WD tractor and we got the power lines run in a day. When we were through I gathered all the guys working on the line together and broke open some coolers full of ice cold beer and everybody was happy in a short while. The next week-end I invited some electrician and a/c friends out to party and we soon had a 300 foot underground service run as well as a/c and a new septic system and everybody was very happy at that get together. When I built my driveway, 2200 feet of anhydrite calcium a couple feet deep, I borrowed equipment here and there and kept those people I borrowed from stocked in more beer and other things than they could use in that time and everybody was mighty happy. Amazing what you can accomplish with things people like and good cheer for all. No doubt there was some sort of permit(s) I should have pulled but that was 30 years ago and i haven’t heard from anyone yet.

      • CNG is very attractive bot cost wise and emissions wise. And it will have to be pushed in the private sector. The biggest stumbling block with conversions is that little agency with the nasty TLA (three letter acronym that matches this site). Due to the current federal (EPA) regs, no CNG conversion is street legal. It may well be much lower emissions, but bureaucrats don’t do logic. It’s the law you see…..

        And you won’t see any incentives tossed around for clean CNG. Not because it’s dirty. It’s simply a matter of there’s no easy way to tax it (every home could have it’s own compressor), thus in the eyes of the government parasites, it’s bad. Really, really bad.

      • “I’m not sure which it is – but ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Whether as a result of stupidity – the righteous ignorance of politicians and bureaucrats who know nothing about cars…”

        Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution,
        nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

        The federal EPA is illegitimate.

        • libertyx, the ninth amendment guarantees all rights not specifically set forth in the Constitution. It recognizes only the specific laws the Constitution grants the federal govt. Another interpretation:
          When the U.S. Constitution was sent to the states for ratification after being signed on September 17, 1787, the Anti-Federalists argued that a Bill of Rights should be added. One of the arguments the Federalists gave against the addition of a Bill of Rights, during the debates about ratification of the Constitution, was that a listing of rights could problematically enlarge the powers specified in Article One, Section 8 of the new Constitution by implication. For example, in Federalist 84, Alexander Hamilton asked, “Why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?”[2] Likewise, James Madison explained to Thomas Jefferson, “I conceive that in a certain degree … the rights in question are reserved by the manner in which the federal powers are granted”[3] by Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution.

          The Anti-Federalists persisted in favor of a Bill of Rights during the ratification debates, but also were against ratification, and consequently several of the state ratification conventions gave their assent with accompanying resolutions proposing amendments to be added. In 1788, the Virginia Ratifying Convention attempted to solve the problem that Hamilton and the Federalists had identified by proposing a constitutional amendment specifying:[4]

          That those clauses which declare that Congress shall not exercise certain powers be not interpreted in any manner whatsoever to extend the powers of Congress. But that they may be construed either as making exceptions to the specified powers where this shall be the case, or otherwise as inserted merely for greater caution.

          This proposal ultimately led to the Ninth Amendment.

          In 1789, while introducing to the House of Representatives nineteen[5] draft Amendments, James Madison addressed what would become the Ninth Amendment as follows:[6]

          It has been objected also against a Bill of Rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the last clause of the fourth resolution.

          Like Alexander Hamilton, Madison was concerned that enumerating various rights could “enlarge the powers delegated by the constitution.”[6] To attempt to solve this problem, Madison submitted this draft to Congress:

          The exceptions here or elsewhere in the constitution, made in favor of particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people; or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.[6]

          This was an intermediate form of the Ninth Amendment that borrowed language from the Virginia proposal, while foreshadowing the final version.

          The final text of the Ninth Amendment, like Madison’s draft, speaks of other rights than those enumerated in the Constitution. The character of those other rights was indicated by Madison in his speech introducing the Bill of Rights (emphasis added):

          It has been said, by way of objection to a bill of rights….that in the Federal Government they are unnecessary, because the powers are enumerated, and it follows, that all that are not granted by the constitution are retained; that the constitution is a bill of powers, the great residuum being the rights of the people; and, therefore, a bill of rights cannot be so necessary as if the residuum was thrown into the hands of the Government. I admit that these arguments are not entirely without foundation, but they are not as conclusive to the extent it has been proposed. It is true the powers of the general government are circumscribed; they are directed to particular objects; but even if government keeps within those limits, it has certain discretionary powers with respect to the means, which may admit of abuse.[6]

          The First through Eighth Amendments address the means by which the federal government exercises its enumerated powers, while the Ninth Amendment addresses a “great residuum” of rights that have not been “thrown into the hands of the government,” as Madison put it.[6] The Ninth Amendment became part of the Constitution on December 15, 1791 upon ratification by three-fourths of the states.

          Of course the supremes tried to spin this to giving ‘ad hoc’ rights to the federal govt. as needed…..beaaatches

        • Agreed.

          But as you know as well as I, the Constitution – the written document – is effectively null and void. It has been superseded by “case law” – the “interpretations” of the Constitution that have accrued ever since Marbury v. Madison.

          The “Constitution” is now (and has been, for some time) whatever the courts decree. Not what the document plainly states.


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