Thursday, September 15, 2005

Interesting take on hybrid vehicles

I've never had a lot of use for hybrid vehicles. I've always thought that the extra expense and weight penalties from 2 engines (gas and electric) and all those batteries was an insurmountable hurdle to making them economically efficient.

It seems that the European automakers agree with me.

Few European auto executives can even discuss hybrid technology without referring to a recent test conducted by a German trade magazine, Auto Bild, in which a Mercedes-Benz SUV with a diesel engine was pitted against the Lexus RX 400h in a drive from New York to San Francisco. The Mercedes finished with substantially better fuel efficiency.

Uh-huh. Remember the VW Rabbit and Jetta diesels that got 60 MPG back in the early 80s? Ever see a hybrid do that well in the real world? We have several where I work, and it ain't happenin', captain.

The Europeans are also correct in their assertion that the new generation of clean, super-charged diesels are pretty much indistinguishable from gas engines. If you've seen the GM Duramax engines, then you know what they're talking about. Quiet, clean and powerful. All you can ask for, and the mileage is much better than the equivalent in power gas engine.

Even though the hybrids (mostly Japanese or of Japanese derivation) seem to be carrying the day in marketing terms, I have to wonder if the American
and European carmakers are quietly tooling up to refight the battle.

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