Are Diesel Hybrid Cars Viable?

Attempts at bringing hybrid cars to a mainstream audience have focused on the gasoline and electric hybrid. Is there a viable market for a diesel and gasoline hybrid?

In the past few years more and more car manufacturers have brought more and more hybrid models to market all based on the gasoline/electric hybrid model. Only Ford has discussed developing a diesel/electric hybrid vehicle but their prototype brings little additional innovation beyond using diesel fuel in place of standard gasoline.

Diesel fuel is less refined than standard gasoline which allows it to deliver more power per unit and, before the recent explosion in fuel prices, made it available at a lower cost than standard gasoline. Other than these properties which make diesel great for higher horsepower vehicles like tractor trailer trucks, heavy pickups, and sports cars, diesel now offers little advantage over standard gasoline with the substantial downside of now costing more per gallon while still producing more pollution per unit.

The primary limitation of hybrid vehicles lies in storing enough electricity to provide non-fossil fuel based power to the vehicle for more than a few hours or a few hundred miles. Power generation to recharge the batteries is certainly an issue but not one that can be solved by the relatively small increase in power burning diesel fuel provides. Just as importantly, with the marketing push branding hybrid vehicles as “green” vehicles incurring the additional pollution that burning diesel fuel generates without a substantial offset in additional battery life or other efficiencies is a tough sell for auto makers.

Although there are benefits to burning diesel fuel to power vehicles, the benefits simply don’t scale well when they’re applied to the hybrid car model. Car manufacturer research and development is rightfully focused on producing more efficient gasoline/electric models and experimenting with potentially revolutionary alternate fuel sources like hydrogen and solar power instead of spending money and time pursuing the limited benefits that a diesel/electric hybrid would offer.

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