What About Diesel Hybrids?

by Richard T. Stuebi

My good friend Gerrit visited me last week from Canada, driving down his prized Mercedes diesel. We talked about diesel autos, and how they were likely to be an increasing part of the energy/environmental solution.

Gerrit told me that he had been hearing that auto manufacturers were losing enthusiasm for hybrids, coming to the realization that most Americans drive lots of highway miles, for which diesels are simpler, cheaper and more efficient than hybrids.

Certainly, diesel hybrid designs are beginning to show up for commercial vehicles, such as delivery vans and garbage trucks. For instance, Eaton (NYSE: ETN) announced earlier this year a pilot program for UPS (NYSE: UPS) involving a diesel delivery truck with a hydraulic (not battery) motive augmentation system.

But what about diesel hybrid autos? Is anyone doing anything interesting in that field? If not, why not?

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

5 replies
  1. Mary
    Mary says:

    Can diesels be clean? Personally, I'm very opposed to more diesel, as being in the wake of one on a highway, however small, means an instant headache.mary leonarddetroit

  2. jcwinnie
    jcwinnie says:

    Well, first let me challenge what I perceive as misinformation. A study of American driving habits show that 75% American drive 40 miles of less daily.Still, your fundamental assertion remains sound. Diesel is better than diesel-hybrid for highway driving. For instance, it is inefficient to equip large heavy duty Class 8 over-the-road haulers with anything more than small efficient battery packs for Auxiliary Power Units rather than running the diesel engine for power when parked.There <a HREF="http://jcwinnie.biz/wordpress/?tag=combustion+electricdrive&quot; rel="nofollow">are some efforts underway for passenger cars that are flex-fuel, plug-in, diesel-electric hybrids, mainly by Fiat. For instance, such a drive train was designed for the Ultra Low Carbon Challenge.* Note: To qualify in the Ultra Low Carbon Car Challenge, “a car must be able to fit an entire family, have CO2 emissions of under 100g/km and return fuel consumption of 75mpg or better”.More recently, BMW, Daimler AG, Porsche, and VW/Audi have demonstrated prototype diesel-hybrid drive trains, although these remain true to the ICE paradigm rather than embrace the Frank axiom. They may <a HREF="http://jcwinnie.biz/wordpress/?p=2600&quot; rel="nofollow">have to forgo such allegiance to meet Euro 6 standards.BTW: The company that makes your good friend Gerrit's prized diesel emit the most CO2 among European automakers, whereas PSA Peugeot-Citroen <a HREF="http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/11/19/psa-leads-the-way-on-co2-emissions-in-europe/&quot; rel="nofollow">leads the list. Both companies make excellent diesel engines.

  3. Tom Konrad
    Tom Konrad says:

    Like many energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, there is a diminishing return as you use more measures. If a hybrid drivetrain can increase fuel efficiency 30%, and a diesel can increas efficiency 20%, you only get a 44% increase if you do both… but you pay the full cost. Once you start looking at those numbers, you might be better off and just going to an EV with a giant battery pack.That said, Mecedes announced a diesel hybrid concept in 2005, and GM's E-Flex hybrid platform is planned to accomodate any power supply, from gas to diesel to fuel cell.

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