Steane Klose | Jul 22, 2007

You may think that we are a little one-eyed in our dislike of the Toyota Prius and what its petrol-electric hybrid cousins represent. You may also think that our interest in clean diesel technology is a little over the top – but – it would seem that we are not as alone as first thought. Those manic survey people from J.D. Power have received some interesting results in a recent survey on just this subject.

J.D. Powers second annual ‘Alternative Powertrain Study’ shows a drop in the percentage of new car shoppers who would consider buying a hybrid (55 percent down to 50 percent) and an increase in those who would consider a vehicle with a clean diesel (12 percent up to 23 percent). It found that US consumers were prepared to pay an extra $2,396 for a hybrid but in return expected an 18.5 mpg increase in economy and the supposedly super economical hybrids are not delivering.

The biggest issue with hybrids is that the technology is designed around stop-start city type driving where significant fuel savings can be achieved. The engine stop-start technology and the ability to run solely on electrical energy make sense in this environment. Unfortunately, in free flowing traffic or at speed on the highway the average hybrid has little advantage. In-fact they are generally underpowered and overweight (thanks to their batteries and hybrid mechanicals) which is hardly a recipe for optimum efficiency.

Potential diesel purchasers are prepared to pay an extra $1,491 for the privilege and expect a 15 mpg improvement in fuel efficiency. While the price premium may be a little under what is needed to tick the diesel option on many models the expected fuel savings are possible.

Clean diesel powered vehicles have a number of advantages over petrol-electric hybrids. No batteries and thus no added weight, considerably more torque than the usual limp-wristed petrol engines found in hybrids, potentially less maintenance over time and potentially better fuel efficiency when combined with hybrid technologies like engine stop-start as seen in the Mini Cooper D.

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All we need now is a manufacturer to build an eco-friendly clean diesel car with a unique and identifiable design like the Toyota Prius. If they do this, the eco-friendly poseurs (current Prius owners) and people looking for a genuinely simple fuel efficient alternative will line up in droves. The eco-diesel will be fuel efficient, reasonably priced and fun to drive…unlike the average petrol-electric hybrid.

Alternatively, a diesel-electric hybrid would bring the benefits of both technologies together and may save Toyota who are busy waving the hybrid wand over every vehicle in their range.

Source : Autobloggreen

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