Sunday, 23 October 2011

Hybrid vs Diesel

There is little doubt as to the direction car manufacturers are headed when it comes to cars of the future.

As oil prices continue to rise, the race is on amongst car manufacturers to mass produce an electric car that is affordable to buy, service and maintain. Zero fuel, zero emissions.

Fuel efficient cars come in various sizes, fuel types and engine configurations.

If you are chasing just pure numbers when it comes to best fuel economy and long range mileage, you can't go past a diesel car. Most modern diesels are fitted with turbo chargers which not only boost fuel efficiency, but also increase horsepower and torque.

I once owned a turbo diesel hatch which could easily run 1200km (750 miles) on 50 litres of diesel. That's 4.2 litres per 100km or 57 miles per gallon!! What I loved about that car was not having to refuel my car every week. It also had surprising performance for a small engine and I could almost go a month before refuelling.

This is why diesel cars are the rage in Europe. Only $30 of diesel per month it was costing me!!

It has been suggested by car manufacturers and retailers that hybrid cars (petrol electric power) are as fuel efficient, if not more than a diesel. I can say from my experience that hybrids are definately not as efficient.

It is true that hybrids will consume less petrol because they are powered by both an electric motor and a small petrol engine. The petrol engine will switch off under certain driving conditions to save on fuel and the electric motor is used to assist the smaller engine in accelerating.

Driving a hybrid, I found the fuel economy to be marginal in improvement over a comparable petrol engine. Compared to a diesel, the hybrid does not even come close in fuel economy.

I discovered that hybrids are more suited to driving in peak hour, heavy traffic conditions where cars are constantly subjected to idling, starting and stopping within a short distance. For open road driving and in less congested areas, the saving in fuel is minimal.

A petrol engined car with a small engine could easily match or better the fuel economy figures produced by a hybrid.

Until a car that runs on solar electricity is produced and sold, hybrids are a band aid solution in getting people to use less fuel and a good marketing exercise. I most very likely will use less fuel in one year with my 12 year old V8 powered car than someone who drives their hybrid often.

For the moment, saving fuel and being green means simply driving less.

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