So, why have diesel fuel systems struggled in the American car market? To fully understand this curious phenomenon, you need to first know the history of the man behind the system, Rudolf Diesel.
Who Was Rudolf Diesel?
Rudolf Diesel was born in Paris in 1858, but his parents were both German. He went to school in his family's German hometown, Augsburg, and then studied engineering from the Munich Technical School, where he set a university record for receiving the highest grades of any student that ever attended.
Not long after Diesel graduated, he began designing a new vehicle ignition system that he hoped would be more efficient than the steam engines that were common during that time. With the support of the car manufacturing team at Machinenfabrik Augsburg Aktiengesellschaft, or MAN AG, he revealed an internal compression engine that was not only more efficient, but also compatible with a wide variety of different machines, from trains to marine crafts to automobiles.
Diesel originally used peanut oil in his compression engine, but then settled on a petroleum by-product that is known today as simply "diesel fuel."
Diesel's Rough Start in America
Rudolf Diesel attempted to introduce diesel into the United States, but he was unable to get a strong toehold in this country. Adolphus Busch, the infamous American beer brewer, took on Diesel's creation and tried to manufacture and distribute these engines in the United States. Unfortunately, the business venture was a financial disaster, and the diesel fuel system failed to catch on in America.
Nearly broke and with a future uncertain, Diesel returned to Europe. In 1913, he boarded a steamship en route from Germany to England, and mysteriously disappeared on the journey. Some historians suggest that the German government suspected Diesel was selling his patents to the English army--being broke, he was desperate to sell his creations to anyone who would give him money. The majority belief, however, is that Diesel committed suicide as a result of his imminent financial doom, which hit rock bottom when his product failed in the United States.
Diesel Fuel After Diesel
After Rudolf Diesel passed away, diesel still continued to struggle on this continent. The trucking industry began popularizing diesel fuel, but this love for diesel was short-lived. In the 1980s, the federal government increased the tax rate for diesel fuel but not petroleum gasoline, and this was the final nail in the coffin.
Today, Americans can receive tax credits for certain diesel-based vehicles, but diesel never did quite take off in the way that it has in the rest of the world. In 2014, car consumers began to rethink how they previously felt about these automobiles, so the future looks promising for Rudolf Diesel's creation. Only time will tell, but it is definitely too soon to cross off the success of diesel in the United States.
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