Is it possible that Americans will finally
learn what the rest of the world has known for many years, that diesel
power is the most practical propulsion means for moving cars and
trucks around public roadways? In a recent AutoWeek Magazine article
pitting the new VW Jetta TDI (Turbo Direct Injection) with automatic, against the hybrid cars from
Toyota and Honda, the VW left the gasoline hybrid techno-wizards
scratching their heads.
This is something we, at AutoRacing1, have
known for some time. One of our company cars is a manual gearbox TDI
Golf that routinely returns highway mileage in the low 50ís under hard
driving. While not a sportscar the Golf is very quiet and comfortable
to drive, offering an improved ownership experience over the long
In the AutoWeek comparison the Honda Accord
Hybrid achieved 33.9 mpg on the highway, while the Toyota Prius did a
bit better at 42 mpg. While decent numbers they paled in comparison to
the 49.9 mpg the VW Jetta attained. The ride quality of the Honda and
Toyota are good, but, not in comparison to the VW. What if the VW TDI
were morphed into a hybrid? Maybe then we could be looking at more
attractive mileage numbers.
Now, before you diesel haters start sending
nasty-grams about the emission output of diesel engines you need to
consider a few things. First, the VW was running on B20, this is a
mixture of 80% diesel and 20% Biodiesel. This mixture goes a long way
in reducing much of the potent diesel exhaust emissions. And, by the
end of the year the US should start using sulfur free diesel fuel,
which also helps reduce exhaust emissions. This is something much of
the world has already been doing.
Maybe it took Audi to prove that diesel
engines are capable powerplants, and that various fuels can be
developed to power these engines. In Europe there are many diesel
powered cars that
attain 70-80 mpg, and for good reason since fuel can easily top
$5/gallon. While many of these cars cannot be imported into the US,
due to crash worthiness, we need to look at how the rest of the world
gets by on so much less fossil fuel.
Possibly some Americans need to read a
little more, or possibly be a little more open-minded when they
consider what constitutes a good car. From a safety standpoint alone
we should look at diesel powered vehicles in a favorable light. Diesel
fuel is less likely to burst into flames during a collision, and
Biodiesel with its high flashpoint is even less likely to ever cause a
fire during a crash.
If you should ever find yourself pinned in a
crashed hybrid it may take some time to have you extricated. You see,
firefighters are a little reluctant to apply the Jaws of Life to a car
that may cause instant electrocution. And don't let me start on
the $7,500 replacement cost when your battery pack goes bad.
Without going into the engineering involved
in comparing gasoline hybrids, to diesel powered vehicles, letís just
say that our bet may be on the diesels. Without going into vehicle
dynamics letís just take a look at diesel vs. gasoline. There is more
heat energy available from diesel fuel for any given amount as
compared to gasoline. A piston engine uses heat energy to force the
piston down in the cylinder. More heat energy means more force. Do we
really need to go into much more detail?
A diesel engine is one of the least complex
internal combustion engines man has ever invented. Compare that
to a hybrid which has a gasoline engine, electric motor, $7,500
battery pack and enough computer wizardry to send men to the moon.
We need to ask ourselves how an old
fashioned diesel engine could outperform a new high tech hybrid on
technology overload. Is it possible the wrong type of internal
combustion engine was used in the equation?
And this latest craze about E85 Ethanol (E85
= 85% Ethanol, 15% gasoline) will cause your car to immediately get 15
to 20% less fuel economy because E85 Ethanol has 15% to 20% less heat
energy per gallon than gasoline - compared to diesel it's even worse.
138,000 BTU's per gallon
114 - 125,000 BTU's per gallon
Ethanol E85 blend
87,250 BTU's per gallon
77,000 BTU's per gallon
Americans need to sign up at the gasoline
detox center, and consider a different poison to power their passion.