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Hardware Hacking Transportation Build Technology

World's Only Diesel-Electric Honda Insight 687

Posted by timothy
from the something-like-that-I'd-drive-even-more dept.
Jake Staub writes "Just replaced the gasoline engine in a Honda Insight with a Diesel engine. On a 3,000 mile cross-country shakedown journey the car averaged 92mpg over 1,800 miles. Around a very hilly town in Northwest Washington, the car is averaging 78mpg. These mileage averages are without the electric side of the vehicle fully functional. With a bit more tinkering on the electric side and through a slight gearing change through tire size, it is anticipated that the car will likely average 100mpg. The build for the car has been documented on the web site and is as close to open source as my time allows. The car was built by two guys in a garage in Southern Maryland. If we can do it I don't see any reason why major auto manufacturers can't do it since we used their parts."
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World's Only Diesel-Electric Honda Insight

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  • So it's diesel - is it as gutless as I've been led to believe diesel cars are? I've never driven one, but I am genuinely curious....
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by popeye44 (929152)

      I'm not saying this one isn't gutless. But current diesel technology allows for some serious horsepower and the acceleration of some vehicles I have been in are on par with other vehicles of their size.

      Unfortunately Diesel has a bad name. Partly because many gutless vehicles were made with it. I'd like to know this vehicles specs so I'm off to RTFA.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pressman (182919)

        I was working on a project comparing a Prius to a 2009 Jetta TDI. We drove both from Portland, ME to Portland, OR and you would never know the Jetta was a diesel. AND... on highway driving it destroyed the Prius on gas mileage.

        Newer diesel technology is amazingly clean, efficient and powerful.

    • Re:Gutless? (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:48AM (#29106503)

      No, modern diesels are nothing like the anemic POS that GM released in the 70s. Mainly because of the addition of the turbo charger (which diesels benefit greatly from), but common rail, higher injection pressures, advances in metallurgy.

      My TDI is quite peppy, mainly because the shape of the torque curve. BMW has a 335d and X5 which they are selling here now. VW and Benz have been selling diesels here almost non-stop since the 70s.

      That's why I always laugh when Chevy's ads come on trying to sell me this AMAZING 29 MPG car.

      I got 48 MPG in a '86 IDI Diesel (that was a bit weak, but who needs more than 50 HP?)
      I get 45 MPG in a '98 TDI diesel that is quite peppy. I have upgraded injectors and a special chip tune. I bet I'm just barely over 110 HP, if that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        All diesels in the 70s where gutless. Heck simple truth was all cars in the US in the 70s where pretty gutless. The 70s was when we where trying to get emission controls to work and computers for controlling fuel injection and spark where primitive or just not available.
        GM got such a bad rap on the diesel and for the most part it was unfair.
        The GM diesel where sold to people that didn't know how to maintain them and by dealers that really didn't know how to maintain them. People that bought a 300D where us

        • Re:Gutless? (Score:5, Funny)

          by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:18AM (#29106961)

          Heck simple truth was all cars in the US in the 70s where pretty gutless.

          Okay, this is more about aerodynamics than being gutless but whatever...

          I had a 76 Ford Pinto when I was a teenager. My friend and I were on our way up to White Pass to go skiing when some guy in a Dodge Charger goes flying around us at ~ 90mph on a blind curve. Fortunately no one was coming the other way, but a cop was sitting right there. He pulls the guy over, then (as I drove by) flagged me down as well. The cop walks up to me and says "I have the two of you doing 90+ on this mountain road", to which I replied with the truth - I'd been passed on a curve, and may have been right behind the Charger but was not going that fast (probably 55-60, which was within the limit). He give me one of those "I've heard THAT before" looks, so I followed up with "Have you ever been in a Ford Pinto going over 65mph? The thing shakes so hard it'd probably start to fall apart pretty fast".

          He laughed and let me go.

        • The real story (Score:5, Insightful)

          by name_already_taken (540581) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:33AM (#29107211)

          All diesels in the 70s where gutless. Heck simple truth was all cars in the US in the 70s where pretty gutless. The 70s was when we where trying to get emission controls to work and computers for controlling fuel injection and spark where primitive or just not available.

          This is true. The basic scientific research on how to control automobile exhaust emissions was incomplete at the time, and the engine controls available were too primitive. This isn't anyone's fault - technology just hadn't caught up to the needs of the time. The only way to do it was to lower compression ratios, and reduce the camshaft profiles. The pellet-bed catalytic converters of the time were horribly restrictive also. About the only good thing that happened to car engines in the 1970s was the advent of good electronic ignition systems. Turbochargers were not in wide use (or production) for cars, so there were very few turbodiesel cars (mostly MB) due to the cost of the turbo itself. Normally aspirated diesels aren't exactly exciting to drive. (Trivia - when the Porsche 911 Turbo came out, parts of the turbo system were made by Lycoming, the aircraft engine company, because there weren't any suitable automotive turbo parts available.)

          GM got such a bad rap on the diesel and for the most part it was unfair.

          That's not totally true. There were some basic design mistakes, and a cost cutting decision you mentioned that were the downfall of the Oldsmobile diesel.

          The GM diesel where sold to people that didn't know how to maintain them and by dealers that really didn't know how to maintain them. People that bought a 300D where used to paying Hans the big bucks. Olds buyers where not.

          Actually, a Mercedes diesel of the time required very little maintenance (on the engine at least). Oil, coolant and filter (air/fuel/oil) changes, and that's about it. You could do it all in your driveway.

          Also GM didn't put in a water separator. That was shouldn't have been an issue but right then quality of diesel went to crap and you had a lot of failed injector pumps. Again MB was used to crap fuel and put in the extra filtering needed.

          This was a big problem. All diesel fuel accumulates water eventually. Diesel fuel has a lubricity requirement - because it must also lubricate the high pressure injection pump. Water is not a good lubricant. Leaving out the water separator was a cost cutting decision GM would not repeat. The later Chevrolet (designed in collaboration with Detroit Diesel) 6.2/6.5 V8 came with one, and even a warning light on the dash to indicate that there was a buildup of water in the fuel (you would then have to open a valve and drain the water out of the separator.

          The problems weren't all maintenance-related. The GM 350 diesel (and the lesser-known 4.3V6 diesel used in the front-wheel-drive A-body cars, unrelated to the later Chevrolet 4.3 gas V6) was designed by reusing parts from the Oldsmobile gas V8. The blocks were made using a high-nickel iron alloy and are very strong - they're often bought from the junkyards by drag racers who want to use them as the basis to build very high powered gas engines. The cylinder heads and crankshafts were pretty much stretching the design limits of the materials they were made of, since they were designed under budget constraints. Cracked heads and broken crankshafts were not uncommon. There are tolerances in the alloy compositions (this is just a fact of life, not a GM problem) - because of this some engines got stronger crankshafts and cylinder heads (basically by chance), and there are quite a few 5.7 diesels still running around. I have a friend who was driving a 1980 Oldsmobile 98 Diesel until a few years ago when the body started to rust out.

          The later 6.2/6.5 engines were very durable, because they were designed from the ground up to be diesels.

          It is unfortunate that GMs design errors stained the diesel in the US

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cream wobbly (1102689)

          GM got such a bad rap on the diesel and for the most part it was unfair.

          Well, except for the small matter of them blowing head gaskets, setting on fire, and the poor performance and reliability...

          Something about them being actually petrol engines modified for compression ignition, without realising that the compression ratios would typically be double, which was out of specification for the block.

          VW's and MB's engines around the same time were purpose built diesel motors. Due to the higher specifications, these motors are still running today, even if the original cars are not.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by shiftless (410350)

            Something about them being actually petrol engines modified for compression ignition, without realising that the compression ratios would typically be double, which was out of specification for the block.

            No, the block was heavily reinforced.

            ALL of the Olds diesel problems can be traced back to one idiotic design decision--the lack of a fuel/water separator. That, combined with the horribly contaminated diesel fuel in the late 70s/early 80s, is what led to the Olds diesel's demise.

        • Re:Gutless? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @12:00PM (#29107677)

          The GM diesel where sold to people that didn't know how to maintain them and by dealers that really didn't know how to maintain them. People that bought a 300D where used to paying Hans the big bucks.

          My dad's 300D from 1982 has never required any sort of engine work. It's driven 300k miles on diesel and now 100k on vegetable oil. It's got the original transmission, the original suspension, the original brakes (this seems crazy to me, but they're in fine shape), etc. It doesn't have the original battery, filters have been replaced, and the vacuum system that controls the locks is leaky so if you shut down the car and lock/unlock cycle the doors a few times the other 3 doors will stop following the driver's door lock.

          His 1994 Ford Explorer gets a new transmission every ~4 years, new brakes every 1.5 years, and required him to work on the engine for a week a few years ago. The brakes and transmission are no longer Ford parts - those failed even more often and the new brand has a lifetime warranty that gets a lot of use. The front suspension needed to be replaced, and when the brakes fail ahead of schedule (they do so by falling off while you're driving if you don't watch them closely enough to catch them a month in advance) there's a good chance you'll cause some damage requiring replacement of the axle if you have to tap the brake pedal as you get off the road.

          Anecdotes, but along with similar experiences on 2 other Mercedes and 3 other American cars in this period, they're enough to make him look to the Germans when he wants a new car.

      • Re:Gutless? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by FrozenFOXX (1048276) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:43AM (#29107361)
        I've also got a 2003 VW Golf TDI, thing's a blast. It's not a barn burner in a straight line but that doesn't mean you can't do that. Down in Holt raceway we had a guy that'd bring out his F-250 diesel and burn straight kerosene. It was a 1/8mi. track and he smoked *everything*. Funniest thing I'd seen.

        But yeah, modern diesels are fantastic. Fuel efficient, plenty of punch, stupid amounts of torque, and best of all diesel's extremely durable and simple which makes it ideal for consumer vehicles. My wife's a diesel mechanic (buses mostly) and trust me you can beat the tar out of a diesel and it'll probably still outlive you.
    • That is the #1 reason we don't have more diesels - the old, 1980's legacy of gutless 40hp diesels. New turbo-diesels are NOTHING like those POS cars. Go to a VW dealer and drive either a diesel Jetta or Bug - they have GREAT pickup - way better than a gas engine, especially at highway speed where the torque in a gas engine totally falls off. Because diesels require more compression, the engines are built stronger so last much, much longer than gas. And diesel is about 30% more efficient than gas engines
    • So try driving one. Then you will know. Modern diesels can be very fast indeed.

      My van (a Mitsubishi L300 Delica) has a 2.5 litre turbocharged diesel engine. By North American standards it's severely underpowered, with straight line performance like an old air-cooled VW Beetle. It does what it needs to do: it cruises nicely on the highway, and has all the acceleration it needs for freeway on-ramps and city traffic.

      ...laura

    • I drive a VW Golf TDI ("turbo diesel...") for both the gas mileage and the torque. (That's good for acceleration.) To broaden your mind, stop at a VW dealership and try one out.

      I love my car, but I'd replace it with a commercially available diesel electric hybrid in a heartbeat. Beyond the incredible mileage, there would be something cool about driving a diesel+electric arrangement similar to that in train locomotives.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        TDI = Turbo Direct Injection (Fuel is injected straight into the cylinders)
        SDI = Stratified Diesel Injection. (Same as above, no turbo).
        IDI = Indirect Injector. (Fuel is injected into prechamber.) Came with and without a turbo.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ottothecow (600101)
      Diesels still don't put down a ton of horsepower...but there is a saying in the auto industry that "people buy horsepower but drive torque"

      Diesels have a ton of torque--they have the low end grunt needed to jam you into your seat, you just have to get used to not shifting at 6k rpm

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FatAlb3rt (533682)

        Diesels still don't put down a ton of horsepower...

        What's a ton? My daily driver [fordvehicles.com] is cranking out about 400 HP. It came from the factory at around 325.

    • The problem with diesels is not the engine; it's the fuel. The percentage of a barrel of oil that can become diesel fuel is problematic. Haven't you noticed how the price of diesel used to be rather less than gasoline, but now is usually the same or even more? Some of that was because in the "old" days the demand for diesel was simply low, so a low price was the consequence. Then a lot of auto makers started selling diesel cars and demand for the fuel shot up against the limits of production capacity.
      • Re:Gutless? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:07AM (#29106783) Homepage Journal

        Arco Gas Station down the street from my house - Regular 87 Octane - 3.05/g diesel 2.85/g

        this is in Southern California.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ageoffri (723674)
      I recently traded my 06 VW Golf TDI in on a new Camaro. Let me tell you, a diesel is far from gutless. Thanks to the low end torque of diesel the car accelerates more like a small V6 instead of a I4. I could comfortable cruise at 80 mph which is 5 over the speed limit on the highway by me. When it comes to automotive performance, horsepower determines top speed and torque acceleration.

      If I get to the point that I can afford a 2nd car payment or pay off my new car another VW TDI will be at the top of my

    • When we went to Germany last year, the rental company stuck us with an Opel Vectra station wagon. (It's a GM product if you're not familiar.) The electronics sucked, the interior was cheap and breaking, but I have [b]no complaints[/b] about the quality of the diesel engine or the manual transmission. The car was suitably powerful to play on the Autobahn, yet still got over 35 MPG during the course of a two-week driving tour of Germany and Austria.

      (The rental company wouldn't let us take it over ~130MPH.

  • Because .. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:44AM (#29106447)
    For various reasons the industry in the US has shunned diesel for private vehicles. That has to change before any headway can be made.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eln (21727)
      Volkswagen is trying to change that with their Jetta TDI. They ran a bunch of basically infomercials with the Mythbusters guys after each episode for a while trying to "bust the myths" surrounding diesel engines. Time will tell if their marketing campaign is successful, but I would love to see a diesel engine car make some headway here. Personally, I figure I'll be in the market for a new car in 1 or 2 years, and if the Jetta TDI is as good as they want us to think it is, I'm leaning pretty heavily towar
    • Re:Because .. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by east coast (590680) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:57AM (#29106643)
      For various reasons the industry in the US has shunned diesel for private vehicles.

      Maybe because the public has shunned it?

      Let's be honest here, the industry will do what the public wants when the public votes with their dollars. Diesel could be the answer to the problem but it's also perceived as a problem in and of itself with the public. For the industry it will take less for them to build a technology than to dispel the FUD around an old technology.

      And even above the FUD it's hard. At least in my case. I was looking into diesel over a decade ago and good information was hard to get. It was a scary beast when I heard the stories of the fuel gelling, the cost of diesel and engine block heaters. Even with all of this what ended up killing it off for me was that I could only find one service station within 5 miles of my house that had diesel. It made me wonder just how hard it would be to fuel my car in a pinch.

      Today I would be less apprehensive but given that I have a newish vehicle and in expect to see a swing in the market before I need a new one I guess it's a moot point.
      • by jonbryce (703250)

        In Europe, the majority of new cars sold now are diesels, and petrol stations sell more diesel than petrol. *Every* petrol station sells diesel, so that is not a problem.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ray-auch (454705)

        For various reasons the industry in the US has shunned diesel for private vehicles.

        Maybe because the public has shunned it?

        Let's be honest here, the industry will do what the public wants when the public votes with their dollars.

        The public in general (worldwide) will buy what they are told to by the marketers.

        Diesel used to have a noisy/dirty/slow reputation in Europe too (20 odd years ago) and it persisted after the technology improved - but the car mfrs here marketed the hell out of new diesels and economy, economy, economy. They had to - it was the only way they could get their fleet average emissions to meet the EU laws.

        The US left a truck-sized loophole in its laws for CAFE targets, with the result that if the mfrs could sell

    • Re:Because .. (Score:5, Informative)

      by tlhIngan (30335) <[ten.frow] [ta] [todhsals]> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:00AM (#29106695)

      For various reasons the industry in the US has shunned diesel for private vehicles. That has to change before any headway can be made.

      Well, the big issue was diesel was much dirtier in North America (high sulfur content) than in Europe, and a lot of the technologies that make diesel cars behave like gas cars tend to require the clean diesel. These days though, I believe the legislation has made low-sulfur diesel mandatory, which is why we see VW and Mercedes starting to import more diesel cars.

      Quite a change, really - drive a heavy SUV that gets 5L/100km or better (probably spewing less CO2 than the little car next to you...). Or the fact that the engine lacks the traditional diesel clatter normally associated with trucks, or hell, doesn't Mercedes have a thing that mixes ammonia or something with exhaust that makes the exhaust even cleaner still?

      • Re:Because .. (Score:4, Informative)

        by SpuriousLogic (1183411) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:47AM (#29107413)
        Mercedes uses Urea to deal with the NO2 issue - although Honda was supposed to be using a high-temp plasma to do the same (http://www.autoblog.com/2006/05/27/honda-turning-to-plasma-to-beat-diesel-emmisions/) so you would not need to refill urea/ammonia in the car.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Andy Dodd (701)

      The main reason is the EPA.

      US emissions restrictions are different from Europe. Not necessarily stricter, but different.

      As I understand it, US emissions regulations are very strict about particulates and NOx emissions (both drawbacks for diesel. Particulates is easy to solve and has been solved, NOx is much harder.)

      Euro emissions regulations are very strict about unburned hydrocarbons IIRC, which is good for diesel but bad for gasoline. They are far less strict about NOx.

    • Re:Because .. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kick6 (1081615) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:18AM (#29106947) Homepage

      For various reasons the industry in the US has shunned diesel for private vehicles. That has to change before any headway can be made.

      I disagree. Diesel is a BYPRODUCT of gasoline refining. A barrel of oil (42 US gallons), when refined, yields about 19.5 gallons of gasoline and about 9 gallons of diesel. Part of the reason diesel prices got so expensive last summer is because there was no supply. Nobody was buying the expensive gasoline that accounts for more than half of all refined goods, but the big trucks and ships needed the diesel that nobody wanted to make because they couldn't sell the gasoline. Starting to see the vicious cycle? Therefore, if a bunch of people started driving diesel cars, you'd see last summer's diesel prices becoming a bit more permanent. Leave diesel to work vehicles. Cars should run on gasoline. The headway needs to be made in technologies like gasoline direct injection.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:44AM (#29106449)

    The black helicopters need to be sent in here. Gas Mileage like that is un-American. Before you know it, the schematics for the water-car will get out.

    • Hmmm water based car's out date the petrol engine did you forget about steam?
    • The black helicopters need to be sent in here. Gas Mileage like that is un-American. Before you know it, the schematics for the water-car will get out.

      It almost did. That's why they killed Billy Mays! [reddit.com] Yes, he had cocaine in his system but that was because he loved eating copious amounts of cash.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:45AM (#29106463)

    (whisper)When it comes to cars, the slashdotter species generally has absolutely NO idea what it is talking about. Shhhh. Here comes the posters now. Let's watch quietly as they trot out the same old ignorant meme's about hybrids, electrics and diesels.(/whisper)

  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:46AM (#29106465) Homepage Journal

    By using less fuel you are shifting the tax burden onto those who cannot afford a high tech vehicle. We should expect owners of hybrids, electric cars and high efficiency vehicles to pay their fair share if they can't manage to pay their road tax through fuel purchases. Perhaps you people should be required to keep a log of your travel distances and cut a check when you renew your state registration based on your mileage.

    • by MBGMorden (803437)

      But by using less fuel they are also producing less pollution which means fewer tax dollars total will have to go towards solving that problem. They're helping more than they're hurting. I certainly don't see the need to remove an incentive to drive a more efficient vehicle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Don't be stupid. I mean, the widening fuel/tax-vs-driving gulf is a legit issue, but if the state wants their road tax money, they're perfectly capable of asking for it. (Demanding, actually). In the meantime, they're giving you a tax break for fuel efficiency, which isn't that bad a thing to do, all told.

      And in general, I reject the premise that people are morally obligated to voluntarily donate as great a portion to their income as is feasible to the government (like some of those people who say "you sh

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by OrangeTide (124937)

        Most states had budget shortfalls this year. Road projects are being deferred or outright canceled. If you don't mind driving over potholes, then keep driving your hybrid/electric/whatever. The pollution a car makes has zero impact on the use of the road. If people should get a break, it's people who drive motorcycles which use far less space on the road. Or compact cars which are lighter and damage the road less.

        I'm surprised you didn't point out that I didn't attack bicyclists for not paying any tax at al

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MarcQuadra (129430)

      I live in a state with one of the highest gasoline taxes in the union, and our gas tax doesn't put a dent in our road maintenance budget, which is already not enough to properly maintain the roads.

      Using less gas isn't 'shifting the burden' to those who can't afford a more efficient car, especially since there -are- efficient cheap cars. I bought my small 34 MPG car (on the efficient side for the USA) because I couldn't -afford- anything else.

      Your argument tries to use economics as a way to discourage a more

  • Diesel engine with WVO/PPO has less fine particle dust as output.
    Also a particle filter can be used.
    I saw an ad for an american petrol car that needed a hybrid version to average 1L in 16 KM which is relleay poor for a 'high tech' car.
    I do like the diesel-electric idea, too bad the site is slashdotted?
  • Diesel engines have always been where hybrid cars should go, its just that in North America, most people avoid diesel and gas stations often don't have it.

    Diesel engines afaik have always been more tunable to run very efficiently at specific speeds and are therefore a much better choice for generators in general (and are often used in that capacity). Using a fixed-speed diesel engine to generate electricity for a hybrid vehicle seems obvious, and its been done for both city buses and the military HMMV with great success.

    I believe a consumer focus on gasoline has lead to car companies' focus on gasoline-electric hybrids instead of diesel-electric.

    • I've NEVER had a problem finding diesel. If the place you're going has *anything*. It was likely brought there by truck. Trucks run diesels, so the place you're going likely has diesel.

      And you will NEVER get more efficient cruising than an engine mechanically connected to the wheels. Buses have a completely different duty cycles to most vehicles and series hybrid won't make sense to install in them. Trains use them as a transmission because a normal geared transmission would be near impossible.

      • You're missing the fact that in buses you're wasting all that frequent braking power which could be reclaimed, as well as the large flat roof for solar collection.

        Also, as someone who drives an awful lot, there are a whole lot of gas stations out there without diesel although the situation has gotten better.

    • by klocwerk (48514) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:00AM (#29106705) Homepage

      Except that you're talking about a series hybrid drive, and only the Chevy Volt works that way at the moment.

      The Insight and the Prius are both parallel drive hybrids, which means the gas engine turns the wheels as well as powers up the batteries. The electric turns the wheels sometimes. The Volt's big thing is that it's a series hybrid, the drive is always electric and the gas engine runs at its high-efficiency speed to charge the batteries, then shuts off again.

      Meaning that your comment would be correct if all hybrids were series hybrids, but as of now your comment would only apply to the Volt which isn't in production yet.

      • I'm quite certain the Volt is in fact in production [engadget.com] at this point, and yes I'm speaking of series hybrid drives but that doesn't invalidate my point at all.

        My point was simply about using hybrid drives at all, and the choice to use parallel hybrid drives for gasoline engines stems precisely from inefficiencies.

        As another person replied, a series hybrid will never be more efficient than a straight engine, but that's ignoring the charging of the batteries through third party options like regenerative braking, solar collection and wall sockets.

        • by onemorechip (816444) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:55AM (#29107587)

          As another person replied, a series hybrid will never be more efficient than a straight engine, but that's ignoring the charging of the batteries through third party options like regenerative braking, solar collection and wall sockets.

          It's also ignoring that the losses through conversion are only in the 5% to 10% range. If the gain from running the engine at a constant speed is enough to offset this loss, the hybrid *will* be more efficient.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by QuantumRiff (120817)
        Actually, any Locomotive built since the 1960's is a series hybrid drive diesel. They knew back then how much more efficient it was to have a finely tuned diesel to run at a constant RPM, and turn a Generator to power the electric wheels. (remember reading somewhere that the transmission needed to get a train to its top speed with the old style engine would way more than the whole locomotive!) Were just now getting back to that.. Kinda sad.. Part of me wonders if the companies have been waiting for some
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by evilviper (135110)

          They knew back then how much more efficient it was to have a finely tuned diesel to run at a constant RPM

          No. They knew it would be practically impossible to build a mechanical transmission to handle the unbelievable loads required of a locomotive... If they wanted added efficiency, they sure screwed the pooch when they designed dynamic braking to use giant resistors, and throw away all that braking power as waste heat.

          Locomotive engines certainly don't run at constant RPMs. There's no battery where the e

    • Diesel is good, but I'd like to see Mazda make a Wankel based Hybrid. It's low weight and excellent fixed speed performance is ideal for hybrid vehicles.

    • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:18AM (#29106959) Homepage

      Actually, it's just the opposite - due to the fact that they throttle simply by adjusting fuel supply to the cylinders and typically do not have a throttle plate, diesel engines are FAR more efficient at reduced power levels than gasoline engines are.

      As a result, one of the two main hybrid advantages (running the engine at peak efficiency) is negated. On the other hand, due to the high compression ratio, diesels are simply more efficient.

      The other big hybrid advantage (regenerative braking) is still quite applicable to diesel, and in fact may be far easier to apply to diesels than to gasoline, since "ghetto hybrid" approaches like belt alternator-starter and flywheel alternator-starter can still provide great benefit. (Downshift to rev the engine and get the electric to spin - in a gas engine this will result in engine braking. Diesels don't, and in fact can't without special tricks, engine brake, so having an electric generator tied directly to the engine would still be quite effective.)

    • by d3vi1 (710592) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:20AM (#29106987)

      The irony is that hybrid diesels would be perfect, but nobody takes the concept to it's true potential.
      Diesel electric all the way, like in train engines. A Diesel likes to have a constant RPM at it's peak performance value. Imagine connecting an alternator directly to the engine and giving up the inefficient gear system. Imagine a Diesel engine that is always at it's peak performance RPM, even when there's barely any electrical load on it. That car would be a rocket that goes for free (or almost free). It's also pretty easy to build if you have 2 things:
      1) 1x 150kW alternator (it's the right amount) that also fits under the hood along with the engine.
      2) 4x 40kW electric engines that you connect directly to the drive shaft (and should also fit in there somewhere).
      As far as I know a 150kW alternator is very big (about as big as the engine itself) and the 40kW engines are also huge, but at least in theory this would be by far the best way to bring the top possible performance of an engine to the tarmac. Electricity is the best way to transfer energy between two points and a constant RPM diesel is the most efficient and performant diesel out there.

  • Diesel Hybrid? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lalena (1221394) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:53AM (#29106597) Homepage
    Since the site has been /.'ed and I can't RTFA, I have to ask... Is this really a Diesel Electric engine (as in locomotives) where the diesel engine is used solely to create electricity and is not connected to the drive train? Or is this actually a Diesel Hybrid?
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:55AM (#29106611) Homepage Journal
    The current model VW's that have diesel options (Jetta, Golf, Beetle) can average 50mpg all day long with 4 adults and the AC turned on. The first generation Honda Insight, by comparison, barely fits two grown adults (no back seat at all), and has a much smaller fuel tank. If they did this with the new Insight (their web page seems to have gone up in smoke so I can't tell which Insight they used) it would be a little more impressive, though they would still be dealing with the technical issues that face hybrids that do no apply to diesel.

    I for one would rather start with a diesel and tune it to get 70mpg without a trunk full of batteries.
  • I wonder how well a diesel motor would do in a serial Hybrid like the Volt...

  • Isn't it a feature of diesels that they run best in a narrow RPM range? If so, they would be ideal for operating a generator optimized to that range in a hybrid.

    A genuine 100mpg car -- not this phoney 230mpg G(overnment) M(otors) Chevy Volt figure -- with acceptable performance would truly excite the automobile market much more than a 99mpg car can.
    • by Brett Buck (811747) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:16AM (#29106917)

      Isn't it a feature of diesels that they run best in a narrow RPM range?

              That's a characteristic of ALL internal combustion engines, not just diesels. The reason it has been associated with diesels is that the common applications of diesels are those that lend themselves to narrow-range or constant rpm applications like trucks and diesel-electric trains. You could easily optimize a gasoline or methanol engine for a particular RPM range wtih similar results - a restrictor plate NASCAR motor being a hallmark example. It jusy runs around at an almost constant RPM the entire race, and it highly optimized for both power and mileage.

              Brett

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Isn't it a feature of diesels that they run best in a narrow RPM range?

        That's a characteristic of ALL internal combustion engines, not just diesels. The reason it has been associated with diesels is that the common applications of diesels are those that lend themselves to narrow-range or constant rpm applications ...

        Wait a minute. That's misleading.

        All engines have some RPM where they have an efficiency peak and for a narrow range around that they are essentially at their peak efficiency (because the slop

  • Since their webserver seems to have gone up in a cloud of smoke I can't view the web page to see what car they worked on. Some of us might not realize that there have been two very different cars sold in the US by Honda called the Insight. The current one of course is a nearly perfect clone of the Toyota Prius. However some time ago there was a much, much, smaller hybrid sold by Honda under the same name. It was probably the first mass-market hybrid sold in the US. The first Insight could almost fit in
  • two words: (Score:2, Informative)

    Fucking awesome.
  • by redelm (54142) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:09AM (#29106809) Homepage

    The main reason gasoline hybrids get better mileage than direct-coupled engines is that the gasoline engine is not forced to operate at inefficient points on its' BSFC map (near closed throttle). The engine only runs when needed, and then it runs near its' BEP (Best efficiency point), or occasionally at maximum power which also has decent efficiency. It is not forced to idle and off-idle conditions where the pumping losses are horrible and efficiency s#x (5x fuel for same marginal power).

    Diesel engines have entirely different BSFC maps, and do not suffer the same pumping losses (vacuum across throttle plate). Their drop off at idle is _much_ lower than for gasoline engines, so they're great in city-wide European traffic jams. Diesel fuel also is ~15% denser (more heat per gallon) and the higher compression ratio is about 5% more theoretically efficient.

    But a diesel hybrid does not have much to gain by hybridization. The BSFC map is much flatter, and the engine restarting power & wear is considerably higher.

  • EPA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @11:18AM (#29106953) Homepage

    > If we can do it I don't see any reason why major auto manufacturers can't do
    > it...

    Have your car's emissions tested.

  • by TheMiddleRoad (1153113) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @12:12PM (#29107861)

    Diesels are more expensive than gas engines. Hybrids are more expensive than non-hybrids. Diesel hybrids are the most expensive of the bunch. The market just isn't willing to pay an extra 8-10k for more efficiency. As it is, hybrid buyers have to wait many years to make up the difference versus similar but non-hybrid cars.

    Compare the Honda Fit to the Insight.

    Insight Base MSRP 19,800
    Fit Base Auto MSRP 15,550
    Insight MPG 41
    Fit MPG 31

    Assume fuel is $4.00 (higher than now) and 15,000 miles driven per year.

    So basically, assuming you keep the car, you break even when you've saved 4250 on fuel. That will take 9 years.

    So say you take the 50MPG diesel and turn it into a 66MPG diesel. The amount spent on fuel each year will be much smaller in the first place, so it will take even longer to pay off the investment.

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