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Diesel Hybrids Real Soon Now
Jamais Cascio, 21 Mar 05

Last June, we asked where the diesel-electric hybrid cars were. After all, diesel engines tend to get higher gas mileage per gallon than gasoline engines, and biodiesel shows some promise as a way of reducing dependence on petroleum. Adding hybrid tech would have the potential to boost mileage figures even higher than that of the Prius or Insight. It turns out that such technology had been tested, but (aside from narrow uses) never really rolled out in passenger vehicles. Today, however, Wired has a report detailing efforts on the part of automakers GM and DaimlerChrysler (known to be working together to play catch-up with hybrids) to bring out hybrid diesels in the near future, with the potential to boost fuel efficiency by up to 25%.

The downside appears to be price, with manufacturers claiming that the technology would add up to $8,000 to the cost of a vehicle. I'm skeptical of these figures, however. Automakers currently suing the state of California to block the implementation of CO2 emission reduction rules have a vested interest in showing that making their vehicles more efficient would be too costly.

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Comments

Combine diesel hybrids with a cleaner burning and less harmful to produce synthetic diesel alternative like DME, and you've got a pretty compelling equation for a stopgap solution while we wait for the hydrogen economy to be realized.

Click here for more on DME and coal gasification...


Posted by: Rod Edwards on 21 Mar 05

Actually, FedEx has been using hybrid electric diesels for at least a year now on some of their delivery vehicles.

http://www.fedex.com/us/about/responsibility/environment/hybridelectricvehicle.html?link=4


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 21 Mar 05

Yeah, the wired article that Jamais cited mentions industrial/commercial applications that have been in use for some time... who knew?


Posted by: Rod Edwards on 21 Mar 05

Yeah, the wired article that Jamais cited mentions industrial/commercial applications that have been in use for some time... who knew?

It also mentions that the automakers are experimenting to get them to work in "all operating environments". What that means is that fuels like biodiesel will become solid in temperatures like we get here in Minnesota.

It seems there's always going to be trade-offs with these different design approaches.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 21 Mar 05

Diesel hybrid trucks are seeing some use, yes, and (completely coincidentally) Alex just posted about diesel hybrid trains. But my focus here is on passenger vehicles; I'll adjust the wording to make that more clear.


Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 21 Mar 05

I don't expect GM and Chrysler to impress me much with this. They'll probably just make even bigger SUVs.

I'd like to see Honda use it's award-winning new diesel engine technology with a Prius-type full-hybrid (and not serial like Honda's hybrids) technology in a sedan. Or maybe Toyota also has some nice diesel engines that I'm not familiar with.


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 21 Mar 05

After all, diesel engines tend to get higher gas mileage per gallon than gasoline engines

Yes, but there's the issue of refinery yield, which in the US requires that diesel engines be roughly twice as fuel-efficient to break even.


Posted by: Richard Albury on 21 Mar 05

The original Worldchanging article about diesel-hybrids included the fact that biodiesel can be used.
This effectively tackles the question of the "refinery yield".
Europe imports diesel, while it exports gasoline. That's why the EU's biofuels directive is aimed at increasing biodiesel consumption, to limit this refinery gap.



Posted by: Lorenzo on 22 Mar 05



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