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Hybrids & Diesels - Deals or Duds?

angrysouthernmangrysouthernm Posts: 1
edited March 2014 in Toyota
There has been a lot of hype about hybrid cars and diesels. US News & World Report ran a cover story for May 9th edition titled: "Invasion of the Green Machines" Here is what Richard J. Newman, the story author, stated in his article:

"Hybrids, suddenly, are becoming the feel-good phenomenon of the decade. With gasoline prices at $2.23 per gallon, according to AAA--up 23percent from a year ago--hybrid sales have more than doubled so far this year compared with the same period in 2004. And some industry experts foresee a hybrid in every garage, though others think it could all be one big fad. It's no secret that hybrids like the Toyota Prius, which has both a battery-powered motor and a conventional gas engine--and averages close to 50 mpg--have earned cultlike devotion from a growing niche of conscientious car buyers. Now, a number of automakers, led by Toyota, Honda, and Ford, are betting that a new lineup of hybrids will become America's next must-have vehicles.

"A feisty Honda Accord hybrid--the fastest sedan in its lineup--went on sale late last year at a list price of $30,140. So far the company has sold more than 4,500, and the hybrid accounts for nearly 7 percent of all Accord sales. Last month, Toyota's Lexus division began selling the first luxury hybrid, the RX 400h SUV. Buyers snapped up nearly 1,000 in the first week, with an additional 12,000 on order. Those will join 8,000 hybrid versions of the Ford Escape SUV already on the road. All told, nearly 25 hybrids from a dozen carmakers are due in showrooms by 2008. Overall, hybrid sales will top 200,000 this year, according to J. D. Power & Associates, and some experts see nothing but open road ahead. Within 20 years, predicts Jim Press, Toyota's top U.S. executive, 'virtually everything on the market is going to be a hybrid.'"

Don't environmentalists and GreenPeace folks get too happy yet. Newman reported on less favorable news about hybrids and their future: "But J. D. Power forecasts that hybrid fever will cool off once the dual-powered vehicles hit about 3 percent of the market, probably around 2011. Pragmatic mainstream buyers may prefer to spend extra money on performance and comfort options instead of a feel-good power train. David Backman of Minneapolis looked at a Prius when he was shopping for a new car last year. But the computer specialist settled instead on a Hyundai Elantra GT. The mileage isn't as good, but he was able to load it up with a moon roof, leather interior, and other goodies, all for $9,000 less than the Prius. 'At 10,000 miles a year,' he concludes, 'I would never come close to recouping the premium.'

"GM's Burns sees other limitations of hybrids--under the Prius's hood. When Toyota introduced the second-generation Prius last year, GM joined the mad dash of consumers rushing out to buy one. But not to drive. Instead, GM engineers disassembled the car at the company's Vehicle Assessment Center in Warren, Mich., and laid the guts of the propulsion sys-tem out on a long shelf. One major discovery: The Prius's hybrid power train contains 42 percent more parts than the machinery that moves a similar-size Chevrolet Malibu. That, argues Burns, is too much complexity for the car of the future."

Car and Driver's editors ran some columns with arguments aimed against diesels an hybrids. Here's what Csaba Csere said about predictions diesels will take over: "But as the ever-skeptical Patrick Bedard points out in his column, modern turbocharged diesel engines are substantially more expensive than gasoline powerplants, and they face daunting technical challenges before they can meet the EPA Tier 2 exhaust-emissions standards that began phasing in with 2004 models.

"Notwithstanding wild claims that Dubya has 'destroyed the environment,' these standards are the strictest in the world, offering no breaks for diesel engines. In contrast, European governments—often credited with showing more concern for the planet than Washington displays—have not implemented emissions regulations nearly as strict as those currently taking effect here."

Here's what Patrick Beard said about diesels: "Americans could probably care less about diesel cars, but they'd have to try more. Only 40,224 were sold here in the 2004 model year, according to As a share of the nearly eight-million-car market, diesels round off to one-half of one percent. In other words: 'zero'"

Beard further argues that high diesel prices (higher than premium gasoline) for high-priced diesel cars won't sell. VW, the largest diesel seller in the USA, halted '05 and '06 Touaregs in March because the EPA did not approve of VW's emissions control.

Grump king Brock Yates touted the JD Power report on forcasted hybrids production for 2011 will only make up 3% of overall share with thirty-eight hybrid cars on the market. Yates also assailed some people particular: "Of course, the know-it-alls in the big media have instant solutions. Example: Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria recently touted some supremely woozy technology using 'plug in' hybrids with flexible fuel (15-percent petroleum, 85-percent methanol or ethanol) and—voilà! 500 mpg! Zakaria ignores the wallet-busting cost of producing, refining, and distributing methanol, ethanol, hydrogen, and other alternative fuels—a concept that has long since been hooted down by people who understand the harsh realities of energy production. If only these gasbags in the elitist press would do their homework."


  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,717
    Hybrid vs diesel is a real hot button topic and has already shut down some threads because people couldn't control their passions for and against either side.

    We'll see how this one starts off, but if the usual suspects drop in here firing the usual salvos, I don't predict a long life for this one.

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  • benderofbowsbenderofbows Posts: 544
    It is impossible to call a hybrid a "deal," as they do not save money. While hybrids may yeild higher fuel economy, they cost more to purchase than a traditional vehicle. These initial costs are only offset by the fuel cost savings on a very long timeline, over a decade and/or hundreds of thousands of miles. Consider the "time value of money;" even if gas prices rise and the break-even point comes sooner, it is preferrable to have a large sum of money now (not paying the hyrbid price premium) than to have small amounts of money (buying less fuel) in the future.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 4,098
    Hybrids vs. Diesels, redux. Can the world stand it?

    Count me in with the diesel crowd if they are available in 2007 with low sulfur fuel. The technology is much more established than hybrid designs.
  • ratbertratbert Posts: 22
    I'd love to go with diesel. The power (torque) is so nice to have. Plus most of my driving is on hilly windy backroads. I doubt I'd get the benefit of hybrid. Mostly drive 45-60 mph with few stops. I keep my cars for a long time (or many miles). I really only want manual transmission and AWD (on a nice car). That's key to me. Right now there is no option for that. I know there is in Europe. When I was in Madrid last time I saw an AWD Diesel 5spd VW Golf. sweeeet. :) I've always wondered why SUVs AREN'T diesel. It seems like such a natural fit. Look at the sales of the Liberty diesel.

    I don't think hybrid is worth the premium. $30k+ for a prius? No thanks. Slap a diesel in a Subaru and it's mine. I know that there are a lot of diesels in the works. More than hybrids. BMW said it's not a matter of if, but when they bring theirs to the US. ULSD is the key. July 2006 is the date for that.

    But I think if you do an unbiased comparison of hybrid vs. diesel, you'll find diesel most likely comes out ahead. Thay may depend on where you live, but out in the country in upstate NY where I live - it's diesel for sure.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    most of my driving is on hilly windy back roads.

    Welcome to the Forum. I'm with you on where I like to drive. We just bought a new Passat Wagon TDI and drove it from Portland to San Diego. We did mostly back roads down the coast then across to the Sierras. The diesel torque is what makes it a pleasure to drive. None of that peaky 5000 RPMs to get in the power band. Cruising at 70 MPH only 2200 RPMs with no degradation on the long uphill climbs. They offer the AWD Passat TDI in Canada. Maybe next year or so it will be brought to the US.

    I would love to drive up through the Adirondacks again. So pretty in the fall.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 4,098
    "None of that peaky 5000 RPMs to get in the power band. Cruising at 70 MPH only 2200 RPMs with no degradation on the long uphill climbs."

    Funny you should mention this. I was driving my fathers 2003 Town Car and happened to notice the RPMs at 70 MPH: 2200. And that was a normal gas engine (V8). However, he only gets 27 MPG on the road...
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    2003 Town Car and happened to notice the RPMs at 70 MPH: 2200.

    My Suburban is the same. Except it has never broken 20 MPG. 27 MPG is decent for a car that heavy I don't think a hybrid that heavy will match it. If you need a 6 passenger luxury car that runs on regular gas it is about your only choice.
  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    > The power (torque) is so nice to have.

    Prius provides up to 295 lb-ft torque. That's more than some diesels.

    > Mostly drive 45-60 mph with few stops.

    Prius actually does better in those conditions than highway driving.

    > $30k+ for a prius?

    First, that price is clearly not average. Most currently only pay sticker.

    Diesel supporters are notorious for using extremely short-term data to make hybrids look expensive and long-term data to make diesel look clean. Choose one and stick with it.

    Long-Term is my preference. And we all know hybrids will cost less then.

  • falcononefalconone Posts: 1,726
    There was a point in time that I owned my Liberty and allroad at the same time. When it snowed, I always got into the Audi. Much more stable in the snow, especially with stability control. As to the 3.5V6 in the RAV, I doubt it can be any worse than the 15-16 MPG I got with the 3.7 Liberty.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    Prius provides up to 295 lb-ft torque. That's more than some diesels.

    Now that they are more available I will have to go and test drive the Prius II. We travel a section of Interstate 8 from the El Cajon Valley to Descanso. It is about a 3500 foot rise in 10 miles. That will be a good test. If it can maintain 75 MPH up that grade it will handle most anything you need.
  • ratbertratbert Posts: 22
    John - point taken on the cost of the prius. But we don't all know (as you put it) that in the future, the long-term cost of the prius will be less than a diesel. I have no way of knowing how well they will hold up at 200,000 miles. They just don't have the history yet and there are too many unknowns. Let's hope that time is good for it. I don't want to see hybrids fail. Anything that helps gas mileage is good. There is room for both hybrid and diesel.

    Still, it's a dead horse for me as I will only drive a manual and need AWD. I'm slowly getting used to running my '02 Outback at 3500 rpms in 3rd gear just to make it up the hills in my commute. Driving has to be enjoyable to me, otherwise it's a chore. Crank up the stereo and have fun for the 35 minutes to and from work! :D

    It's all about the whole package, not just economy and cost. I find the hybrids out there quite ugly (prius) or just plain boring/bland (civic/escape/highlander/accord). personal preference.

    People think of cars differently. I like a manual transmission coupled to an engine. I don't like fancy stuff in between. It numbs the feel of the car to you.

    And finally - I have to be able to rip out the crappy factory stereo and put one in myself. If I can't do that, then it's a deal breaker for ANY car.
  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    So... how exactly are non-hybrid diesels going to attract the average consumer?

    Jetta GL Auto TDI both accelerates slower and is less efficient than Prius.

    That mild clatter of the diesel engine is rather hard to overlook too.

  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    So... how exactly are non-hybrid diesels going to attract the average consumer?

    Simplicity, is the key that those that love the hybrid technology overlook. As complex as all new cars are, the hybrids are much more complex. It is easier to jump into a VW TDI and get good mileage than a hybrid. Not a lot of people like to "hyper-mile" it. If my driving was mostly commuting in town with a lot of stop and go the Prius would be on the list. I think it excels in that area. Most of my in town driving is less than 3 miles each way. Nothing but an EV does good under those circumstances. If you like to get out a drive the highways and byways as I do. It is hard to beat a modern diesel car. I suspect I will sell this 2005 Passat very soon and get a Mercedes E320 CDI. I need a little more luxury and don't want to give up the superior German handling. They are not noisy. They are not as quiet as the Prius in stealth mode. They are quieter when you are pulling a long hard hill at 75 MPH.
  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    > hybrids are much more complex

    Though true with "assist" hybrids that add components, it is not with "full" hybrids... since the PLANETARY-CVT design actually eliminates some.

    Complexity is becomes a wash as the years proceed anyway. At that point, consumers turn to consumer ratings instead of analyzing design. And guess what, Prius already rates higher in reliability that the diesel Jetta.

  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    Prius already rates higher in reliability that the diesel Jetta.

    As you know 90 day ratings are all but useless. We have had lots of years to watch the VW TDI. The engine was not the problem. It was the electronics and wiring issues. The hybrids have a lot more electronics and wiring to go bad. The Prius IS being investigated for problems. More problems are coming to light. Such as catching on fire while sitting in a parking lot. I am waiting on that one to plays out. Supposedly no aftermarket devices were installed. What is the figure, 38% more parts than a comparable non-hybrid. Until they become very popular you will be tied to the manufacturers for parts. That is not the case with the VW TDIs. Complexity will not become a wash. It will lead to early dumping of vehicles to avoid paying enormous repair bills. That goes for all vehicles. Throwaway cars are not beneficial to our environment.
  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    Where the heck did 90 days come from?

    Prius has been on the road in the United States for 5 years. That's a decent amount of data to work with, and what the discussion is based on. Taking advantage of media hype based on a handful owners that haven't gotten their updates yet is clearly not constructive.

    That conjecture doesn't answer the original question either. Once again, how exactly will non-hybrid diesels attract the attention of the average consumer?

  • seminole_kevseminole_kev Posts: 1,722
    "how exactly will non-hybrid diesels attract the attention of the average consumer? "

    Well I'd say with great amounts of torque on tap and great fuel economy at a sticker price that should be competitive with regular gas powered cars and below hybrid pricing. Should at least perk consumers ears.

    Especially in the US where "we" like automatic transmissions and low end torque ("we" generally don't like to rev our engines). Good match up.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    My understanding is the reliability award was based on the first 90 days being trouble free. I have not seen any other studies or information on reliability or longevity of the Prius.

    The attraction to the diesel cars is easy. They are much more efficient than their gas comparables. They would be selling in much larger numbers than hybrids if allowed in CA, and the 4 other wannabe states. My VW dealer here said that not a day does by without someone asking if they have the TDI version available. The service manager wants mine. With the Jetta and Passat it is a no brainer. The TDI version outperforms the gas version, and ULSD in San Diego is cheaper than the Premium required for the gas VW. When mine gets to 7500 miles I may sell at MSRP and get another one or a MB CDI. Plus VWs handle like a dream. I can't get my wife out from behind the wheel. She has not taken her Lexus out of the garage since we got the Passat TDI. You should test drive the 2005 Passat TDI, you may sell your Prius. I am going to test drive the Prius in the next few days.

    If you check on the website below, take a look at the 2004 Prius and 2004 Jetta TDI. "Average user MPG". The Prius average of 48.4 MPG is 12% below the EPA rating. The Jetta TDI is 46.4 MPG or 13% better than the EPA rating. The Prius gets very good mileage, under most conditions. So does the VW TDI. With all the gouging and shortages of the Prius, the VW TDI may be a good alternative for some folks. Although many VW dealers were charging $1000 over MSRP for the few available VW Jetta TDIs just 6 months ago. To me no car is a good deal at much over invoice. Use the internet and find a good price. Offer that to your local dealer. Let them know you are willing to fly across the country to save money. Send a message to all car dealers, we are not fools.
  • seminole_kevseminole_kev Posts: 1,722
    Do diesel or hybrid powered cars count differently against CAFE than gas powered vehicles? If not, diesels would be a quick and easy way to boost CAFE averages since there shouldn't be any real re-engineering of the vehicle to put a diesel (that they would hopefully have available from another market) in.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    It would be an easy way for all the car companies to bring up their CAFE ratings. Unfortunately the CARB states are anti diesel. Until the manufacturers can get a clean bill of health on their engines they will not be sold. They will have to have a PM filter that will work for 150k miles. The current MB unit will not work with the fuel sold in most states. When ULSD becomes universal it will be easier to get that certification. Then most manufacturers will bring their existing cars to the USA. They are doing great with them across the rest of the world. We are just behind in getting low sulfur diesel. Though most countries are no better than we are. Only the EU and maybe Japan. What is interesting is Canada has many diesel choices we do not have. Yet they are not mandating ULSD until 2006 when the US starts using it.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    A diesel car in CA using the available ULSD is 3 times cleaner burning than the same car in much of the EU. So they are not really ahead of us. They just dropped from 350 PPM sulfur to 50 PPM in January 2005. Japan is behind the US and the EU on mandating ULSD. They have a much higher percentage of diesel cars than we do. That is probably a big reason they subsidized the hybrids, to help clean up their air. If you drive a diesel and can find biodiesel, that is even a better way to help. If we are going to use less fossil fuel, clean diesel is one logical way to save.

    In December 2001, the European Environmental Council announced an agreement to cap sulfur levels at 10 ppm in every EU state by 2009 (from today's 350 ppm level, with an interim level of 50 ppm starting in 2005). 14 While EU NOx emission standards for 2008 are considerably less stringent than the upcoming American standards (in fact, the average European diesel car will emit nearly eight times as much NOx as the average American car at that time, regardless of its fuel), the EU PM emission standards are comparable to the American standard. Both of the EU emission standards will require near-zero levels of sulfur in diesel fuel.
  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    > The Jetta TDI is 46.4 MPG

    AUTOMATIC transmission Jetta TDI real-world averages are reported in the low 40's.

    That example is either a manual transmission or someone getting above average results (or just reporting highway-only warm-weather-only data). In that case, I could report the mid 50's my Prius is currently delivering.

  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    Many owners on the Jetta TDI boards report highway mileage in the 50s also. I am not sure your point. I think the Jetta and any VW is a better highway car than the Prius or any other small Toyota. It is more a matter of preference than pure MPG. If MPG was the important factor the folks that are buying the RX400h would be buying the Prius. They wanted more comfort and luxury, and were willing to take a big hit on mileage.
  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    > report highway mileage

    The average consumer does not drive highway-only miles. So that mileage comment does not apply. Real-World driving is a mix of slow & fast speeds with a mix of stops & cruising. Show me data that applies to those conditions.

    > It is more a matter of preference

    Hence the average consumer preferring an automatic transmission. That is also why many owners find stealth so compelling, as well as the engine shutting off at stops.

    A non-hybrid diesel simply cannot compete.

  • seminole_kevseminole_kev Posts: 1,722
    "A non-hybrid diesel simply cannot compete."

    Compared to what? At what price (initial and long term)? For what task(s)?
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    A non-hybrid diesel simply cannot compete.

    You are right that it cannot compete with the stealth or engine shut off attributes of a hybrid. It can and does compete on several other very important levels. I don't think the average driver is close to accepting the one car fits all, as you allude to. Not to mention the Jetta is safer than the Prius.

    ARLINGTON, VA, April 24, 2005 — The 2005 Volkswagen new Jetta earned good ratings in both frontal offset and side impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Plus the Jetta is the first vehicle to earn the top rating of good in every individual measurement category (injury measures, head protection, and structural design) of the Institute's side impact test. This car is designated a "best pick" for side crash protection, and it's a good performer for frontal crash protection. The performance of the Jetta in these tests plus its acceptable rating for seat/head restraint design in rear impact tests make it the top-rated car overall in the inexpensive midsize class. The redesigned Jetta, which is larger than its predecessor model, was introduced in the 2005 model year, and these results apply to the new larger Jetta.

    "The new Jetta was the first vehicle to ace our side impact test," says Institute president Brian O'Neill. "It's the best performer among midsize inexpensive cars. Its structural performance was better than the second- and third-best models, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. This new Jetta design shows what manufacturers can do to improve occupant protection in serious side impacts when cars are hit by taller and heavier SUVs and pickup trucks."
  • jonnycat26jonnycat26 Posts: 101

    Hence the average consumer preferring an automatic transmission. That is also why many owners find stealth so compelling, as well as the engine shutting off at stops.

    Stealth is great, and I love it on my prius...

    However... the Jetta is leagues better than the prius. The diesel clatter you mention happens only when the engine is cold. The Prius suffers from NVH pretty much all of the time. My Prius (package 9) cost 26K. My previous Jetta (1.8t) cost 24K. Guess which had the better interior? Guess which was more comfortable? Guess which wasn't full of plastic fantastic? Guess which had proper instruments and real controls?

    If VW offered a Jetta hybrid (Mild IMA like or Full HSD/Ford like), I'd jump on it in a second.
  • ratbertratbert Posts: 22
    AUTOMATIC transmission Jetta TDI real-world averages are reported in the low 40's.

    That example is either a manual transmission or....

    So an automatic gets, what 44.5? Is that low 40's to you? 42? Still it's great mileage.

    And if it is a manual, then great. You say it like it being used to distort the numbers. Manual transmission is an option, so why should it's mileage not count? In fact, it would be my option and not the auto. I think that the average consumer is being biased by availability of manual transmissions. I know too many people that drive an auto ONLY because there was no manual option in the car they wanted. Give them to option and they woul have picked manual. But that's another topic.

    The TDI is quite quiet and I wouldn't care if it sounded like a Mack truck. I don't need stealth mode. I want to HEAR my engine and feel it.

    And to my point about the prius being more complicated, it is apparently stalling on people while they're driving (moving). Apparently at either 35 or 65 mph. Sounds scary to me. The NHTSA is investigating it.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,080
    The technology, along with the car's lighter materials and aerodynamic design -- its shape was inspired by a tropical fish -- allows it to achieve about 70 miles per gallon, according to the company.

    "This is a highly efficient, super-clean diesel that doesn't have any compromise in performance," said Dennis B. Fitzgibbons, director of public policy for DaimlerChrysler in Washington.
This discussion has been closed.