The base model Ford Focus gets 37 MPG in the US, which is pretty decent mileage. But it gets 59 MPG in Europe which is 60% better gas mileage!
Today we compare the mileage of 8 base model compact cars available both in the US and in Europe.
Cars in the study consist of US models equipped with economy, no-thrill engines and their European cousins equipped with diesel engines.
Each US/European car only differs by the engine. Other than the engines, cars are identical. GT/sports models and Hybrids are excluded from the study to keep it fair.
Source: fueleconomy.gov and manufacturer's data, Base Engine Comparison
|BMW 3 series
|Chrysler Pt Cruiser
Across the board, European models get an average of 52 MPG versus 32 MPG for the US version of the same car. So the same car on European roads gets 60% better gas mileage than on American roads.
Interestingly this 60% difference is not limited to the Ford Focus which gets the best mileage of the set, the difference averages also 60% for all cars. The difference is widest for the BMW 3 series: gas mileage on the European 1.8D is 80% better than on the smallest gasoline engine offered in the US (BMW 328).
So you may wonder: "How do the engines differ?"
European cars are powered by turbocharged "common-rail" diesel engines. This type of engine has been widely used in Europe for the last 10 years.
They don't need spark plugs, run on diesel fuel including bio-diesel and have a high compression ratio of 17 to 25:1 versus 9:1 found on a typical gasoline engine, making them that much more efficient. And by the way, did I mention that they run on bio-diesel as well?
US car manufacturers attempted to produce diesel engines in the 80's but failed. They used standard engine blocks designed for gasoline, not for these high compressions and as a result the blocks cracked.
Ever since diesels have had bad reputation in the US while they equip most cars in Europe and are highly reliable.
Now you may ask: "When will Ford or Chrysler bring their diesel compact cars to the US?" This is a very good question. After all the big 3 are loosing double-digit market share every quarter to more efficient car makers.
Shouldn't it be time for them to react and bring these diesel compact cars in the US? American companies already make them for goodness sake!
Well you'll be suprised but they have no plan to do so. For the time being US consumers will have to choose between the Volkswagen TDI and the
Mercedes-Benz E 320 diesel.
Paris-born Rudolf Diesel patented in the US the engine with his name in 1898.
Discuss this study in the forum...
Unlike a gas engine, the diesel engine does not employ spark plugs and its ignition is triggered by the compression itself.
The phenomenon called "pre-ignition" or "pinging", destructive in a gasoline motor is what causes the Diesel engine to operate smoothly.
The Diesel combustion cycle is mathematically proven to be 20% more efficient that the Gasoline combustion cycle. Also, diesel fuel itself releases more energy: 147,000 BTU/Gallon vs. 125,000 BTU/Gallon for gasoline.
Finally diesel fuel is cheaper than gasoline and can be easily made at home from corn oil as "bio-diesel".
This gives diesel an edge over gasoline as gas prices sky-rocket.