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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-09-2006, 03:18 AM Thread Starter
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Default Does the hybrid technology make sense at all?

Sorry for the heretical question - I may not become very popular on this website.

Why this question? I read this article today:

Hybrids not profitable, Nissan exec says

WASHINGTON (AP) A top Nissan Motor Co. executive in North America said the hybrid market remains an unprofitable proposition in the auto industry despite the interest in alternative vehicles.
"Hybrids today are not a very viable economic proposition. It's still a loss-making proposition," said Dominique Thormann, Nissan North America's senior vice president for administration and finance, on Thursday.

So the car industry is not profiting, the consumer has to pay a premium of $3000, the tax payer has to reimburse the driver for the higher price with tax incentives, the mileage in real life does not come close to the 55mpg, stated by the EPA for the Prius --- so who is actually winning?

Of course, you will say "The environment" - really? Aren't there other, equally beneficial but less expensive possibilities?

I was recently in Europe and had an Opel (= GM - they HAVE the technology!!) station wagon with diesel turbo engine as a rental car.

Man, what a car. The acceleration was excellent, the typical diesel clack, clack totally missing, very comfortable sound level, and you could stick your nose into the tail pipe. Almost no smell. The best was the mileage. This car seemed to run on air.

At 70 mph the board computer showed 48mpg at 60mph more than 55 - so this is hybrid range, isn't it, without the additional gadgetary of the hybrids, which produce a big chunk of toxic waste every several years.

Now I wanted to know what the car could do - even at indicated 150 mph (you read right - Germany does not have speed limit) it consumed a mere 25mpg.

And costs? Europe is horrible expensive with fuel, but the diesel was about $1 cheaper per gallon than regular gasoline.

I found this very convincing and dug a bit deeper. Where did the old "loud and dirty diesel" go?

Europe has done quite some development. No wonder that more than 50% of new cars are now diesel.

With common rail injection the Euro4 standard diesels have 93% less suspended particulate matter (SPM) than in the 1990s. The new Euro5 standard with carbon filters will reduce this to 97%.

Smoking a cigarette, vacuuming your living room, frying your steak, using your charcoal barbecue or open fire place creates actually much more SPM.

CO2 is less than gasoline engines and de-Noxification is on the horizon with two competing systems from Honda and Daimler-Chrysler.

But where is the US standing in this respect? Bottleneck was the fuel -- up to now 500ppm sulfur compared to 15ppm in Europe.

With ultra-low sulfur diesel now gradually becoming available in California, we will hopefully see more of these cars.

I recommend the following articles for further background information on this topic: ... yer_en.pdf ... aub_en.pdf
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-09-2006, 08:14 AM
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Default Re: Does the hybrid technology make sense at all?

This is basically a comparison to utra-low sulfur diesel (USLD).

Profitability: right now agreed. I can't see hybrids being a profitable venture--at least in the US--unless gas prices get over $4-5/gal.

Cost for purchasers: the economy hybrids are not that much out of line considering US federal tax breaks, combined with other hybrid incentives, cutting well into that generally $3000 extra comparison.

Gas mileage: in overall driving situations, the Prius beats the mileage of any diesel--TDI, Smart Car--and it's a bigger more roomier car.

Environment: NO comparison. PZEV beats ULSD. Although I can't find a source, I would guess ULSD will be merely as clean as conventional gas vehicles (definitely a welcome improvement), making PZEV 90% less polluting.

One great possibility: a hybrid that's ULSD.

In conclusion, the above does not weigh the pros and cons and is therefore one-sided. I maintain that hybrid technology is a worthwhile transistion toward clean forms of transportation.
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-09-2006, 08:41 AM
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I would welcome a few more details on the numbers you gave on your Opel diesel. They do not match what I found in a quick check of Opel's website. I checked the numbers on the largest diesel they offer on these three models--

Astra - 150 hp - top speed of 131 mph

Vectra - 184 hp - top speed of 140 mph

Signum - 184 hp - top speed of 139 mph

I picked the largest diesel in each car, since you said you were driving at 150mph (or did you mean kph?!?)

The midsize car, the Vectra is rated at about 34 mpg at 62 mph.

I am not saying these are not good cars or that diesels are not a good alternative. I was close to getting a VW tdi before going for the Prius. It just doesn't look to me like your numbers line up.


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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-09-2006, 09:41 AM
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However, I believe the facts posted by Hamaka are those which have been looked at by a lot more manufacturers than Nissan.
I think what Toyota has done is commendable. The result though being fantastic in engineering circles is a far cry from a standard automobile.

It will be interesting to see what the Daimler/Chrysler, GM, and Ford coalition come up with to be a viable contender to the hybrid movement.

I guess what I am trying to indicate is that I believe the Camry hybrid is really not as good an all around automobile as the Camry V6. Again, this is just my personal opinion.

Hamaka did not indicate whether he has driven a Prius in the same mode as the Opal. Might have been a better indicaton. I know we can read just about any figure on the indicators in the car but the weekly fill-up at the pump tells the real story on milage.

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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-09-2006, 10:22 AM
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I do believe that Toyota has made the hybrid system profitable to MAKE, otherwise they would have left their development at the Prius and not expand on it as they have, nor would have Ford gone over to use a similar, if not the same HSD.

However, saying that there's little financial gain for the owner in getting an HSD car, you might have a case.

Just to let you all know however, that I have been tracking my mileage since I bought the car in August of 2004. I had been getting 55 MPG lifetime average in real numbers, 57 using the display, although since getting better tires this has dropped about 3 to 5 MPG. After 73K miles, I have saved $2000 in comparison to what I would have spent with my former Saturn SL2, which I averaged about 33 MPG, and about a 1/3 of that was when gas was around $1.80/gal. At this rate, I should break even at 109K, if the $3000 premium number is acurate.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-09-2006, 11:54 PM
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The only thing about Prius owners getting close to EPA numbers is that they work for it. The great majority of car drivers are not willing to do that. I would be willing to bet less than 10% of car owners have an accurate idea of their mileage. I've tracked mileage on all my vehicles for the last 40 years, and I've always enjoyed good mileage, which for a while, could only be gotten on a motorcycle.
I had high hopes for the Prius, but test drives keeps letting me down!
As far as diesels go, a Jetta diesel beat a Prius on a cross-country in a magazine article. However, diesel is about 20% more expensive than gas. Now, if you do a lot of fried food, you can set up your own distillery. We were stuck in traffic behind a Jetta diesel yesterday, and it smelled like french fries!
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-10-2006, 01:14 AM
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That guy who wrote the article is playing with numbers

48mpg is UK gallons.. ditto 55mpg... Unless for whatever strange reason, the trip computer in that Opel reads US gal which is ridiculous. So, it ISN'T hybrid range.

Per, 150mph is correct. You can do that kind of speed on the autobahn. You just have to find the right stretch.

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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-10-2006, 01:58 AM
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Don't worry, hamako - we love you.

First, if you were to drive your Opel diesel in stop-and-go traffic, you'd find it didn't get mpg remotely comparable to a Prius.

Second, as I understand it - and someone please correct me if I'm wrong - isn't there a price premium for diesel engines that burn the new low-sulphur fuel? So the price differential may not be significant.

Third, you make the common error of assuming that hybrid technology is mature. This is not the case: Compared with the 2001/03 Prius, the 2004/06 Prius is larger, has better performance, and better mpg - and this is with no major change in battery technology. With the more energy-intensive batteries that currently being developed, the "diesels are as energy-efficient as hybrids" argument will be put to rest once and for all.

Fourth, you're mislead by the lower price of diesel fuel in Europe. The huge differential is not a question of production costs, but of taxes: Europe promotes diesel use by taxing it less heavily. In Colorado, where the tax on diesel and on gasoline are the same, diesel has been running about 10 percent more than gasoline for the past 18 months or so.

But this brings me to a real question: Does anybody here know the economics and chemistry of diesel fuel versus gasoline? For instance, from a given barrel of oil, how much leeway does the distiller have in choosing to make gasoline or diesel? This is a potentially major issue that I've never seen addressed satisfactorily. The whole either/or question may be pointless if it turns out that it's most efficient to create both gasoline and diesel fuel from a barrel of crude oil.
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-10-2006, 12:45 PM
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Diesel fuel is subsidized in Europe as a hidden farm subsidy. That's why it's so inexpensive (compared to gasoline). This is also why many car owners and builders have gone diesel, and why there are so many "cool" diesel vehicles available in Europe. Here in NA, as stated above, diesel is not subsidized, and is actually more expensive than gasoline. Hence, vehicle manufacturers do not try to push diesel powered vehicles here - they cost more to operate.

Nissan may not think they can make a profit on hybrids, but Toyota does. This has been discussed many times. Nissan is buying the technology from Toyota and that may be a factor. Nissan is not a "fuel mileage" company - Toyota is. That may be another factor (not knowing how to market a high mileage vehicle).

A diesel powered vehicle will emit more CO2 per mile than a gasoline powered vehicle as diesel fuel contains more carbon. This will eventually tilt the balance to hybrid gasoline/natural gas/hydrogen powered vehicles by nations trying to limit the "carbon load" they produce. They will do this with taxes (a form of "carbon tax").

Once again, although I would agree there is probably some extra purchase cost associated with the hybrid components of the Prius, there is no way to prove what it is. The Prius has about the same passenger and cargo room as a non hybrid Camry and costs about the same. My take is there is therefore no extra hybrid cost added to the Prius. The hybrid Camry has an extra hybrid cost and it can be seen in a direct price comparison. I like to view that as a "conversion cost" - the car was designed as a non hybrid and converted to hybrid.

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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-10-2006, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by David Beale
A diesel powered vehicle will emit more CO2 per mile than a gasoline powered vehicle as diesel fuel contains more carbon.
I'm pretty sure that's incorrect... You may be right that diesel contains more carbon per litre (longer carbon chains, so a higher ratio of carbon to hydrogen, but this would be a pretty small difference), but you're forgetting another important factor. Because diesel fuel contains more stored energy, substantially less of it is burned per kilometre. This would offset the effect you described, and in fact, according to, a diesel 2006 Volkswagen Jetta emits quite a bit less GHGs than its gas-powered counterpart (5.6 tons/yr vs. 7.4 tons/yr).

Of course, the Prius has them both beat at 3.4 tons
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