Diesel hybrid cars, looked at as a niche market by the auto industry, seem to be making many heads turn in Europe as the public and auto manufacturers see the huge potential fuel economy gains that these vehicles offer.
Although diesel versions of sedans have been offered for years by automakers such as Volkswagen with its Golf, Mercedes-Benz and even BMW (which has experimented with putting diesel hybrid technology into its seven-passenger crossover, the X5), the addition of hybrid technology to diesel power is a relatively new phenomenon.
Diesel hybrid vehicles offer mileage in the 50 mpg range. While there have been reports that VW has achieved over 70 mpg with its Golf Diesel. This is quite something when the average biodiesel car still pokes along at relatively slow speeds, offering mileage in the 30 mpg range. While gas-electric hybrid cars, standard fare from most manufacturers now, still leave the automaker content to boast of its Blattmobile’s 36 mpg in hybrid form.
The problem the major manufacturers see with diesel hybrid is plainly cost. Take an example from the United States market–Chrysler’s diesel hybrid pickup–a vehicle that consistently gets over 30 mpg in its current form. That’s quite something when the average pickup, or one with 8-4 technology and half the pistons shutdown when reaching cruising speed, still only averages top out at about 25 mpg.
That extra five mpg is like the Holy Grail to the car industry. It is where they have to be with their pickup fleet sooner, rather than later. The only problem for buyers is this: Chrysler estimates that it will cost a buyer an extra $8,000 for the diesel hybrid option.
So, should the industry turn away from this promising technology simply because it will add cost to a vehicle? The answer to this is the industry will likely embrace the technology and give it the ride it deserves.
Already, Peugeot is set to release a diesel hybrid next year, and Volvo, a member of the house that Ford built, is set to release their version in 2012.
Already, automakers such as VW, BMW, Mercedes (S400), Ford, Porsche, Mahindra, Toyota and Citroen have released versions of their vehicles that embrace diesel hybrid technology.
It is true that the industry has embraced gas hybrid cars as one of the godsends of the present, as they search for the next big thing, and some look as though they are willing to give diesel hybrid technology a very serious look.
At present, there’s no widespread push for this technology. Maybe it will take another round of huge gasoline price increases to make each automaker sit up and take notice there’s a technology that has been around for decades available now that will make their lives far easier.
It will even make environmentalists happy because a diesel hybrid is inherently cleaner than a standard gas-electric hybrid.
Right now, analysts believe you will most likely see this technology used on long-distance people haulers where the industry believes it can spread the cost.