Diesel internal combustion vehicles have a compression-ignited injection system. In a combustion chamber, the engine piston plug compresses the injected diesel fuel, raising the temperatures until ignition occurs (DOE, 2019). For additional background, see the Alternative Fuels Data Center's How Do Diesel Vehicles Work?
On this page, explore key cost and performance metrics for diesel internal combustion engine vehicles, including vehicle cost, fuel economy, levelized cost of driving, and emissions. Caveats for comparing powertrains are listed in the Light-Duty Vehicle Comparison page.
The chart below shows fuel economy, which depends on fuel type. Fuel economy is also used to calculate levelized cost of driving.
The chart below shows vehicle cost, which is used to calculate levelized cost of driving.
Levelized Cost of Driving
This chart shows levelized cost of driving, a metric that combines vehicle cost, fuel economy, and other assumptions, for the selected fuel.
- The levelized cost of driving includes initial costs for the vehicle, fuel costs, and, if applicable, residential charger equipment and installation. It does not include other operations or maintenance costs beyond fuel, or insurance.
- Changes over time are attributable only to projected vehicle cost and performance; the fuel cost and emissions are constant over time based on the selected fuel.
The chart below shows CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions for the fuel well-to-wheels portion of the life cycle for the selected fuel. Emissions depend on fuel type and fuel economy. Emissions associated with vehicle life cycles are not included here.
Note: Changes over time are attributable only to projected vehicle cost and performance; the fuel cost and emissions are constant over time based on the selected fuel.
The data and estimates presented here are based on the following key assumptions:
- The assumptions about fuel economy improvements reflect adoption of lightweighting and engine efficiency technologies consistently across vehicle powertrains for a given trajectory. The cost and fuel economy trajectories are based on the analysis-year Autonomie modeling results from Islam et al. (Islam et al., 2020). The ATB Advanced trajectory corresponds to the Base performance, High technology progress case. The ATB Mid trajectory corresponds to the Base performance, Low technology progress case. The ATB Constant trajectory is set to the 2020 values in the Base performance, Low technology progress case and held constant through 2050.
- The estimates from Islam et al. (Islam et al., 2020), and those shown here, represent costs and technology performance at high production volume. Diesel internal combustion engine vehicles are manufactured at high volume today, and the high-volume estimates should therefore reflect the current state of technology.
- The Transportation ATB presents estimates for a representative, single size of light-duty vehicle (midsize); we do not account for variations in make, model, and trim or for pricing incentives or geographic heterogeneity that influence prices in the market. As a result, representative values shown here may differ from specific models available on the market.
- Technology advances include changes that may reduce costs or may increase costs while improving performance, which implies that costs do not always decline between less- and more-advanced scenarios.
- Vehicle cost trajectories may exhibit non-monotonic behavior resulting from the combination of advanced technology costs and the impact on engine efficiency. For example, while the engine cost might increase over time due to advanced technologies, the overall engine power required decreases over time due to lightweighting, improved aerodynamics, etc. As a result, while per unit of power engine costs might go up, lower engine power requirements decrease the total engine cost.
- The assumptions about fuel economy improvements reflect adoption of lightweighting and engine efficiency technologies consistently across vehicle powertrains for a given trajectory.
- The baseline fuel pathway used for this powertrain in the levelized cost of driving and emissions estimates is conventional low-sulfur diesel. Additional selected fuel pathways can be displayed by choosing Lowest Cost or Lowest Emissions under Fuel Selection. Additional information about these and other fuels can be found on the Diesel page.
- The fuel price and emissions of the selected fuel pathways (e.g., Baseline, Lowest Cost, Lowest Emissions) are associated with a single year. Because we do not provide a time-series trajectory, here we show fuel price at a frozen level for all years so we can offer a range of fuel price values. In the levelized cost of driving and emissions charts, this approach clearly distinguishes effects of fuels from those of vehicle technologies, because fuels remain constant while vehicle technologies change over time.
- The Transportation ATB assumes fuel economy (on an miles per gallon gasoline equivalent basis) remains constant when operating on substitutable fuels (e.g., conventional low-sulfur diesel versus renewable diesel). In reality, fuel economy may vary because of the different energy content or engine performance.
- The vehicles modeled in Autonomie in Islam et al. (Islam et al., 2020)include multiple transmission options. The table below shows the transmission technology and number of gears selected from the model results for the ATB trajectories. The ATB Constant trajectory corresponds to the 2020 values in ATB Mid. Values for 2040 and 2045 are interpolated based on 2035 and 2050 values.
|Year||ATB Mid||ATB Advanced|
|Transmission Technology||Number of Gears||Transmission Technology||Number of Gears|
|2020||Automatic (AU)||6||Automatic (AU)||6|
|2025||Automatic+ (AUp)||7||Automatic (AU)||8|
|2030||Automatic+ (AUp)||8||Automatic+ (AUp)||9|
|2035||Automatic+ (AUp)||9||Automatic+ (AUp)||10|
|2050||Automatic+ (AUp)||10||Automatic++ (AUpp)||10|
Source: (Islam et al., 2020)
- The data downloads include additional detail on assumptions and calculations for each metric.
For detailed definitions, see:
The following references are specific to this page; for all references in this ATB, see References.