Birchwood Abbey's Jetta TDI

We bought a new car in 2001. The old Mazda was starting to burn serious amounts of oil, so we needed a replacement quick-like. We decided efficiency should be a priority given Erica's commute to a charter school. We considered a hybrid but they were hard to find. Almost as good, the new turbo-diesels had impressive efficiency ratings, sometimes beating the fancy hybrids! The Consumer's Union thought highly of Volkswagen's TDI (turbo, direct-injection) engines, and the 50mpg highway EPA rating was unbeatable. Lori scoured the valley for a silver Golf, and came up with one black Jetta.

The TDI Jetta is not a muscle car. Her 4 little cylinders displace just 1.896L, putting out 90hp. Thus the 50mpg. Like any diesel, she inhales more than enough air to burn all of the fuel pumped into her cylinders. A gasoline engine is designed to throw unburned fuel out the back. Soon after we bought the Jetta, a gasoline pipeline into Phoenix broke and a mild panic ensued. There were lines at the gas pumps; none at the diesel pumps. We actually just waited out the disruption on the remainder of a tank. Efficiency pays dividends.

In 2006, appalled at the continuing slaughter in Iraq, we voted with our pocketbook. We switched from dino-diesel (made out of dinosaurs) to bio-diesel. The Jetta's engine is warranted for use with the bio-diesel common in Europe (rape-methyl esters). Many TDI VW owners in America have been using the soy-ethyl esters produced here, ourselves included. We were proud to say our Jetta's fuel tank contained 100% bio-diesel; 0% blood.

Years later we continued to fetch biodiesel out of the old industrial area in the very center of Phoenix. Every month or two Matt would take 4 5 gallon cans and a three-quarter empty fuel tank down to Western States Petroleum. He tried to go when it was quiet, to reduce the risk of being crushed by a tanker. The following graphs show the prices we paid and the mileage we enjoyed.

The fuel cost a bit more than dino-diesel but it smelled better, like crayons, and the entire re-fueling trip took under an hour — trifles for a bloodless fuel tank.