I am a big fan of diesel technology for passenger cars, and in a previous post about Mercedes/Audi/VW’s Bluetec technology I wondered about the use of diesel in hybrid configurations. This makes a ton of sense given that gas hybrids just don’t work in large vehicles and trucks (don’t take my word for it, go drive a hybrid equipped pickup truck that gets maybe 2 mpg better than it’s non-hybrid brother and certainly a lot less than a diesel powered version).
The world of automobiles is governed by the inflexible laws of physics and the reality of it is that hybrids simply don’t have the power required to move 2 1/2 tons of mass without the aide of internal combustion engines that have the end result of decreasing economy.
The answer simply isn’t to make lighter vehicles given the economics of exotic materials that are both lightweight and strong, and absent of strength we would then have to face the real requirement to decrease safety standards as a consequence of building large sized lightweight vehicles with current generation materials.
One possible answer is to encourage the adoption of diesel technology, specifically the clean burning Bluetec technology that has been very successful for Mercedes, Audi, and VW. In lightweight cars the mileage is greater than current hybrids (the VW Polo is a 62 mpg vehicle) while doing it without batteries (an environmental issue on their own), complex electronics that have not be proven over several fleet generations, and lastly, diesel is a system widely deployable without licensing Toyota’s hybrid patents.
Bluetec paired up with hybrid technology is equally impressive in overcoming the major shortfall that current generation hybrids have, they simply suck in heavy vehicles. Mercedes Bluetec hybrid S class is a great example of this in action.
A prime example comes in the shape of the S 300 BLUETEC HYBRID with its unique combination of BLUETEC and hybrid technology that has given rise to the world’s most efficient, most environment-compatible premium passenger car. As a 4-cylinder with hybrid module it develops a combined system output of 165 kW / 224 hp and a maximum torque of 560 Nm, a figure more reminiscent of a large-displacement V8 petrol unit. The luxury saloon delivers effortless performance yet consumes just 5.4 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres – equivalent to just 142 grams of CO2 per kilometre 57 grams or around 30 percent less than the current consumption and emissions benchmark in the S Class segment.
The S Class is a 5,000 pound car that with a standard 8 or 12 cylinder gasoline engine achieves 15-17mpg on average. With a 6 cylinder Bluetec diesel engine that number spikes up to 26 mpg at 340+ hp, making for not just better fuel economy but also impressive performance. A similarly equipped 4 cylinder Bluetec hybrid S Class, as referenced above, is capable of achieving 43 mpg at 224 hp, but with the torque displacement still hitting an impressive 413 lb-ft stat. Anyone who knows cars will tell you that hp is fun but torque is what makes you go.
It’s time for the U.S. to get on diesel technology, not only will emissions be reduced as a consequence of higher fleet fuel economy but we will achieve it with technology that is widely available today, proven over many decades of development, and cost effective.