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Commercially cooked hamburgers emit more particulate matter than heavyduty diesel trucks
<p> Commercially cooked hamburgers emit more particulate matter than heavy-duty diesel trucks.</p>

Charbroiled Burgers Fire Up Diesel Prospects

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.

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