By on October 15, 2015

 

fuel. shutterstock user ThePowerPlant

BT writes:

Why aren’t we seeing diesel/electric hybrid cars and light duty trucks? Wouldn’t the fuel economy be phenomenal? Gas hybrids do well in their own right, as do diesels. So what’s holding up the diesel/electric Passat? Many cities have gone to diesel/electric buses for fuel savings, so we know the technology is real for passenger vehicles. Is the combined torque simply too much for mere mortals to use responsibly?

What gives, Sajeev?

Sajeev answers:

Who could predict your question had a totally different answer from the time you wrote it to its published date!

Let’s forget that an Automotive Dynasty’s legacy is threatened for years to come. My concern is the cost and complexity involved for diesel-electric hybrids to work. Relative to “dirty diesels” like a 7.3 Powerstroke or a name-your-old-school-Benz, Clean Diesels are complex blend of moving parts, and hybrid-electric powerplants aren’t exactly minimalist. Apply that to the motoring public demanding reliability and value for 5+ years and 100,000+ miles of service and it gets dicey.

The lessened impact of a single diesel-electric city bus hauling hundreds thousands of people over hundreds of miles daily, is far more worthy than the tiny footprint of one car carrying 1-4 people far less frequently.

Multiply that by the number of commercial buses, trucks, vans and 18-wheelers around the world and things get serious. Commercial vehicles with bespoke, trade specific parts and a crew of technicians — in dedicated service bays ensuring their success — have little bearing to a technology’s viability to a mainstream car maker. The same cost/benefit doesn’t exist (rarely exists?) with a single family on a budget of $25-35k for something Camry-like, with a Toyota like ownership experience from showroom floor to junkyard.

One of my buddies in the UK, you might remember him from TTAC’s Ford Sierra story, insists diesel is “The Fuel of the Devil.” Considering the cost, complexity and energy required to manufacture, assemble, repair and maintain the extra bits (like turbo assemblies and the particulate filter systems), I agree … outside of the world of dedicated fleets.

And that’s not even considering the can of worms in diesel subsidization, but I digress…

 

Now that VW’s in hot water, now that all “clean diesels” are going under the world’s microscope, now that small displacement turbocharged engines sometimes (rarely?) match their government fuel economy figures when tested in the real world by the media and everyone on social media, what’s going to happen to such innovations that were to save the world? Specifically the formerly clean diesels?

I propose a long overdue reality check. While body, suspension, interior, transmission and driveline advancements are beneficial, the smaller engine displacements (with forced induction and hybridization compensation) combined with growing body sizes added layers of unnecessary complexity. Turbo plumbing, intercooling, EGR cooling, particulate filters, hybrid systems, etc. on cars/CUVs with frontal areas reminiscent of a barn door are a bit of a contradiction in efficient design.

That’s not a proclamation. It’s an affirmation of Less is More and the KISS principle. Look at the (relative) simplicity of pure electric machines from the cheapo Nissan Leaf to the lustworthy Tesla Model S P85D. Look at what fantastic mileage small, gas-powered global hatchbacks get with a manual transmission or CVT, a simple(-ish) naturally aspirated engine and no hybrid architecture in sight! And from my time in a Mitsubishi Mirage, even at the bottom of the barrel, they aren’t the rattle trap tin-cans of yore. Basic cars are far from it.

Conclusion: I’m not suggesting we all drive Mirages. What I am suggesting is a hard look at passenger car over-engineering and to transition toward more relevant design for real world driving habits, more “honest”, naturally aspirated powertrains, and wide scale promotion of the benefits of CVTs and even manual transmissions. While pure electric vehicles are a tough sale outside of the Tesla Halo Effect, high-ish volume sellers like the Nissan Leaf prove their simple design has massive benefit for urban drivers.

And maybe, just maybe, we suggest a relaxation on the unintended consequences of hampered highway fuel economy; stemming from the massive frontal area requirements of Euro-Pedestrian safety standards. Requirements that lose their teeth in low-population density regions — like the vast majority of America.

Sorry for the uber-editorialized screed, off to you Best and Brightest.

(ZOMG PANTHER LOVE LS1-FTW SON!)

[Image: Shutterstock user ThePowerPlant]

Send your queries to [email protected] Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

88 Comments on “Piston Slap: Greenwashing the Fuel of the Devil?...”


  • avatar
    VoGo

    The traditional answer automakers have given to the question of why no diesel hybrids is that each technology adds about $5K to the cost of a passenger car, and automakers doubt consumers are willing to pay $10K for both.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Diesel engines are expensive and (when they meet modern emissions requirements) complex. Hybrid power systems are expensive and complex. Combining Diesel + hybrid creates a vastly more expensive & complex vehicle vs. gas engine passenger car; it would be virtually impossible to see fuel savings that would outweigh the purchase costs and service requirements.

    Locomotives and ships have used diesel electric propulsion in some (not all) applications for years but they operate in severe service 24/7. Commercial truck makers have studied diesel/electric and cannot make the math work for long or short haul trucks. City buses are a different animal because their purchase is directed and subsidized by government agencies with environmental/political goals not necessarily related to conventional economics.

    Putting a diesel hybrid drivetrain in a typical passenger car to get an extra 5mpg just doesn’t pencil out.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      ” City buses are a different animal because their purchase is directed and subsidized by government agencies with environmental/political goals not necessarily related to conventional economics.”

      It couldn’t possibly have to do with the stop and go nature of a city bus vs. the highway driving of a heavy truck – could it?

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Parcel delivery, refuse, school buses, etc also do lots of stop and go driving. Commercial truck builders are experimenting with Diesel/electric and diesel/hydraulic hybrids, but so far reliability & purchase cost drown any supposed savings.

        Transit agencies are expected to lose money, so losing more is not a big deal in their world. The “green” diesel hybrid purchase makes a nice photo op in the newspaper or on the local TV news, the politicians get a little green cred, then nobody pays attention anymore.

        BTW Charlotte NC just scrapped a dozen diesel electric hybrid buses after less than 4 years service because they could not keep them running. Ironically the general counsel of the bus builder (Design Line, in bankruptcy) is now the US Secretary of Transportation.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Having spent much time “interfacing” with metro transit bus systems, one significant issue is the in house service crew. Typically unionized, got the job because their brother in law was a councilman, lacking in motivation and skill sets. This is not universal, but pretty common.

        I did encounter a transit shop at a state university system that was on par for cleanliness and skill level with Penske’s Nascar operation, but that was an extreme outlier.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Diesel hybrids in locomotives and ships are used like a generator because it works better: electrical motors can be made per-wheel/propeller, don’t require a massive transmission, clutch, etc, have non-lumpy power output and allow the electrical systems of the ship/locomotive to be run from the same generator.

      Having a transmission and clutch to deal with the torque output of a diesel motor of that size would be a harder task.

      Buses and trucks probably walk the line in terms of engine output making a series hybrid worthwhile, and it would depend on duty cycle and the ability of the fleet owner to support it. I can’t recall having seen many highway buses with hybrid powertrains, but it seems common for city buses: that’s probably duty cycle in play, combined with the fleet size. Trucks using or not using it probably has more to do with economies of scale and environments as well: very few people (in-city couriers, municipal garbage trucks) are probably large enough to both support and realize value from it: otherwise it’s highways and owner-operators.

      In terms of trucks, it will probably be the couriers going hybrid first, and that’s just because of their size.

      • 0 avatar
        bill h.

        Psarhjinian’s response brings up something that I’d like to know more about–it seems like most of the discussion here involves the “complexity” of a parallel hybrid system–as in most hybrid autos. But aren’t diesel-electric locomotives a kind of series hybrid? Similarly, if the Volt is a series gasoline-electric hybrid, do the engineering considerations (neglecting cost, which I realize is a potential showstopper) of accomplishing a diesel variant of a Volt make the calculation different for our discussion purposes?

        • 0 avatar
          eManual

          A series hybrid adds significant weight (another generator) and electrical conversion losses from the generator, wires, and motor(s). The generator can be smaller than the motor(s), but then the batteries need to be bigger if more continuous power is needed.

          The Volt isn’t a true series hybrid – it uses a modified direct drive at highway speeds like the Prius. The Honda Accord hybrid is closer to a true series hybrid, but it too uses a clutch at highway speeds.

        • 0 avatar
          carlisimo

          Another factor is that diesel engines need turbos (and associated cooling systems) to be any good. There’s some cost and complexity there. Now the electric system has to work with the turbodiesel’s lumpy power delivery.

          There’s also a loss of synergy. Gasoline engines on the Atkinson cycle have poor low-end torque, which is fine because the electric motor fills that gap. Diesels and electric motors both do their best work at the same time.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        For what it’s worth:

        -Most new large commercial ships (container, tanker, bulk) are not diesel electric; the are mechanically driven. Cruise ships, some specialty vessels, and Navy vessels are the exception.
        -Hybrid does not help much in commercial vehicle highway applications: there is infrequent need for the battery boost at launch, and the mechanical drivetrain is simple and efficient at operating speed.
        -In urban start/stop environments is where the battery boost from a hybrid system could aid in acceleration. That is where current research is focused.
        -Large companies like UPS, FedEx, and Waste Management have more than enough capital and infrastructure to support diesel hybrid systems that work. The problem so far has been reliability and purchase cost.

        If diesel/hybrid systems can be made to work reliably, at an affordable price, and actually save money there is a market for them. The engineering is just not there yet.

        Reliably propelling a 60,000 pound garbage truck that stops and starts hundreds of times every day is much more difficult than getting a Prius to go to the office and pick up the kids.

        Lots of things that sound good in theory don’t work as well in practice.

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          @ Toad

          Great post. If people only understood inherently what you wrote, most of the idioticy I see passed off as posts on TTAC would disappear.

          Note also, that the University of Leeds researcher featured in an article here several weeks ago, pointed out that small diesel cars individually put out more NOx than commercial trucks and buses. Besides being branded as a communist or a tool of the capitalist lackeys by the literati here and accusing TTAC of lowering its brand equity, nobody seemed to recognize what he was saying. Cars are actually individually worse than properly engineered commercial vehicles:

          “We found small city diesel cars are emitting more than double-decker buses or fully laden 40-ton articulated lorries.”

          https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/10/uk-researcher-basically-every-diesel-automaker-is-illegally-polluting/

          So the premise that little diesel cars running about are no worry for NOx is FALSE. D’you think anyone here got that through their thick heads?

          Count on it, they did not.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’m going to quote myself quoting the EPA from a report

            “The market included 2,500 electricity generating units and industrial boilers, although the 700 coal-fired electricity generating units in the market accounted for 95 percent of all NOx emissions in the market (USEPA 2009b).”

            https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/10/volkswagen-planning-capital-push-raise-money-scandal/#comment-6504954

            So as recently as six years ago 95% of NOx was emitted by power plants. Some coal fired plants have gone out since then which is great, but even with less plants I would wager the percentage of NOx emitters is similar or the same even if the total amount of NOx has gone down. So as of 2009 every diesel car/truck/train/power generator/tractor trailer goes away tomorrow to gain a 5% reduction in emitted NOx, which is nothing when those technologies are necessary for the lifestyle we lead in the US. Railing against diesel really isn’t worth it on these numbers alone. If you want to reduce the total amount of NOx you have to focus on replacing coal fired power plants which is already happening as some are going to natural gas. But more solar farms need to be built to offset when natural gas prices eventually rise. You want to be hero? Focus your attention on where it will have the most impact, not demeaning diesel enthusiasts and the occasional fry oil burning hipster.

  • avatar
    W.Minter

    Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID, FTW. Seems to work great, when it works. LiOn battery under the hood (literally). Replacement north of 5k Euro.
    IMHO: overly complex, developed by Diesel engineers trying to save their bacon.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I couldn’t agree more about the over engineering of today’s passenger cars. When compact cars are the size of mid size cars of only 10 years ago, combined with all the new crash test requirements, cars are getting bigger and heavier at the same time increased fuel economy is being demanded. Something has to give.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    As a resident green car ceek and Prius owner, I have to point out that the hybrid synergy drive is only part of what gives the Prius its fantastic MPG rating.

    I suspect that, if you put a regular drivetrain into my Prius, that it would still get great gas mileage. It’s a lightweight and aerodynamic vehicle through and through.

    A hybrid isn’t a magic bullet. That said, I’d buy a hybrid even without much of an MPG gain, because of the even/smooth power delivery and because it allows efficient HVAC while the car idles (I have kids). But, if you put a hybrid system in a Tahoe, you have a more efficient Tahoe, and not a Prius.

    My town has diesel electric buses. They’re smoother, quieter, and more efficient than the regular buses. The engines don’t rev as high when leaving a stop. It seems like a big win there, and I’m dissapointed that the garbage truck operators in my town haven’t made the jump to hybrids. Their start/stop duty cycle would benefit a great deal from a hybrid system.

    The Prius is a fantastically efficient and long lived vehicle. Every aspect of the vehicle from the back seat design and the kammback through the ECU is geared toward extracting the most UTILITY from a gallon of gas. It wouldn’t work as well as it does if someone just threw the HSD in any old vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      That said, I’m not buying a new minivan until a hybrid or EV version is available.

      I’ll settle for a diesel in a pickup truck, but a plugin hybrid pickup with an electric power takeoff would be pretty kick-ass for power tools and camping.

      And any new car/crossover I buy will be electric. I’ll buy a used gas car if I really need one.

      I like these powertrains a lot, while recognizing that they are just one part of a fully engineered system.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Luke42

      That is perhaps the most coherent and rational explanation of the prius I’ve ever come across from an actual prius owner. Congratulations to you for avoiding the “every part of my car is magic” group think.

      A great take away here is that other brands have marketed high efficiency models before and no one has bought them. The prius marketing machine could probably be expanded to include non hybrid offerings, other model lines otoh, clearly don’t have that branding association where customers will value performance limiting fuel efficiency measures.

    • 0 avatar
      M1EK

      Sort of. If you put a much bigger gas engine in the Prius, it would get better mileage than another car with that same much bigger gas engine. But it wouldn’t be that good compared to what the car gets now.

      If you put a normal gas engine in, you’d probably have to lose the Atkinson cycle too. Don’t forget that.

      And what if you just kept the (small) gas engine it has now, as some naysayers insist we should given that “it doesn’t help at highway speeds”? Well, how many of you would enjoy taking 15 seconds or so to get up to cruising speed? The battery is what makes highway operation possible with such a small gas engine.

      The answer is that the car was engineered to be a system with the gas engine and the battery working together. Either one by itself would be very crappy – the car is literally more than the sum of its (hypothetical) parts.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        There’s no doubt that Toyota couldn’t just split up their hybrid and get good results. I’m just saying that there are other ways to skin this cat besides Atkinson naturally aspirated. Toyota has built a sub brand dedicated to fuelefficiency No one else has that and it’s impressive. They could probably succeed in selling aero/drivetrain specials without hybrid engines as a result, a task at which others have notably failed in this market. Most shoppers aren’t looking for fuel efficiency at the expense of torque though, as you note.

        In response to your comment below. Fwiw I agree that hybrids are currently the mpg kings in every driving cycle (prius c is by far the best mileage I’ve ever gotten). It’s more that on the highway the difference has shrunk to where chasing it starts to look really questionable in terms of value per dollar. When it was diesel vs hybrid the choice was between two drivetrains that are both compromised for pleasure, this is basically what we talked past each other about last time we discussed prius. Now that torquey four turbos are getting to 40+ real world cruising even with torque converter autos the choice to go alternative stings a bit more.

        That line off thinking had been occurring to me so much lately bc I just drove a great example of it last week, the new jetta engine. Same car, same engine 1.4t, same total system torque, one is a hybrid and the other isn’t. The only flaw in the comparison was two different transmission types and a lack of comparable base trims for price. I’d honestly take the regular turbo despite the 8-10 highway mpg difference, because they are both in the 40’s to start with so the payoff isn’t enough to offset the hybrids compromises (storage, weight etc)

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Garbage trucks accelerate/decelerate house to house. I suspect that a hybrid system on a garbage truck will not run on electricity long enough before running out of energy stored in the batteries. Another issue common with any commercial vehicle is payload. The more you can carry the more profitable your machine is going to be. A load of batteries that can keep pace with the energy demands on a garbage truck would have a detrimental effect on payload.
      A city bus will go bus stop to bus stop and acceleration/deceleration needs to be smoother due to passenger safety and comfort. The demand on the electrical side of the system is less. Seating capacity or internal volume is what limits payload not GVW. A bus can get away with heavy batteries and not affect volume much if at all.

      Commercial long haul units just as the name implies needs energy over long distances. The battery range does not exist without a significant reduction in cargo capacity.

      In my part of the world those systems have to work in some pretty inhospitable environments and again don’t have the range versus loss of GVW to be profitable.

      Trains do fine but weight isn’t as big a factor.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Trains do fine because of the first factor you mentioned: they don’t spend as much time or energy constantly decelerating or accelerating. Once a train gets up to speed, it can take several miles to make a normal (non-emergency) stop.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Lou_BC:
        “Garbage trucks accelerate/decelerate house to house. I suspect that a hybrid system on a garbage truck will not run on electricity long enough before running out of energy stored in the batteries.”

        That’s exactly how the hybrid city busses appear to work (as I’ve gathered from riding them and following behind on my bike, listening to the engine).

        The battery probably only stores enough energy to get the vehicle started. The battery is charged while the vehicle slows dows, and while the engine idles at the stop (and maybe between stops, too). Then the stored energy is used when the vehicle takes off. The diesel engine makes up for the short energy fall.

        In practice, this means that the diesel engine doesn’t rev as high as the conventional bus, thereby saving my ears, and presumably a bit of fuel with each start/stop cycle.

        My local bus transit authority claimed that the hybrid buses carried about a $100k premium over the regular buses, but that they expected to recoup that in fuel savings over the service life of the vehicle.

        I don’t see anything about that system which wouldn’t also apply to a garbage truck, at least in principal. The buses are rear engined, and the garbage trucks in my area are cabover, so there would be a lot of engineering work to “port”the same idea over to a different chassis. Also, I imagine garbage trucks need a lot of hydraulic power, which could impact the whole system design.

        P.S. A hybrid never recovers anywhere near 100% of the braking energy – it’s probably around 70% efficient on a good day. If they could recover all of the energy, they’d be perpetual motion machines. Which would be way cooler than just a clever drivetrain which can timeshift a bit of energy.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @Luke42 – buses have less rough duty cycles and also have longer duty cycles.

          I googled hybrid garbage trucks and the ones I’ve looked at are actually hybrids that use stored hydraulic pressure. That system makes sense on a machine already using high pressure hydraulics. Apparently the system recovers 70% of braking energy whereas a battery/electric system runs around 30%. Miami/Dade has them and they are seeing up to a 50% reduction in fuel costs. They also mentioned on conventional trucks brakes are lasting 3 months and the hybrid trucks are still on their original brakes. They are noticing tire wear is also better.

          I completely forgot about hydraulic systems. There was a rumour years ago of a Ford hydraulic hybrid pickup.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Getting water in diesel injectors from a poor fuel source is a whole pile of fun for your wallet.

    Soccer moms wouldn’t like lifting a jerry can of DEF when needed. Then fueling is no fun cause there’s only couple pumps at the station – if that.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Around here, all the city buses are CNG fueled, which meets economic, environmental, and energy security needs all in one package.

    On the hybrid cars front, the Atkinson cycle tricks being added to the engines of those cars improve their thermal efficiency to where it is approaching that of a diesel powerplant, without the need for a diesel’s more expensive emission controls.

    If you look at a hybrid car, yes, they do have some parts that a conventional drivetrain car does not, but they’re also missing a few. In the Ford/Toyota system, you do add a motor generator, but lose the alternator, and add a drive motor, but lose the starter, and you do have a battery pack, but no torque converter or clutch. The prices on hybrid systems are coming down as well. For example, the price difference between a Ford Fusion SE and an SE hybrid is only $2310, even at today’s prices you’ll save that in fuel in about four years. With gas at $3, you’d save it in three years.

    BTW, that’s with the conventional drivetrain car with its 2.5 liter four banger. If you want the 1.5 turbo, the price differential drops to $1500

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The Prius has a power split device (thing a differential with the gas engine on one side, and a motor-generator on the other side), in place of a conventional gearbox or CVT.

      It’s way simpler than a manual transmission, and more durable than a belt driven CVT.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        Toyota’s concept is ingenious because of its simplicity. It takes a seemingly complex task of combining the ICE, and both electric motors with the rest of the driveline, and using just one simple planetary gearset. They also achieved a reliable CVT in the process.

  • avatar
    Dirk Stigler

    Like Sajeev said, there is a breakover point, in terms of annual mileage, where diesel and/or hybrid powertrains begin to pay for themselves in fuel savings. That mileage is well north of what any individual person drives in a year, but well under what fleet vehicles like buses, delivery trucks, mail jeeps etc roll up.

    It’s the same reason family vehicles like full size SUVs and minivans tend to use to the oldest powertrain tech in the market. You’d think they would be a perfect use case for hybrid/start-stop or diesel engines, but in typical use they have the lowest annual mileage of any category of vehicle, such that no significant number of buyers would see any benefit from the extra cost of a more efficient powertrain.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      After 11.5 years and 168k miles, our Prius is way past the payoff point by the type of calculations you’re referencing.

      Of course, how the payoff works depends entirely on your assumptions. My wife was cross shopping it with a new Volvo (not a Yards), so the Prius saved her money the day the bought it.

      It continues to save us money because she likes it so much that she won’t let me replace it, even with another Prius. It’s reliable, efficient, and paid off — so it just keeps an giving as long as we keep on driving it. And I have every reason to think it has another decade or so of useful service left in it.

      The Prius is an owners car for buy & hold types, assuming you need a small passenger car which always stays on pavement. It’s not all things to all people, but it’s *very* good at what it does.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    I dont think diesel’s torque characteristics are all that necessary in powering batteries AND when electric power provides the same torque benefits?

    Doesnt hybrids mean simpler ICE engines?

    In many places, LPG is cheap. I would think LPG hybrids would make more sense but I only know of one manufacturer interested and thats Kia.

  • avatar
    jmo

    ” It’s an affirmation of Less is More and the KISS principle. ”

    Yet the Prius is among the, if not the, most durable and reliable vehicle ever made. I think your KISS principle is a wild oversimplification of the engineering realities of various technologies.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Well the Prius is a complex piece of technology, but it some ways it is very simple. The Toyota/Ford hybrid powertrains are port fuel injected 4-cylinder engines and electric traction motors powered by batteries and run through a power split device. The simplicity, for a modern vehicle, is ingenious. The programing, and everything else that went into creating the Prius is complex and amazing.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        ” The programing, and everything else that went into creating the Prius is complex and amazing.”

        Yes, amazingly complex. Just think of the testing that went into all the code, and yet it’s dead reliable.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I completely agree with you. The Toyota and Ford hybrid systems are the most reliable powertrains you can find. Part of that is that the mechanicals are so well sorted out. Like you said, the other part of the equation is that someone did their programming correctly. I have nothing but respect for what the Prius and the people that developed it.

      • 0 avatar
        cbrworm

        And the “transmission” is marvelously simple compared to a traditional auto, CVT, DCT or MT.

    • 0 avatar

      I see your point. And to that effect, if we disassembled the Prius, would it fit the KISS principle compared to a two mode Hybrid?

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        It would fit the KISS principal compared to any other transmission. I remember taking a hybrid class, and the first half talked about the principles on paper. It seemed so very complex. Motors 1&2, The ICE, power split device, etc.. Halfway through the class we actually took it apart, and none of us could believe how simple it all was.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I think the Land Cruiser and 4Runner might give the Prius a run for its money.

      However, all three were built by Toyota because Toyota builds durable vehicles.

      You’re ignoring any technology implementation issues suffered by the other auto makers.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Please provide a link to these published statistics. Because I’m fairly certain a Chevy Cruze is more reliable and durable than the vastly simpler Chevy Nova.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Sorry, I made an edit to my comment. Partly because I didn’t word it accurately and partly becuase I won’t have the time today to comb through the CR and JD ratings.

          Yes, a Cruze is more reliable than a Nova. My thought is more about comparing an automatic 1.4T Cruze to a manual 1.8 version. Or comparing an Insight to a Fit or Civic.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “Yes, a Cruze is more reliable than a Nova.”

            Yet vastly more complex. Explain how such a thing is possible?

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Becuase the technology on the Cruze was sorted out over the last 35 years.

            The same reason why the fuel injection system on an ’81 Imperial was so bad that Chrysler retrofitted on carburetors but modern EFI is just about perfectly reliable.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            If the most recent example you can think of is an 81 Imperial that weakens your argument.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            It is an old example, but you’re the one that cited the Nova.

            I can give links to the cylinder deactivation and BAS recalls/TSBs later today if you’d like.

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    I think Citroen has a diesel hybrid available in the new DS. Does anyone know how that’s working out?

  • avatar
    jmo

    Can someone explain to me why the B&B have lived through an era when cars have gotten vastly more complex while at the same time becoming incredibly durable and reliable yet insist that complexity makes things less reliable.? Lest we forget, it is within living memory of many on this board where a car making it to 100k miles was a miracle. Now, some cars come with a 100k mile warranty.

    This being the case: Why the instance that complexity makes things less reliable in the face of a lifetime of evidence to the contrary?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Becuase we buy GM or Chrysler vehicles where all newly introduced technology is a nightmare for 3-15 years after its introduction.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Such as?

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Aluminum engines (Vega, HT4100), OHC engines (Northstar, Quad4, 3.4L, Ellesmere V6), fuel injection (318 EFI), ABS systems (Teves), FWD transmissions (Ultradrive), cylinder deactivation (V8-6-4, and modern MDS/DOD), start-stop systems (total recall on the BAS).

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You’re just identifying examples of how Detroit isn’t good at making cars. It doesn’t explain why.

            Toyota didn’t improve reliability by making cars simpler — cars have thousands of parts, so they can’t be simple by definition.

            The lean production method makes it easier to identify problems early on and then to limit their impact on the total production run. That isn’t simple, but it works.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            Vega, V8-6-4? That’s pushing 40 years ago.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I’m just being comprehensive. The point is, when GM and Chrysler introduce something new their track record is not sterling.

            There are some newer counter-examples. The Volt seems pretty good and uConnect failures/crashes seem rare compared to other systems.

            If you want to buy a GM or Chrysler vehicle with newly introduced technology, go for it. I’m not nearly confident enough to do it.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Wait, is this the GM list of shame?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            GM and Chrysler suck at innovation ≠ Reliability comes from simplicity

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            OK, for later examples (not just GM): direct (gasoline) injection which required walnut-shell cleaning of the intake ports at about 35K miles.

            Ford Ecoboost intercoolers condensing water inside and then slugging the engine (potentially hydrolocking a cylinder) when the throttle is suddenly opened.

            Ford Mustang aluminum driveshafts that would resonate at a certain speed and fail, with the fix being electronically-limited top speed.

            On diesels: EGR coolers that would clog, or corrode and leak coolant into the engine. Soot traps that would clog up. Regeneration fuel injected on the exhaust stroke causing cylinder washdown and contaminating the oil.

            That’s just off the top of my head.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            There are VERY few people cleaning their intake ports at 35K miles. Even my 2.0T VWs didn’t cake that fast.

            The Ford Ecoboost intercooler issue is fixed. The CAC was actually too efficient.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Some of those who post here need to learn that simplicity ≠ reliability.

      Even a “simple” car is a complex device. There is no way to simplify a car so much that it would be inherently reliable due to its simplicity.

      Reliability comes from using better design and production processes. Those aren’t simple at all, but they are effective.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I agree that simple=reliable isn’t the best relationship to make, but “simple” vehicles with a long, unchanged production runs are usually easier to keep on the road due to ease of maintenance/repair, parts availability, and knowledgebase.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The point is that reliability comes from good processes. If a company can’t change its products without screwing up, then the problem is with the company’s lack of good processes, not with change.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Not disagreeing with you on processes but GM in their bad processes has come up with reliable motors and components over the years. May be a case of even the blind squirrel finds a nut but its worth noting.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Some people win the lottery. That doesn’t mean that the lottery is useful for managing ones retirement funds.

            Toyota raised the bar with lean production. A lean system addresses the fact that cars are inherently complex and adapts accordingly. GM and Chrysler both lagged at adopting lean and still haven’t quite mastered it.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I agree with you, new automotive technology is not inherently bad or unreliable, and old/”simple” automotive technology is not inherently good or reliable.

            However, how many automakers currently have the processes in place to successfully pull it off with the first try?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Toyota led the way with lean, and Honda has done a fine job of using it.

            Everyone else has since switched from mass to lean, but the American and German automakers are not as good at it. This is largely a management problem.

            Hyundai-Kia made a deliberate effort to move to lean after their debacles with the Excel, etc., and have been fairly successful with creating their own version of it. (Lean requires good labor relations to be most effective, which are notably lacking in South Korea.)

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Agreed. The fact that they don’t have their processes sorted out is seen with durability ratings. Companies like GM, Chrysler and even Ford tend to see a drop in durability/quality ratings when a new vehicle is released or even if it is a major update of a long standing vehicle model.
            The F150 is a prime example. Quality peaked in 2010 at the end of its model run and dropped with the 2011 trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      Jmo, for all the stated complexity of modern automobiles, there are far fewer moving parts involved compared to air and fuel management systems of yesteryear. Just try to rebuild the carburetor from any automobile from the 60s or 70s to see what true complexity is. It is this reduction in moving and wearing parts which has contributed to modern engine reliability.

      A modern fuel injection system contains nearly an order of magnitude fewer moving parts next to something as “simple” as a Rochester carburetor. From the fuel tank forward, there are an average of 2 fuel pumps – one for volume, one for pressure – which between them contain 1 or at most 2 impellers. You’re already ahead of the game when comparing to the old camshaft driven fuel pumps. Fuel injectors have 2 moving parts, counting the needle valve and return spring separately, which puts the total number of moving parts to deliver fuel to a 4 cylinder engine at 10-12, rising to 14-18 for a V8. The average Quadrajet carburetor is pushing 80 individual pieces – and around 10 times that many curse words if you forget to maintain baseline spring pressure on the secondary air doors during a rebuild. And don’t forget the parts count for Japanese carburetors of the 70s, which put even the Q-Jet’s Rube Goldbergesque secondary air door and metering rod activation scheme to shame.

      For ignition systems, a crank trigger replaces the 30-40 parts used in a traditional cam-driven distributor with a single toothed wheel and its associated sensor, neither of which suffer long term wear unless something else goes catastrophically wrong inside the engine. Coil packs may be expensive compared to the old distributor and ignition wires, but they regularly last the life of an engine and arcing through failed insulators happens so rarely now, you can mark your life’s passing by instances where it occurs.

      When you start counting the number of moving parts used to keep the engine itself going, you find they’re significantly lower in modern automobiles, though you won’t see it for all the sensors which are used to feed information to the ECU. The majority of those sensors are also of a solid state nature, which is where modern engine reliability comes from. Most of the moving parts under the covers and inside the block are bathed in lubricant, which has an obvious effect on reducing failure rates: note how often it’s a bad or contaminated sensor or 2 which cause the majority of most service center calls.

      Modern automobiles may be electronically complex, but on the mechanical side their components have become much simpler.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    MPG ≠ efficiency. Much of the difference between diesel MPG and gas MPG is due to the fact that diesel is a heavier fuel, which is to say that it takes more oil to make a gallon/liter of diesel than a gallon/liter of gas. If you skew oil refining in favor of diesel production, then you end up with fewer total gallons of both fuels.

    Diesel motors do have some additional efficiency due to their higher compression, but that is only a portion of the MPG difference. You really should compare CO2 ratings if you want an apples-to-apples comparison, as those account for the differences in the weights of the fuels.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I am alone I guess in thinking this is a good idea. I have advocated for this in Lincolns for years to get their own identity. I would right a 60k check right now for a 3.0 diesel/hybrid MKT with 10speed auto.Making about combined 300 ponies and 600 pft.
    But that just me.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      I am going to guess that the line of diesel/electric hybrid Lincoln buyers is very, very short; they are the unicorn of auto buyers.

      It is even dwarfed by the buyers of brown, manual transmission, diesel station wagons.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      Hybrid (Ford/Toyota type) doesn’t have a conventional automatic transmission. Where would you fit this 10 speed auto and account for its added weight?

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        You are assuming that they are using their current systems when neither of them offer a 6 cylinder diesel at all. It would be something different for Ford to do.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    Fuel/money savings are not linear with MPG improvement.

    Graph it out and you’ll see that diminishing returns sets in with a vengeance around 30 MPG, and that the value of improvements beyond 40 mpg are so negligible as to not be worth pursuing.

    There’s no reason for manufacturers to make diesel hybrid cars, because the fuel economy of both diesels and hybrids are already high enough to make further improvement pointless.

    There would seem to be more potential for combining these technologies on fullsize trucks and SUVs that have not yet hit the 30 mpg ROI cliff.

    I’m not scared of complexity and think the “LOL keep it simple” approach is (deliberately?) ignorant when applied to cars and can be proven as such by the last 30 years of automotive history.

    With that said, I’m not willing to compromise anything to get from 30 to 40 mpg in order to save $300 a year. I’m even less inclined to try to get from 40 to 50 in pursuit of ephemeral gains.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Bikegoesbaa

      I agree. Paying to achieve over 35mpg seems a bit counterproductive. Still, that means getting around 40mpg in steady state cruising, which only anemic four cylinders or smallish turbo fours are doing right now. So I’d say we haven’tovershot that mark yet. The hybrids that do achieve over forty combined mileage are doing it with high city numbers, so if you’re commute is higher mileage city this is a potentially worthwhile buy. The problem is very few cars actually get high city miles, it’s much easier to get high city hours, which feels like the same thing but is not.

      • 0 avatar
        eManual

        I like your choice of city hours vs. city miles. In a year, my wife and I will drive 8,000+ highway miles (@30-33 MPG, the later without Ethanol) but less than 2,000 “city” miles at ~ 24 MPG. So why get a hybrid?

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          Horses for courses. My driving pattern is the exact opposite of yours. I’ll put on fewer than 2000 highway miles during the year, but around 11,000 suburban miles, average speed < 25 mph. I'm driving a PHEV Fusion which averages 39 mpg on the highway, target speed 75 mph, and gets around 44 mpg in town on those rare occasions when I don't have any battery left.

          If you do most of your driving on roads that are 70 + mph, the hybrid isn't worth getting. If you do a lot of backroads at 50 – 65 mph, I think you'll find the hybrid gets phenomenally good fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        M1EK

        “The hybrids that do achieve over forty combined mileage are doing it with high city numbers”

        Commonly said, and absolutely untrue. In the real world, the Prius usually does better on the highway than in the city (look at CR’s numbers). It certainly has for me. Once in a while you hit an extremely favorable city route and can go way higher, but in the long-run I’ve done about 55 highway and 45 city.

        (Admittedly, I don’t cruise the highway at 85. Usually 65-70).

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          I didn’t mean to imply the hybrids do worse on the highway than gas cars. My point was more that most city drivers aren’t actually predominantly city cycle drivers, they just spend a lot of time in the city, this often includes lots of highway cycle like driving. Total mileage easily skews highway cycle because it is so much more productive hours per mile wise. But, as noted above by former ff, it all depends on your commute.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Great post. And 2 buck a gallon fuel doesn’t do much for hybrid sales. All the families I know seem to lust for 20mpg Suburbans. If the Euros can’t justify it with their 5 to 7 dollar fuel, don’t expect to see much action here.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    First I was just going to write a long answer about how I agree with the KISS principle and the complexity of modern cars, and throw in something about how the Sierra one of the least complicated cars made, and that with the L-jetronic 2.0 Pinto engine, my 3 door Sierra with a full XR4i kit could do 34 mpg (highway) while hauling a family of 4 and all their luggage. Then I started reading the comments…
    1st of all, modern cars are far away from being as complex as most of you seem to believe. I’d bet that most new cars don’t add many extra parts compared to their 30 year old counterparts, despite all the added safety and emissions gear, although they do have the added complexity of computers and programs, but most of them are far less complex than what most of you carry on your pockets.
    Also, the manufacturing and assembly of each of these parts have been streamlined a lot, meaning the chance of someone on the assembly line causing the car to develop a problem later is reduced. A lot of systems that are now computerized (like fuel injection) would rely on carefully machined and assembled moving parts with very fine tolerances, which would cause a car to react to temperature changes and humidity changes, not to mention need a lot of maintenance to work properly even under perfect conditions.
    2ndly. Complexity is not what has made modern cars more reliable. It’s reliability has made it possible to make cars more complex.
    A car like the Prius could most likely not be built economically with a typical gas engine from the 70’s or with the time consuming wind tunnel testing and hand made clay models from the same era. Not to mention
    handcranked machines etc.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Diesel-electric for railroad locomotives has been around since the 1930’s. It just does not scale down very well without a lot of turbos, et.al.

    Sajeev’s comment about over-engineering is right on the mark. Imagine a third world shade tree mechanic trying to repair such a thing as it begins to wear out.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Re: low-population density regions — like the vast majority of America.
    Lives aren’t saved by the acre. pretty much by definition the vast majority of miles are driven where the vast majority of Americans live, in high-population density regions. I love low frontal area, but am pretty sure the Prius, Leaf et. al. meet Euro-Pedestrian safety standards. The need to sit higher than the others is a sadly primitive drive, and hard to get around. Birds and tree dwelling monkeys REALLY need to be higher…

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Re: The KISS Principle, as well as the turbos not doing what they claim!

    Don’t have time to read all the comments tonight, but I have yet another chance for me to beat the drum: I’d rather have a big N/A four-banger or a V6 in a regular sedan. Nice and smooth and all times, and you can grab it by the scruff of the neck and have FUN as well. (Yes, even an Accord Sport with the ** N/A ** K24 has enough squirt that a fair number I see are that trim, and the CVT is the most “regular”-feeling one extant, such that even the CR-V’s unit is inferior. Honda has announced that low-end Accords will get the mouse wheels beginning in 2018. See below.) Not having to wait an instant for spool-up; no real-world mpg loss from having to cane the poor car to get it to move smartly more often than not, especially in slice-and-dice, cut-and-thrust traffic; no risk of expensive repair down the road thanks to lax maintenance, where a missed oil change won’t coke..er..cook the turbo, a concern for Mr. & Mrs. Joe Average, who intend to purchase a Camry XLE (high-end — V6s are going away altogether) or Accord LX (base models which currently have N/A K24s will get turbos of some sort) of either car’s next-generation; you get my drift!

  • avatar
    OliverTwist

    Actually, there are diesel-hybrid passenger vehicles…

    http://www.peugeot.co.uk/hybrid-cars-range/

    Only in Europe.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Matt51: Some dealers use a vinyl roof to cover hail damage. I bought a new, hail damaged Buick LeSabre in 1989,...
  • Corey Lewis: Speaking of Ford, I think the height of their distasteful vinyl-ing was the 80-82 Thunderbird Town...
  • SCE to AUX: My 82 full-size 2-door LTD had that… a white vinyl roof on a white car, with red velour interior....
  • crtfour: I feel the same way. I love Corvettes and used to be a fan of GM, but I would not purchase from them just...
  • Corey Lewis: I’ve seen an XT6 with one and it was freaking awful. The Vogue tires and stick-on chrome set is...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber