Ben Caleca makes several strong points in his column (Detroit, go Diesel, 03/13/09). The one in the title, however, is not one of them.

Five years ago, I would have agreed to “go diesel.” But now it is clear that diesel is at the end of its lifeline for light-duty vehicles. The fact is that innovation in diesel is going toward improving emissions instead of making forward leaps in fuel efficiency. Diesel efficiency is peaking, so to speak.

Gasoline engines are also on their way out — we are on to the electrified car, hopefully without the diversion of a hydrogen “scam” economy. But gasoline engines are fast improving in fuel efficiency by implementing diesel-like technology. With direct injection, turbocharging, downsizing and homogeneous charge compression ignition, gasoline engines promise to approach diesel efficiency while emitting less nitrogen oxides and being lighter-weight, which in turn allows for lighter car structures.

Caleca’s other comparisons with Europe are absolutely on target. We should focus on active safety — that is, preventing cars from crashing. The answer is largely technological (intelligent sensors and control systems), but mainly social (comprehensive driver training). In addition to on-the-road skills, maintenance and eco-driving, driver’s education should educate new drivers about the true cost to the environment in producing vehicles and in burning fossil fuels, and then demonstrate practical, local ways to avoid the use of cars in most everyday situations.

Eric Sauck
Engineering senior

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