Fuel Fight: Diesel versus Hybrid
CNN puts hybrid Lexus head-to-head with diesel Audi
For now, the answer depends mainly on which market you're talking about. In Europe, for example, clean diesels aren't only mainstream, they're a dominant force; in the States, on the other hand (and thanks to lingering memories of the belching, noxious diesels sold here in the 1970's), green drivers favor hybrid powertrains, be they gas-electric models such as the Toyota Prius or upcoming plug-in iterations.
CNN has picked the luxury segment to be the battleground for an example of each type of technology: The clean diesel Audi A3 TDI, overwhelmingly popular in Europe and critically acclaimed everywhere else, versus Lexus' dedicated hybrid model, the HS 250h. Let's see the results of the face-off:
HYBRID: Lexus HS 250h
The Lexus, to no one's surprise, scores big points for internal luxury, with a futuristic and intuitive driver interface that's packed full of all sorts of tech goodies. Its 35 miles per gallon in city driving and 34 mph on the highway also get high marks. However, due to the size requirements of batteries and Lexus' decision to go with a sedan body (rather than a hatch), the HS 250h lacks trunk space. The batteries provide another lack -- lack of zip. While Lexus models aren't really known for superb driving experience, the lackluster pick-up from the hybrid makes the HS 250h a green, luxury commuter, and not much more.
DIESEL: Audi A3 TDI
Audi has long been a proponent of clean diesels, and the A3 TDI has made more than a few skeptics sit up and listen. The 34 mph combined fuel efficiency has something to do with that (with 30 in the city and a whopping 42 on the highway), it's also because the 5-door hatchback is a blast to drive (diesels provide more low-end torque than gas engines, and that translates to some serious fun behind the wheel) while remaining a spacious, well-appointed hauler: With the rear seats down, the A3 TDI provides an amazing 39 cubic feet of space.
Has anybody else noticed that not one post here touts the "virtues" of hybrids?
While CA regs are tighter than the rest of the planet, all 4 German companies have vehicles which meet them. The technology exists.
With their added complexity of battery packs and all the mechanicals and electronics to "seamlessly" link two separate power sources together, I would sure like to have the bean counters at all the major car companies explain to me how it could possibly be less expensive to design and manufacture a hybrid than it would be to clean up an existing Diesel they have been making for years. Makes you wonder. Someone is getting paid off!
The Lexus isn't really all that green. The marketting and sales on hybids needs to get pulled back to the facts.
What are batteries made of? Rare-earth elemental metals, and lots of them.
What does it take to make batteries? Lots and lots of fuel-oil to mine the materials.
The battery can NEVER recover the fuel consumed to make the batteries before the battery is dead. Hybrids are not green at all.
Diesels are the way to go. Most modern diesel engines (using the new synthetic motor oils) can get 1,000,000+ miles before an overhaul. My diesel is going stong at 500,000mi and although I'll have to replace some parts in the drive train (4x4 parts, alternator, water pump, transmission) fairly soon, that is way, way cheaper and greener than replacing the car. I'll also need new upholstry & carpet, but it'll be good as new...
The reason we don't have diesels in the US is the California regulations. Manufacturers do not want to deal with CA... so they don't bring their diesels here. We don't have choice & VW/Audi get to keep the prices rediculously high. The regs in CA are not "green"... they are just plain stupid. Measure a vehicle's emission by efficiency, not overall percentage (NO2 is the issue). Diesels are cleaner than gas engines if someone would just apply some practical thought to emission regulations.
Joshua: I've been waiting for an article like this. I agree that the reason Diesels don't sell in the US is because Americans are ignorant as to their virtues. While they might understand better fuel economy, better torque will fall on deaf ears. Americans are obsessed with HORSEPOWER. They also have no clue that horsepower is a "derived" number based on torque. The more bottom-end torque the more bottom-end horsepower, and bottom-end is where we mostly drive.
As for the undoing of American's ignorance, that requires education. All of the manufacturers bringing in Diesels say they won't bring any more until they see how the current ones sell. Well here's a news flash for them. If you want to sell something, you have to market it. VW's "punch-dub", BMW's "spinning donuts", Audi "eliciting awe" on drive bys, and Mercedes "rolling a C-class" ain't cutting it. I haven't seen a Diesel spot since Audi's "rolling oil drums". The only people going to buy a Diesel are individuals who have already researched them and know their virtues.
And just wait until all the tree-huggers, poesy sniffers and fools find out how worthless their hybrids will be in a few years. That will be when they determine that not only does their battery pack have to be replaced for more than the car is worth, they will also have to rebuild the internal combustion engine whose rings and bearings are shot from all of the stop-start cycles its programmed to perform without oil pressure under the guise of saving fuel and money. Here's a suggestion, sell them when their warranties expire. Let the next fool learn the lesson.
The problem with the hybrid is long term cost. The batteries will need replacing and the cost will be very high. The Diesel on the other hand is a low maintenance engine that
can run for hundreds of thousands of miles. Its much more durable than a gas engine.
Enough of this hybrid jargon... packing around a load of batteries isn't going to get it done.
It's diesel or nothing!
Now to get the manufacturers to listen... the technology is well proven, mileage is better and I don't have to replace a load bank of batteries!
Thanks much. This is -- what? -- the second catch you've had of my material, I believe.
(Rough stretch lately, eh?)
Anyway, I think there's a perception lag we're dealing with. European manufacturers don't think we'll buy diesels, so we're not offered -- nor educated about -- diesels, which means there's the lack of market for the vehicles is self-perpetuating.
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