Diesel Hybrids – The Hybrids Of The Future?

I came across a news story yesterday about the new BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics X5 Concept Vehicle (talk about a mouthful to say…) and was pretty excited. Finally, a company is coming out with a diesel hybrid vehicle.

It reminded me of a conversation I was having with some friends back in December about why I thought was the best progression for us to not only lessen our dependency on foreign oil but to use less oil in general.

I contended that since electric and hydrogen fuel cells aren’t quite ready for prime time that we should take advantage of what we currently have available to us – diesel engines. Diesel powered vehicles are no longer the smelly, noisy vehicles you may be picturing. In fact, many of the new diesel cars are just as quiet as their gasoline powered counterparts.

And to give you an idea of how much more efficient diesel cars are than gas powered vehicles, the VW Polo (not available in the United States… yet) is a diesel powered cars that gets 70mpg+. Compare that to a Prius which only gets about 50mpg at best, and you can see the advantages that diesel has over gasoline and even over gas hybrid cars. Not only that, but the Polo sells for less than $20,000 while the Prius starts at $21,500.

So my thought is that in the short term we should be aiming to drive diesel cars, then diesel hybrid cars, and diesel plug-in hybrid cars. Adding hybrid capabilities and other technology on the horizon to efficient diesel engines could easily push some vehicles into the 100mpg range. And at the kind of mileage you probably wouldn’t care that diesel costs more than gasoline.

Making these changes would greatly reduce the amount of oil we use and need to import on a daily basis, and none of it requires any technology we don’t already have. Heck, just having everyone switch to diesel would make a dramatic difference.

And from there we could move towards fully electric vehicles which draw their power from our electric grid which is a far more efficient way to generate power than to use our internal combustion engines. Also, leaving power generation to the power plants is also far more enviromentally friendly.

And while I just posted about hydrogen fuel cell cars yesterday, I’m not convinced that hydrogen fuel cells are the future of our vehicles. However, I’d be happy to see us driving hydrogen fuel cell / plug-in electric hybrids. That way, we’d still be leaving the bulk of the power generation to the electric grid (trust me, that’s a good thing, the power grid is constantly getting cleaner and more efficient unlike our engines) and we’d still be able to drive across the country by filling up with hydrogen, and our cars would be zero emission.

And while that may be a bit far out right now (probably 20-30+ years), diesel hybrids will be here shortly. Let’s get back to talking about the BMW X5 that inspired me to make this post in the first place.

A typical BMW X5 that you can buy today gets about 18mpg. It may be a pleasure to drive, but it gets crappy gas mileage just like so many of its SUV brethren. The new BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics on the other hand gets over 40mpg with its diesel hybrid engine. In addition to the the hybrid system (which is an innovation in this vehicle itself), it also takes advantage of solar panels mounted on the roof to help charge the batteries, and even the wheels and tires are designed to help you improve gas mileage.

Right now it’s looking like you’ll have to wait until 2010 to get one of these in the United States, which as you already know if you’ve been a long time reader here is going to be a great year for “green” cars.

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Posted: June 19th, 2008
at 7:23pm by Fuel Saver


Categories: Alternative Fuel Vehicles,Fuel Technology

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