Road Ahead

Charbroiled Burgers Fire Up Diesel Prospects


An 18-wheeler would have to drive 143 miles (230 km) on the freeway to generate as many particulate emissions as one 1/3-lb. (0.15-kg) flame-broiled hamburger patty, according to University of California-Riverside researchers.

Modern, clean-burning diesel engines have managed to dislodge many Americans’ dark memories of smoky, noisy oil burners from 30 years ago. And yet, diesels remain a small part of the U.S. vehicle fleet.

That may change after University of California-Riverside researchers, funded by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, determined commercially cooked hamburgers emit more particulate matter than heavy-duty diesel trucks.

An 18-wheeler would have to drive 143 miles (230 km) on the freeway to generate as many particulate emissions as one 1/3-lb. (0.15-kg) flame-broiled hamburger patty. The story went viral after a report by CBS-TV Los Angeles.

Our burning question is, how does this impact the market for light-duty diesels? The study focused on diesel engines displacing 10.0L or more. Wouldn’t a 2.0L Volkswagen TDI be able to log hundreds of miles before reaching the emissions level of a single burger?

Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, tells WardsAuto his organization will consider such a research project dedicated to small diesels.

Regardless, Schaeffer says the recent U-C study could encourage people to buy a diesel car or pickup.

“It helps us translate a message that’s not always clear to everyone,” he says. “We all like examples that are meaningful in a personal way. ‘I had a hamburger for lunch today, and I’m thinking about my next vehicle.’”

For the record, 3.8% of U.S. light vehicles sold in ’11 with diesel engines, up from 2.1% in ’08, according to WardsAuto data. The ’11 diesel installations came in 90,000 cars and 445,000 light trucks.

Meanwhile, the penetration rate for hybrid-electric vehicles in ’11 was 2.0%, down from 2.3% in ’08, according to WardsAuto data.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on May 22, 2014

Given the amount of fuss is being made about diesel engines around the world, this result is seems to be a winning streak for those who advocate diesel engines. There is a very little chance that this research may be falsely resulted. Whatever may be the fact is that diesel engines are not as bad as they are considered to be not at least for small engines like a car engine. We need to have a wider range of view to understand the fact about these things.

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Drew Winter

Drew Winter is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto World magazine and a Senior Editor at He was won numerous awards for his work in both print and digital media and has been...

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is executive editor of WardsAuto World magazine, with an emphasis on technology and suppliers. He leads selection of the Ward’s 10 Best Engines and Ward’s 10 Best Interiors...
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