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October 15, 2019   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Raising the Bar on Fuel Efficiency in America’s Most Popular Selling Vehicle

As more full-size pickups are sold in America and come with the diesel option, we can save quite a lot fuel and reduce emissions that benefit us all.

This year is shaping up to be a milestone year for full-size pickup trucks, one of the most popular selling vehicle type sold in America since 1980. It’s a year of firsts and three-millionths. Cummins just celebrated producing its 3 millionth engine destined for a heavy-duty Ram pickup truck. But it is also the first year that a diesel engine option comes to the market for the top three most popular selling vehicles in America - full size pickup trucks from General Motors, Ram and Ford.

What does that say about the future for diesel in the U.S.?  A lot actually. It says that diesel is an important strategy in meeting ever-increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions reductions in these most popular selling vehicles. Performance and capability are top of mind for pickup truck buyers, and the diesel engine gives consumers a new fuel-efficient choice. 

Recent advances in emission control technology, combined with the introduction of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in 2006, have also improved performance, reduced engine noise and fuel odor, and decreased emissions. Clean diesel technology in today’s properly maintained vehicles emits near zero levels of emissions.

Fuel Economy Joins Torque, Towing and Toughness as new Credentials for Pickup Trucks

It used to be that talking about pickup trucks meant basically three topics - torque, towing and toughness. Now we need to add fuel economy to that list thanks to the new diesel option. Consider that the average full-size diesel pickup has a fuel economy of 24 mpg, compared to the average gasoline of 18.1 mpg. In the torque department diesel shines with more power at 450 lb./ft. compared to 394 lb./ft. for gasoline models. And torque matters to pickup truck owners - this is what you need for towing and hauling and makes them feel zippier off the line.

In the bigger picture, forecasted fuel savings for new light-duty diesel sales through 2025 are expected to save ~1 billion gallons of gasoline by 2025 according to recent data from IHS Markit.

Diesel Leads Alternative Power Vehicle Sales

As an alternative fuel to gasoline, diesel tops the pack for every quarter thus far in 2019. In Q3 2019, 127,710 diesels were sold, that compares to 109,774 hybrids, 70,204 battery-electric vehicles, 21,691 plug-in hybrids and 497 fuel cell vehicles.

Q3 Vehicle Sales

Fuel Cost + Resale Value Matter

Fuel fact for today – diesel is at about a 35-40 cents per gallon premium over gasoline according to EIA. While the fuel costs more, the owner gets a payback in the form of better miles per gallon and more capability in the truck. And since diesel pickup trucks hold their resale value better than gasoline models, this also means a better Total Cost of Ownership factor for the diesel over gasoline, especially for those that keep a truck for more than five years or accumulate a lot of miles.

Our year of 3 millionths and firsts comes with some benefits. As more full-size pickups are sold in America and come with the diesel option, we can save quite a lot fuel and reduce emissions that benefit us all.


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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