GM Examining Diesel Alternatives for Heavy Duty Pickups

GM Examining Diesel Alternatives for Heavy Duty Pickups

General Motors is interested in expanding the capabilities of its non-diesel Heavy Duty powertrain lineup, including a more powerful gas V-8 and potentially offering an engine prepped to run on either gasoline or propane.

Increasingly tougher diesel emissions regulations are forcing the consideration.

In 2007, GM and other HD pickup truck manufacturers added diesel particulate filters to meet tougher EPA rules that mandated cutting soot emissions by 90 percent from 2006 levels. The new hardware can cost more than $1,000 and requires up to seven-tenths of a gallon of diesel to incinerate trapped soot so it won't pollute the environment.

As of Jan. 1, GM's new 2011 Heavy Duty pickups (and Ford's 2011 Super Duty pickups) will use selective catalytic reduction, or SCR, and a new high-capacity two-stage exhaust gas recirculation system to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 percent from 2007 levels. SCR uses diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF, that costs about $2.69 a gallon and can be purchased in a canister or at a DEF pump next to diesel fuel.

"We have to have a viable alternative to diesel," said Jeff Luke, GM's chief engineer for full-size pickups. "When you think about diesel and escalating emissions controls, the diesel option could become cost prohibitive for some customers that they are going to look for other alternatives."

One place to start would be the 360-horsepower, 380 pounds-feet of torque 6.0-liter V-8 gas engine that's already available for GM HD pickups.

"We're looking at upping the power and performance in the future of the 6.0-liter V-8," Luke said.

GM is also facing increased competition in gas engines from Ford's new 6.2-liter V-8 and a new 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine from Chrysler that's expected in 2012.

Another powertrain option would be clean-burning, low-cost compressed natural gas or liquid propane. GM stopped offering CNG as a factory option for its HD pickups in 2006.

"We're also looking at CNG and LPG," Luke said. "It probably wouldn't be at the factory but a second-stage upfit [at a third-party facility] that would add a tank and lines. We're considering a bifuel version that could run on gas and propane."

But for customers who need the most capability and the best fuel economy while towing, Luke said diesel engines, like the Duramax, will still remain the ideal choice.


GM is losing sight of the purpose of diesels in HD pickups... it's the torque! Compare the horsepower numbers of the available gasoline engines with the diesels and they're all in the mid to high 300s - negligible in comparison. But the gas engines fall way behind in torque to the diesels, and that's what HD pickup customers want... that low-end grunt to get a heavy load or heavy trailer moving.

When the larger gas engines were last available (GM 8100, Chrysler 488 V10), their sales were so small that there was no need to sell them. Even if the new batch of gas engines are in the 400+ hp/425+ lb-ft range, they won't deliver the low-end performance or the fuel economy the diesels do. Who wants to wind out a dually to 5000 rpm to get max horsepower?

Ford is completely on the hook as they now are fully responsible for their diesel engine. GM splits some of the deal with Isuzu, and Chrysler/Dodge simply calls Cummins. This is where Dodge will remain in the lead, as Cummins is solely an engine manufacturer, and ALL their on-highway products have to meet each new round of emissions regs, allowing them to spread the R&D costs over several markets. One would think Ford would be the one to consider moving away from diesel with a 100% Ford engine, but along with Chrysler, they seem to be interested in offering the diesel this market insists on.

There are about 10 stations that sell diesel within 15 minutes of my home, and 25 minutes away is a full-service TA truck stop. Where would I buy CNG? No idea.

This article tells me GM is either not solvent enough to invest in the HD pickups, or they have misread the market.

Good that they're officially considering it being that Ricardo is close to serving a GM HD version on a platter for their eval.

@RoadTrip: GM isn't backing away from diesels but they are looking at ways to meet the budgets of HD truck buyers. Diesel prices have gotten incredibly high. More powerful gas or LPG engines would have the advantage of (much) lower up front costs..

More bad news for !/2 ton and compact truck diesels. The writing is on the wall!

I think GM is just analyzing possible alternatives in case the future of diesel becomes limited. Lets be honest DEF is not the future any more than 8tracks were. If a new system is not developed to supplement the urea system than i think the open future of diesel tech has become severely limited.

This is a joke right???

No spark ignition engine will EVER BE BETTER THAN A DIESEL!!!

Diesel's are more efficient and powerful to start with. Than can run on all kinda of alternative fuels with or without diesel mixed in. IE, Diesel, bio-diesel, CNG, Hydrogen, propane, methane, WVO, SVO, etc, etc. Who wants a alt. fuel. spark engine that can only burn one or two types of fuel? And make less power doing it along with poor poor fuel economy??

If you buy a 3/4-1 ton truck and get a gas engine in it, YOU DONT NEED A 3/4-1TON!!

Like ive said before, look to the industry. All major industries use diesel powered truck, machines, equipment, ships, etc, etc.

If there was something better, the commerical segments would have found it by now!

@RoadTrip They're not backing away from Diesels and they have plenty of government cash to invest in whatever programs and development they want to invest in.

Haven't you heard that the 2011 Silverado HDs are expected to make 700 lb.-ft. of torque and 400 hp?

This would mark the availability of a different fuel type - giving HD buyers a choice, since diesel prices have risen sharply over the last few months.

In case some of you haven't read the last paragraph:

But for customers who need the most capability and the best fuel economy while towing, Luke said diesel engines, like the Duramax, will still remain the ideal choice.

@Mike - understood, but the truck purchase price is high as it is, regardless of engine. Unfortunately, the gasoline buyer loses on the back end, because the resale value drops far faster on a gasoline HD truck than on a diesel.

In MY2003, the Dodge V10 and the Cummins were relatively comparable - 300/440 for the gasser, and 305/555 for the diesel. And Dodge couldn't give that V10 away... sales were just 3% of all 2500/3500s, while the Cummins was around 70%.

CNG and LPG will only attract fleets who have access to the fuel. But the gasoline engines won't have the tow ratings or the mpg of the diesels, and will probably be limited to the 3/4-ton rigs in small fleet and personal-use applications. Still not enough to really turn the market, and thus could be a waste of R&D when that could be used to develop the diesels to reduce their purchase price.

On a separate not Cummins and Chrysler extent there diesel contract!

And future Cummins engines looking ever more promising!

I do not understand why some of you are against anything but a diesel in an HD. If you want a diesel then spend the extra $8000 on one. They are great. What is wrong with a gas alternative, though? I would personally like an option of a GM 5.5L Supercharged and Turbocharged with 475hp/560 lbs/ft torque at $6000 less than the Duramax.

Good news for my future business. Keep an eye out for my diesel conversion company. Keep your truck and we will soon outfit you with a new powertrain!!

New trucks have zero value add for the $95K sticker...

I have an idea.

How about offering that 4.5L diesel as an option instead of other crazy gas and LPG engines?

After all, It's less expensive to produce than the 6.5L diesel and would sell for less. It makes plenty of power and torque for all but the heaviest applications. It can be shared with more vehicles, again, to keep costs low. It appeases those of us that really like diesels. Finally, it might get you some new customers if the Silverado/Sierra become the only diesel-optional half tons on the market and the Tahoe/Suburban/Yukon becomes the only diesel-optional full size SUVs.

Yes their needs to be other altenatives than Diesel!!!!!!

Years ago when Diesel Engines didnt have to meet all the emission requirements and the cost was much more than gasoline powered Diesel was the way to go!

But now at a $6,000 plus extra, and with all the problems with realibity that has taken a toll on the reputation on these class of trucks! Gas will have a greater market than before!

Fuel Injection has really helped the gasoline engine with relaibity and fuel mileage as well! I own a business has two Ford F700429 Fuel Injected gas engine,Allison Automatic trucks,190,000 miles, gross over 26,000 lbs, had a International Diesel DT 466 Diesel same loads, the Diesel Truck was only .5 miles per gallon better on fuel,than the gas engines!

Realibility beats economy!!!!!!!

The reason most people are for Diesel engines is simple for the fact that most Diesel engines are built for longevity. On top of that a typical Diesel (before 2007) compared to a similar sized gas engine will get better fuel mileage, longer life, better towing capability, These are all traits that truck buyers are looking for and ones that NO gas engine will ever beat!!!

Well I am pretty set in my mind that diesel is the camp to belong to. Plain gas engines cannot compete and unless you have to drive a limited number of miles or can afford to drive a truck that gets single digit fuel mileage while towing, then by all means take a gas.

The Ricardo/GM V6 looks interesting, however on their own website their engine tweaked to run only E40 comes close to diesel performance. 40 percent is good, but most diesel engines up to about 2006 can run B100 with out modifications and few problems. Not ones that can't be easily overcome. However with over compensation from the EPA they are gagging diesel trucks for not to good of reasons. I have read online many, many articles from universities and manufacturers that a good running diesel using as little as B5 blend produces way less pollution than it's gas counterparts. Look on line, even our federal government is looking to expand its use of bio-diesel, because they can run it in almost all of their vehicles. All but the gasoline engines! Plus diesel blends can go into current fuel stations with out building new ones or having to ad ethanol or cng pumps. I agree that those options may be ok for fleet operators. But most find going with bio-diesel is easier and more available. Just look it online.

Plus, I wouldn't think it would take a mathematician to figure out that using less petroleum and producing less pollution would be what we want. So why try to re-invent the wheel when we have the answer. The rest of the world is ahead of us on the use of diesel for a reason. You can look that up too.

Why should Ford be the one to get out of the diesel business? I'm glad they got away from the International crap they keep on using in their trucks. The new 6.7L Powerstroke is supposed to be the most fuel efficient diesel in a 3/4 - 1 ton pickup. Now don't get me wrong, I will believe it when I see it. Ford builds all their own diesels in Europe, which means they can spread the cost of design, and research worldwide. The 6.7L was developed with a lot of input from Ford Europe. Although building one to use in America has more challenges with emissions than in Europe it still is a worthwhile investment. I can't wait to see how good this motor is going to be. I will wait for a year of so to see if it has any major problems like the last two screw-ups but Ford has been on a roll as of late and they wouldn't have put money into something if it was not worthwhile.

I think the real problem is the refining mix in North America where we are setup to produce more gasoline per bbl than diesel, where in Europe it is reversed. Thats why we export diesel to them and they export gasoline to us. Has anyone noticed that no new refineries have been built in the last 20 years! I think the feds saw what was happening with the popularity of light truck diesels and didn't want it to spread any further, in fact I'm sure they wanted it to go back to pre Y2K ratios. I know first hand all it takes is to have one or two refineries down and you end up with diesel shortages. So since the feds can't say - only sell gasoline vehicles, they legislate. Bingo, nobody want's diesels becuase they are too expensive. In the mean time they come off as being 'green' heros! I love diesels, I own two of them. What I would love to see is pollution laws in sync with Europe. Can you imagine the cool vehicles we would be able to get over here! Alas, thanks to the feds, in my opinion they have intentionally killed the diesel engine in all but commercial applications.

@Garrett They have! It's called a hydraulic hybrid. Check it out! UPS uses them!

sure deisel engines, this and that... when you have to pay continiously to either refill or fill whatever uthea is.. well i guess it isn't worth it.. sure say your the biggest dog now, but your wallet isn't speakign the same.... im the biggest dog but with no money lol... gas engines has a continuous stability unlike diesel engines.... diesel engines are popular in europe for a darn good reason.... if it's not american( ie diesel engines) get it he heck out out of her............ who honestly uses the 12,000 towing capacity....... i have an '01 f150 with the 5.4 v8 and can tow 7,000 pounds( what in this world only weighs 7,00 pounds) and and you dont hear me moanin or groanin do you? what do honestly have to complain about when i drive a 10 year old truck and it has the same type of durability as yours?

people are so ungrateful....... and they don't need what they want! lol

I hear the "diesel is more durable" argument over and over again. The problem is the pickup doesn't last as long as the engine. Trucks used off road or on rough construction sites will not last. If you do not abuse the chassis/body and drive long distances with heavy loads I'd say a diesel is a good choice. Prior to increased diesel engine costs and skyrocketing fuel prices a diesel would pay you back around the 100,000 mile mark.
Kudos to any truck manufacturer who looks at all the options and gives the choice to the consumer.

IMHO the current line of diesels don't have the longevity as their predecessors due to the amount of power being squeezed out of every cubic inch, they'll run but they suffer from decreased power as they age and really who would really want too stick in a fresh but extremely expensive rebuilt long block/injection system in an aging pickup. The gas engines available in all the domestic pickups are good for 200-250K and by then the rest of the truck is showing age and historically being traded/sold, so unless considerable towing is being done, is buying a diesel really worth the higher purchase cost?

I think GM is very wise looking at diesel alternatives, including large gas engines with direct injection. Very few people need a pickup truck with 700 ft. lbs. of torque, fewer still will be willing to pay for such a truck when the price of a diesel option goes over $10,000. High fuel prices and increasing complex and unreliable diesel emission control systems will sour even more customers. I can't say the future of diesel is all that bright, and though I don't think diesel will be gone completely, I think we will see fewer diesels in coming years. Potential commercial applications are also driving the development of these diesel alternatives. Businesses are not happy either. I for one very seriously doubt I will be buying a diesel pickup in the future, and I have been a diesel tech for over 25 years.

Why doesn't GM put their 6.2L V8 in the HD's instead of the 6.0L's? The 6.2L is an option in the 1500's but why not the 2500's and 3500's? The 6.2L has more power and torque (403 Horses and 417 ft.lbs. of torque) than the 6.0L, obviously. It seems like GM has this backwards... A more powerful 6.2L V8 in their 1500's, while a less powerful 6.0L is standard in their HD's. No wonder they needed a bailout...

I find it funny how some of you think that Diesel engines are either not needed or cost to much to operate. Either you don't tow often or you never drive your truck! If you did you would find that a Diesel is well worth its weight in gold. With better towing characteristics and better overall efficiency not to mention better "hop up ability" I will agree especially with today's newer diesels that they dont make good daily drivers but to say they are not needed is absurd and a very selfish way of thinking. And for those of you who think that Diesels have no future need to see my previous post links.

You all miss the point of the article; it is regarding the Total Cost of Ownership in relation to the emissions components. A diesel particulate filter is ~$2000 and all manufactures (GM, PowerStroke, Cummins, and Detroit) have all had high failure rates. Then add in the EGR valve and cooler and a bunch of temperature sensors and all said in done you now have $5000 - $6000 in emission components that you didn't have pre-07. And it’s just a matter of time till you replace them. EGR valve fails then the DPF clogs and then soot takes out the turbo……

Now for 2010 most manufactures are going to SCR which requires the drive to add urea at 2.59 a gallon which is consumed at a ratio of ~50 to 1 and you have more cost associated with emissions. Who knows what a replacement SCR will cost? Another factor diesel people are concerned with is “up time,” GUESS WHAT, if you run out of urea you'll have de-rated power too and probably a check engine light!!! Time to get more urea and maybe a trip to the dealer!!!

I am not saying gas is better than diesel but in terms of total cost of ownership people really need to do their home work. Emissions have not been friendly to diesel engine; or manufactures didn't do their due diligence in validation when launching the emissions engines.

"I find it funny how some of you think that Diesel engines are either not needed or cost to much to operate. Either you don't tow often or you never drive your truck! If you did you would find that a Diesel is well worth its weight in gold. "

A diesel option is $6,000 added onto the purchase price of the truck. No couple that with more expensive filters and oil changes as well with the more expensive fuel (in my area diesel is $.20 a gallon more than regular unleaded) and you have to do ALOT of towing to ever see a return on that cost. I tow my travel trailer around 4-5,000 miles a year. At 10 years of ownership I would not even be breaking even.

FWIW the reale value vs longevity arguement is also lame as people just push the one that best fist the arguement. Did you buy it for resale or did you buy it to keep it? You can't have it both ways.

This is another example of intended consequences of not-well-thought-out emission regulations. Pushing more people into gasoline-fueled trucks because of the high cost to meet draconian emission regs will NOT be of any benefit to the environment/air quality.

The trade-off of the typically lower "exhaust emissions" of NOx from gasoline engines is higher evaporative VOC emissions, not only from the vehicle itself, but "upstream" VOC emissions from the storage, distribution and "handling" of highly volatile gasoline or gasoline/ethanol blends.

NOx is NOT the main emission of concern as far as smog generation is concerned, hydrocarbon emissions (e.g., VOC) are.

That should have been "unintended consequences" in my previous post.

"FWIW the reale value vs longevity arguement is also lame as people just push the one that best fist the arguement. Did you buy it for resale or did you buy it to keep it? You can't have it both ways."

Lets see if you take two of the same model year trucks and both have 300.000 miles (If you get a gas that high) which do you think will sell faster the Diesel or the Gas?????? Even at 300.000 miles the Diesel will last longer and yes a properly cared for truck can last linger than 300.000 miles. (been there done that) All this is not to mention the ease at which a diesel does its work whether it be towing or hauling a load of hay! If you come out west you will see that gas engines are NON existent for a good reason!

As said before its not a matter of Diesel being a higher purchase price for Diesel itself it is the lack of refinery's in this country that is the real issue.

I would still rather spend more on a longer lasting better overall happy ownership of a truck than save a few penny's while driving unloaded!

The current GM 6.2L V-8 has an aluminum block, and GM does not want to use an aluminum lock engine in a vehicle that could see heavy towing or commercial use. As for the 'hop up ability' of diesel engines, that is not a factor, as just about every one of those type of modifications are illegal and will void the warranty.

First off, comparing the relative merits of diesel and gasoline engines on the basis of what's gone before is a mug's game.

New innovations, such as OttoCycle compression combustion gas engines and the Ricardo ethanol spark engines are in a place to be potential game changers that make the classic "diesel vs gas" argument a quaint anachronism.

The other part of the equation is that (too) many HD pickups are bought by people that don't (really) need them. They buy them as p**** extensions and they're just looking for a nice big HP number to brag about at the bar. Stupid? Yes, but GM would be even more stupid not to take this large customer base into account in their planning process.

umm....yeah, this can't be a fruitful project. I'm with the poster above!

The way I read this article, one of the main alternatives that will probably show up will be a CNG engine. Both gasoline and diesel engines can be converted (or manufactured) to use CNG. So all the arguments about "please don't think a spark engine can compete with diesel" don't seem to pertain to CNG.

I think the future for CNG is just about here. Already you can buy the fuel for half the price of gasoline or diesel, and with the plentiful supply, CNG probably won't rise in price much for 10-15 years, while gasoline and diesel will probably be selling at at least 5 - 6 dollars a gallon in a couple of years. Already fleets of light-duty and low-torque vehicles of AT&T, Verizon, UPS, FedEX, etc. are being phased over to CNG. But many fleets of higher-torque demanding services like garbage trucks are also converting to CNG, purely on a fuel-cost basis.

Possibly most of the people commenting here drive their vehicles just a few miles per day. They may always have nearly a full load and pull a loaded trailer. They see torque as all important. But there are people who drive these same type vehicles hundreds of miles a day. Those vehicles can save their owners thousands over a couple of years if they have CNG as an alternative (bi-fuel setup where gasoline or diesel is still on board as a back-up fuel).

So I see a definite need for GM and others to have other options on the table for fleet sales to stay strong!

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