Doctor Diesel

Man with a yellow Duster?

DD 1Hello Doc

Although I have read Diesel Car since 1988, I have never before contacted you before. However, there is a question that I would like an answer to. Why do petrol hybrids sell much better than diesel hybrids? I thought that it would be the other way round. Also, just to let you know that I purchased a Dacia Duster Lauréate Prime dCi 110 4×2 around six months ago, and I am very pleased with it indeed. Kind regards 

Roger Wickins, Cornwall

Now then Roger, that’s an interesting question, which I’m answering “off the top of my head.” I feel rather ignorant in the actual qualities of most of the more recent diesel hybrids, since I have not driven many of them. There are, in fact, with the demise of the Peugeot 3008 diesel hybrid, I think just five or six diesel hybrids now on sale in the UK, and it doesn’t look as if the formula is exactly taking off, at least in Britain, anyway.

I think the issue comes down to weight, cost, and complexity. As we well know, diesel engines tend to cost significantly more than petrol engines of a similar power output, although there’s usually a big advantage in torque for the diesel. Since hybrids, with their batteries and complex transmissions, are going to be heavy beasts whatever the power unit, it’s understandable that petrol power often gets the nod, on weight and cost grounds. It’s also evident, primarily, Toyotas, that their petrol engines are specially developed for fuel economy and compatibility with hybrid use. I think that, had maybe Toyota or Honda started with diesel hybrids, then the picture might now be quite different. But Japan rather shuns diesel power and really only manufactures diesel cars for the export market, so that plays an important part, as these two companies were the major pioneers in hybrids.

Now that Europe is more into the game, we are seeing diesel hybrids from Land Rover, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot, and I think that may well become more significant in larger SUVs and 4x4s. The amazingly successful Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is, of course, a petrol hybrid, with all the expected shortcomings in open road motoring. That becomes fairly evident when you look at some owner reports of fuel economy – like around 35mpg to 50mpg at best, and sometimes even thirstier in high speed cruising. The Outlander hybrid is a nice car in many ways, but perhaps more of a token green car for urban yummy mummies, I rather feel, and a triumph of marketing over reality. It has been amazingly successful, and highlights what a big gap in the market Mitsubishi identified and exploited, with the aid of Government subsidies, no vehicle excise duty and reduced company car taxation. So there you have it, in my eyes – it’s all down to weight, purchase cost, taxation, and significant Japanese influence, plus maybe some concerns regarding emissions.

I’m so glad that Diesel Car has given you so much pleasure though, over 28 years – I’m not sure whether I even go that far back. Let me think…Yeah, back in 1988, I was driving a Peugeot 205 1.8D van, a cracking little motor, and my first diesel. By the way, is your Duster a yellow one? Regards,

The Doc

One Response

  1. The Japanese backed hybrid technology sold their first petrol -electric hybrid cars to the public as long ago as 1999 (Honda Insight/ Toyota Prius). In contrast VW etc backed the contemporary diesel vehicle. Over those 15 years there have been a number of negative statements expressed by VW as to the Japanese hybrid as a “blind alley””. One such statement came from the Wolfgang Hatz head of Powertrain development at VW, Hatz was in charge from 2007 onwards and was one of the first to be suspended following the events of September 2015.
    It is probable that the forward-thinking Japanese backed the petrol -electric hybrid having foreseen the future issue of the diesel engine Nox and pm emissions which have so wrong footed the VW group and others

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