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European diesel-electric hybrids prove efficiency, savings

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In mid-2011, Peugeot plans to launch the world’s first production-scale diesel-electric hybrid passenger car. According to a Peugeot press release, the company claims their 3008 HYbrid4 HYmotion4 offers an average fuel consumption savings of 35 percent the highway efficiency of diesel engines with the quiet, zero-emission advantages of an electric engine, which desirable in urban areas. A traditional two-liter, 163-horsepower HDi diesel engine equipped with an FAP particulate filter is mounted in the front of the vehicle, and a high-torque, high power electric engine is mounted in the rear, providing the car with a maximum power output of 200 horsepower.

VW's XL1 diesel plug-in hybrid electric vehicle prototype. (Credit: VW.)

Last month, Volkswagen debuted its XL1 diesel plug-in hybrid electric vehicle prototype at the Qatar Motor Show. According to VW, the plug-in hybrid system consists of a 0.8 L two-cylinder TDI engine (35 kW/478hp), E-motor (20 kW/27 hp), 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and a Li-ion battery. The prototype has an all-electric range of up to 322 miles; total range is estimated at 342 miles with a 2.26 gallon fuel tank. It’s really small and really light. Fuel economies also arise from the car being small and lightweight (87.5 in. wheelbase,  1,752 lbs) thanks to liberal use of advanced engineered materials. For example, [add stuff about aluminum, magnesium, CFRP parts].

Another big player in the diesel-electric revolution is Volvo. Volvo’s diesel hybrid bus boasts fuel savings of up to 35 percent. In 2002, Volvo began its diesel hybrid technology program. “We started the industrial-scale production in May 2010,” says Edward Jobson, Volvo Bus environmental director, in an interview with Biodiesel Magazine.

Volvo's diesel-hybrid bus. (Credit: Volvo.)

[Most of the rest of the article appears to be abridged from the Biodiesel article. As much as possible, my preference is to go back to an “original” source like the company website or the originating company press release in order to avoid propagating any errors of interpretation. Also, if I don’t understand something well, I’ll adapt the company’s wordings so that subtle (i.e., lawyer-approved) shades of meaning are preserved.]

Volvo’s hybrid bus uses “parallel hybrid technology.” The diesel engine and electric motor can work either independently or together to power the bus. The electric motor is used to start the vehicle moving and can power acceleration up to about 12.5 mph. As the speed increases the diesel engine takes over, supplying the power. Batteries are used to power the electric engine are recharged by both the brakes and the diesel engine.

In 2010, the company sold more hybrid buses than gas buses. Just a scan of the company’s press releases shows order after order of hybrid buses to line streets worldwide.

In Europe, diesel engines are much more common than in the U.S. However, diesel-electric hybrid technology may serve as a functional transition to all electric technology as unleaded fuel prices soar.