10 December 2009

Diesel Electric Hybrid! Finally They are Planning for Them

At the LA Auto Show VW is showing their first diesel electric hybrid. The Up! Light is designed to get 70 mpg and is not a "plug in" electric car. It will produce its own electricity and drive off primarily a 2 cyl. turbo diesel engine. About a year ago both VW and Fiat discussed to the press that they would not consider diesel electric hybrids because the cost would be too high and they predicted that consumers would not purchase them. Apparently they have changed their minds, this includes Fiat also. Remember that the VW, Mercedes Benz and Fiat are the technology leaders in diesel production. Their engines can also be found in other manufacturers' cars (example: Fiat makes the diesel engines that power the Ford Fiesta and Focus).

LA Auto Show 2009 Volkswagen-Up-Lite Photo Courtesy Road & Track

I have proposed them for the last several years and could not understand why nobody was developing them for cars. We see diesel electric hybrids in operation for over fifty years - they are diesel locomotives that exclusively power our modern day trains. Something nice about diesel electric hybrid cars is that the fuel does not have be a petroleum product. They can run on biodiesel made from used fryer oil and at 70 mpg you won't need a lot of that. My proposed car is actually propelled by (proprietary information not to revealed) similar to train locomotives.

There are "plug-in" electric cars proposed by some car manufacturers (and a few currently available) but these are usually a worse environmental choice than a car with really low fuel consumption. The reason for that is the majority of electricity available in the U.S. is produced from coal or gas. The quantity of noxious emissions created by the electricity generated to charge the batteries for an electric car is larger than the quantity of emissions from the average gas powered car (for coal or gas sourced electricity). Unless the "plug-in" electric car gets its electricity from a safe renewable source (i.e. solar, wind, hydro electric), there is a negative environmental impact. The only good point is the emissions of the plug-in car are zero, but the power plant will be spewing a higher quantity of emissions.

So, before buying an electric only car or an electric hybrid car, really research the information including where that electricity does come form to power that plug-in electric car that you may consider. Also research the batteries.

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