Today, in an article on MSN, a look at the newest diesel automobiles offered by Mercedes, Volkswagen, and Honda shows that there might be good reasons to purchase one of these autos, over a hybrid or full electric car.

Reading that at first, I was sure that this was a sell job for the cars, with a lot of spin applied to nebulous areas, all to make the prospective buyer unsure of the benefits of ‘standard green technology’.

With the use of ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) these new cars, some with secondary help in the area of emissions reduction, make a very good case for their purchase, when the buyer factors in the cost of disposal of the batteries to the environment, and possibly their pocketbooks.

The dirty bird of fossil fuels isn’t so dirty anymore. In fact, it’s the current darling of the green crowd because it is clean and efficient, and doesn’t suffer from any of the pitfalls associated with battery power.

Yow! I’m sure there are many who never thought of that.

Volkswagen will offer the Jetta TDI (shown here) and the Jetta SportWagen TDI with its new 50-state legal, 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel. Both models have an EPA combined mileage rating of 33 mpg — 43 percent better than the same vehicle powered by a 2.5-liter gasoline engine.

An old solution to high fuel prices is new again, as American drivers get ready to take a fresh look at diesel-powered automobiles. With the conversion of the diesel motor-fuel supply to a new, low-sulfur formula all but complete, auto builders are preparing to roll out the next generation of diesel-powered cars and SUVs that are 98 percent cleaner than diesels sold just two years ago. They also offer 23 to 43 percent better fuel economy than the same vehicle with a gasoline engine, efficiency that comes close to matching that of gas-electric hybrids. The final bonus is a $1,300 federal income-tax credit available to buyers of eligible diesel-powered vehicles to offset the higher price of the diesel engine.

Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz started selling vehicles with the new 50-state-certified, low-emissions diesel technology in October. Audi, BMW, Cadillac and Honda have diesel-powered cars scheduled to debut in the next year, while Ford has plans to offer a low-emissions diesel F-150 pickup in 2009. Each of these vehicles meets new Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards for diesels, a feat made possible by the application of new technology and the introduction of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD). The new fuel has sulfur concentrations of no more than 15 parts per million, 97 percent less sulfur than was allowed in diesel fuel sold before 2006.

Like the switch to unleaded gasoline in the 1970s, ULSD enabled the development of exhaust-scrubbing technology that could not cope with previous high levels of sulfur. Though they vary in detail, most will utilize a three-stage system similar to that deployed by Mercedes to detox the exhaust: a catalyst that minimizes hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide; a self-cleaning filter that traps and stores soot; and a device that delivers a liquid urea solution, known as AdBlue, to the exhaust. Through a chemical reaction, the AdBlue converts nitrogen oxides (the culprit behind acid rain) into harmless nitrogen and water vapor. The AdBlue reservoir will be refilled at the time of an oil change, typically each 10,000 miles. The new Volkswagen TDI models are small and light enough not to require the AdBlue component. Honda, meanwhile, has developed a two-stage exhaust system for a forthcoming Acura model powered by its i-DTEC diesel that also will not require the AdBlue component.

Honda Motor Co. President and CEO Takeo Fukui with the Acura i-DTEC Clean Diesel Engine at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, where he announced that it will enter the U.S. market in 2009.

The article continues with the cost evaluations for the cars mentioned, and makes a good case later for the total cost of ownership, citing the effective lifespan of diesel engines, and their longevity being a very good idea in this day of bad economy and shrinking of the car market.

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