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Audi Shows Diesels Are Ready For Prime Time
Although most people in North America believe diesel engines are slow, rough and decidedly unsporty, Audi has proved them wrong by winning The Twelve Hours of Sebring this past weekend in their Audi R10 TDI. In case you're wondering, this 650hp racecar is a diesel. It went up against the best from Porsche, Aston Martin, Lola and others to win by 4 laps at the famed endurance race in Florida. Although this is a critical victory, Audi has its sights set on winning The 24 Hours of Le Mans in June and making automotive history.
Audi has spent much time and energy building a diesel racecar. The main advantage is that because diesels are inherently more fuel efficient, they'll make fewer pit stops than the competition. This strategy clearly worked out.
Just like most automotive technologies, the lessons learned on the racetrack might some day be applied to production cars. As more and more consumers look for more fuel-efficient cars, diesel technology is hitting its stride. As of June 2006 North America will finally have Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel meaning European manufacturers can bring over more diesel engine variants if they want too. They were unable before due to the poor diesel fuel quality here in North America. The new regulations mean the sulfur content in diesel fuel will be reduced to 15ppm from 500ppm.
Although hybrids emit less pollution, new diesel particulate traps are helping to make diesel emissions cleaner than ever. Unlike hybrids, diesels have a long-standing reputation as being reliable and built to last. A battery pack for hybrids can cost upwards of $8000 and there's not yet a sufficient amount of data to determine how often they need to be replaced.
Victories like the one this past weekend by Audi are not just important in the race world, but also in the public relations world. Should the 650hp Audi R10 TDI win at Le Mans in June, this will help to fuel North America's appetite for high performance diesel technology.
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