My spin on today's hybrid hype
"Turning to hybrids, I continue to wonder at the gullibility of the general public and automotive journalists who should know better. Any honest automotive engineer will tell you that the concept of a vehicle with two engines doing the job of one is nonsensical."
Now, I'm not questioning Mr. McCormicks journalistic integrity, I'm sure his knowledge of automotive engineering is much greater than mine, but I have just one little problem with that statement, Toyota.
The President of Toyota, a growing giant in the auto industry and destined to be the world's largest automaker, has gone on record stating that hybrid powertrains are the powertrain of the future for Toyota.
While much of auto an show is marketing spin, and not all announcements should be taken literally, am I missing something here? Is Toyota doing the "nonsensical" thing because they are trying to trick America?
Why would Toyota waste its time on "nonsensical" automotive engineering?
And if one engine is better than two, why does using two make the Honda Accord Hybrid faster, more powerful, and more efficient than a similar, conventional Accord?
Still, Mr. McCormick does offer hybrids one caveat, kind of. "The only condition in which a gasoline-electric hybrid will return better mileage than one of today's most advanced gasoline engines, let alone a diesel, is in city driving, when regenerative braking plays a significant role."
O.K., to start, "today's most advanced gasoline engines" aren't found in today's cars and they cost significantly more money. Additionally, the standard gasoline engine in a hybrid could be replaced by an advanced gasoline engine and achieve 25 percent more efficiency than the advanced gasoline engine by itself.
The same is true for diesel. Already, Ford, GM and ChryslerDaimler have diesel-electric hybrid vehicle concept cars because of this fact. As a side note, the same is true of hydrogen powered engines. Hydrogen-electric hybrids are just as plausible as gasoline, or diesel-electric hybrids.
Of course one must ask whether the cost is worth the price, and which, if any, combinations work best. Right now, in the U.S., gasoline-electric hybrids make the most sense.
Today's full hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius or Ford Escape hybrid, in city driving, achieve significantly better mileage than today's conventional cars or diesels, with far less pollution, but it's hard to put a price or value on reduced pollution.
Because of price, some analysts have pushed for new diesels as a way to achieve the same efficiency as with hybrids. Even McCormick states, "With a normal diet of city and highway driving, a hybrid will actually consume more fuel than a diesel powertrain".
First, passenger diesels are not even legal in the Northeast or in California, so until the law is changed, why does this issue even come up? Diesels are not even an option for a huge percent of American drivers, legally.
Second, a hybrid diesel could still be 25 percent more efficient than just a diesel. More important, hybrid technology is new, and getting better all the time.
So, concludes McCormick, "As for hybrids, they will likely continue to carve out an expanding niche in the U.S. market. While I find their evident shortcomings annoying, I can understand the sub-conscious appeal of driving a vehicle perceived to be environmentally-friendly. This became clear while I was driving a Chevy Silverado hybrid recently.
Even though the truck costs $2,500 more than the standard version and still managed only 14 miles per gallon overall in my hands, somehow I felt more righteous than all those non-hybrid full-size pickup drivers on the road.
It's hard to put a price on that."
To me, there is a little tongue-in-cheek in that statement. More important, the Silverado is a mild hybrid. It is not in the same league as a Prius or Escape hybrid. Mild hybrids are not nearly as fuel efficient as full hybrids, nor nearly as environmentally friendly.
But, hey, what is 25 percent better fuel efficiency anyway? Of course, according to experts, if Americans nationwide reduced their fuel consumption by that much, America could end foreign oil-dependency.
If that were the case, there might have been a few less American deaths in the Middle East these last few years.
Of course, it's hard to put a price on that.
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