This is a vintage documentary from 1952 that details the rise of the modern diesel engine. The story starts during the steam era when people first started using thermal energy to drive compression cylinder engines. From there the evolution goes to an oil burning engine and then to compression ignition pioneered by Rudolph Diesel. The first mass produced diesel engines were well suited for turning generators for electricity production but not much else due to their size and slow speeds. Once direct fuel injection was invented, the relative size of the diesel engine was decreased and it’s rotating speeds increased so that they could be used in ships and eventually tractors, buses, trucks and cars.
It’s important to understand that diesel engines are actually less efficient than gasoline engines at the same compression ratio. It’s the fact that diesels can run significantly higher compression ratios that cause their overall efficiency to be much higher. The trade off is that diesel engine blocks and components have to be built much stronger and heavier to withstand the combustion pressures of these compression ratios. That makes their initial cost and durability much higher than their gasoline counterparts. We are going to see an increase in diesel cars here in the US as automakers try to reach higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) figures. Diesel cars are already very popular in Europe, so most manufacturers will be bringing those models to us here instead of funding the expensive development of new hybrid cars. Audi and BMW have already announced extensive diesel lineups for 2013.
Source: US Auto Industry on YouTube