Hooniverse Asks: Is Hybrid Electric the New Diesel?

While diesel cars are still offered to consumers around the globe, and to a lesser degree here in the U.S., Volkswagen’s malfeasance regarding the cleanliness of their oil burning offerings has made it tough for everyone else.
Diesels have for some time been the motor of choice for those seeking to eke out the maximum mileage from their fuel source dollar (or bartered chickens if you live someplace that uses chickens as a means of exchange). Now, much of that is unraveling.
What’s an economically conscious individual (i.e. skinflint) to do? You could try driving a gasoline-powered conveyance. Of course if you want to get close to diesel mileage it’s going to have to be something small and not all that powerful. I’ve driven both the Chevy Cruze turbo diesel and it’s high-mileage turbo 1.4 Eco gas alternative and to be honest, the Diesel was the better car by far.
Okay, so gas isn’t the panacea to dirty diesels, but what about hybrids and electric cars? As more and more enter the market, and with greater range, do you think hybrids/electrics will fully take the place of diesels as the high-efficiency choice? What would stand in their way?
Image: AllWallpapers

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  1. Grant Linderman Avatar
    Grant Linderman

    This is probably the worst part about VW’s issues – that other automakers will offer fewer diesels in the US because of the stigma. And I say that as a current (soon-to-be-former?) owner of a ’12 Jetta TDI. My question is… why hasn’t the value of A7 and A8 TDIs fallen like literally every other Audi/VW TDI model?

  2. Mister Sterling Avatar
    Mister Sterling

    If your focus is economy runs and not torque / towing, then the answer is yes. I wouldn’t have considered a hybrid 10 years ago. Now I am inching closer to buying the Kia Niro this fall. The reviewers in Europe are far exceeding Kia’s conservative 50MPG combined target. I think Andrew P. Collins will review it, as might Jeff. Aside from brakes and lights, there isn’t much you can modify. But I am looking at it as the CRX HF of this decade. Super efficient and somewhat engaging to drive. We shall see.
    In the 1980s, my family would take me to Cape Cod for 2 weeks every August. And in places like Wellfleet and Truro, a lot of summer homes were (and are) owned by psychiatrists, doctors, and professors from Manhattan. And their car of choice back then was what we call a unicorn now – brown Mercedes turbo-diesel wagons (most automatic, however). Now with the electric era hopefully taking off, were are beginning to see this nice blend of torque, efficiency, and European-style luxury available to the affluent classes. The Tesla X is quickly becoming the “family wagon” of the Hamptons.
    But for everyday drivers, a hybrid is now the alternative to diesels. The diesels today that are honest, emissions-wise, are over-engineered and as a result, quite expensive. The diesel Grand Cherokee is impressive, but nearly costs as much as a Range Rover.
    As we have seen, Americans buy cars based on the price of gas TODAY. So it’s going to be a while before people flock to hybrids again. But hybrids are getting better and better in preparation for the inevitable.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      The Niro looks like a very good proposition!
      In my neck of the woods, diesel had been officially supported by tax incentives for a long time when smog/particle shutdowns due to inversion in mountainous areas became a regularity. That stopped the diesel craze and sales fell drastically. The three biggest cities of the country are discussing no go areas for diesel powered cars.
      No secret that the current incentives in Norway are all for electric cars, but also plug in hybrids are favoured and thus very popular. I’d get one, too, but other priorities (space utilization, reliability, general excitement) weigh heavier. I was never a fan of diesels and the last year’s developments have not changed that.

    2. 993cc Avatar

      As you mention, it is the need for towing that keeps me in the diesel camp. I love the idea of the volt, but for now it seems they just aren’t suited for towing. From what I read, the battery cooling systems can’t take it. Until there is some further advance in the technology, there is no alternative to diesel for the combination of efficiency and towing ability I need.

  3. engineerd Avatar

    I’m waiting for a true diesel-electric series hybrid that I can connect to my home as a backup generator.

    1. theskitter Avatar

      For two locomotives, I take it your house is 5 million square feet, and also an entire suburb?

      1. engineerd Avatar

        The locomotives are to illustrate a true diesel-electric series hybrid…though, if someone were to offer me two locomotives I would not turn them down and would gladly power the entire city.

  4. kogashiwa Avatar

    I think for the average person already when they think of getting an efficient car the hybrid comes to mind first.
    But I also think hybrids are a very temporary transitional stage until BEVs are mainstream.

  5. Kiefmo Avatar

    I hope so.
    I hope the popularity of diesel cars tanks. Flatlines, even — and the used market with it.
    More cheap diesels for me!

  6. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    The skinflint choice is to drive a used car with good gas milage that’s in good repair. (Ask me how I know…) Especially a car that’s already been through a brutal cycle of depreciation. You can buy a lot of gas for the difference between two grand and twenty grand. Operating efficiency is also a very good thing to try to optimize, but of a lesser order. Diesels get better milage in large part because of the greater power density per gallon. Diesel cost is moderate, mainly because governments tend to set taxes on diesel fuel low, in order to benefit the trucking industry. Taxes can change. The fallout from the VW scandal may well be that the resale value of all diesels will drop substantially, and possibly other gasoline cars, because air quality certifications on the whole have been called into question. I would think VW will suffer most, most rapidly.

  7. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    An odd choice of lead illustration? The Renault Zoe is a pure electric car like it’s sister the Nissan Leaf.
    Perhaps BMW’s i3 or Chevrolet’s Volt would be a better illustration?

  8. Maymar Avatar

    Considering how much of diesel’s reputation was built on smoky VW Rabbits and Benz W123s that could barely best myself on a Big Wheel in a drag race, I don’t know how much power has ever been part of the appeal. Excepting some of Gale Banks’s efforts and the occasional racing car, a good number of them have been a little on the leisurely side, but unstressed while doing so.
    Now, considering how common 40mpg is today, or that Car & Driver is arguing the merits of the Sonata Eco over the 2.0T (to the sort of person who reads C&D no less), regular gas engines are bordering on good enough to render diesel irrelevant. The Prius is a good substitute to a certain class of buyer though.

  9. crank_case Avatar

    I think the problem is the idea that any fuel source/propulsion type is a “panacea” is the problem, especially in Europe where they try to use motor related taxation as a form of social engineering, so a lot of people got funneled into buying diesel because its low CO2 and Euro car makers had over-invested in the tech when it really didn’t suit the needs of anyone in an urban/suburban area not doing big distances every day. Lots of people wondering why their DPF had clogged up.
    We need to get our heads around the idea that one thing is not going to solve this. Different solutions for different things, in fact, things often work best when you’ve got access to more than one thing, like an EV for short trip commuting and a diesel or gasoline car for other use.
    I think diesels are good for some things, like larger vehicles that cover big distance, perhaps even with hybridization, and not even how you’d think, you can use electricity to keep a turbo spooling for example.
    The naturally aspirated otto cycle (gasoline) engine gets forgotten, but it’s still a great all round solution and cleaner than its ever been and easy to maintain. It can suit some people like myself that do very little mileage. There’s too much of a rush into low emissions / high efficiency vehicles without looking at the big picture of overall lifestyle and cradle to grave energy use. All more efficient vehicles do is encourage people to carry on with the same or longer dumb commute lifestyle so you sort of make very little difference to overall energy use. What’s worse, using a diesel or hybrid every day for a long commute or having a percieved “gas guzzler” that only gets used recreationally because you either cycle to work, work from home or use public transport?
    EV cars are good in congested areas, but electric motorcycles/mopeds are even better, motorcycles are an often overlooked aspect of tranport policy, yet their advantages are obvious. Perfect for single person commuting, cut through congestion, less overall running time, less energy.
    Essentially, I don’t want any one thing to be the “new diesel”