Co-Gen Hybrids

I drive a 2001 Honda Insight.  Its blue, and I love it.  I love how small it is.  I love how useful it is (built in cooler!).   And of course I love its 70+mpg in the summer and 55+ in the winter.  And this year with the addition of dedicated snow tires it has handled as much as 8″ of snow with aplomb –even with only 4″ of ground clearance.  It is one sweet ride.

One weakness of hybrids is that in steady state driving (freeway) you are not recharging the batteries which ultimately hurts your mileage, this is why most hybrids get better mileage in the city.  But now Honda is working on a new generation hybrid that adds a third technology -electrical co generation using the waste heat from the gas engine.   the technology is still a ways out, but I would love to see the waste heat that I am paying  $3.30 a gallon for (and my country is paying $1 trillion a year for) doing something other than running out the tail pipe.  Their prototype is seeing 3x the energy storage than from regenerative braking alone in a typical US freeway circuit.  Sweet!

Brief, but informative, write up here 



4 Responses

  1. Thanks for the link! We have been on hold with a new vehicle hoping to have something that actually fits our family and our needs become available (and not a just big honkin’ truck engine because that is the only diesel available that fits). Our commuting vehicle is tiny and gets excellent gas mileage and is driven only 15 miles/day during the week…but for the family (plus my mom)? So much more is available in Europe which is frustrating. Finally reading about more coming up…even a few interesting new techologies. Here is hoping!

  2. The next real term solution for families will most likely be a new generation diesel from Honda in an upcoming version of their Odyssey minivan. Think 30+mpg. If they put a hybrid on it two things will happen. It could get up to 45mpg, but it will also cost north of $40k. Toyota has had a hybrid minivan in Japan for a decade now. Lots of cool cars in the pipeline:

    That said, your current plan of holding tight ain’t bad either… we too are about 1-2 years past when we had traditionally purchased newer cars -the most sustainable car choice is the one you don’t buy!

  3. That is why we are holding out. If we can wait as long as possible and get something that is really a good solution, then we are not just buying a vehicle and spewing more gunk out in that production process.

    And yes, 40K is a bit steep! We were looking again at vehicles the other day and Mercedes has an SUV hybrid coming out, I think – but it is 50K+. For not even that spectacular mpg, if I remember correctly.

    I think we’ll hold on, and keep doing our weekly no driving days…and keep an eye on the horizon! 🙂

  4. I purchased a European diesel here in Amsterdam in 1997, and I loved it. It too under good conditions (long distance highway trip, 60mph or slower, not too heavily loaded, good tire pressure, clean air filter, etc) would get more than 70mpg. Even under the worst of circumstances it rarely got less than 50, and probably averaged 55 over the life of the car.

    Okay, it was more than 10 years ago, the technology was new and there were a few rough edges, but I really liked the car. It was made by a company owned by Volkswagen and it was a rebadged Jetta. It was large enough to hold 5 adults, plus had a reasonable sized trunk. It was a very smooth car and comfortable to drive. One of the neatest things about it was it was built with a fairly simple and small 4 cylinder diesel engine, and a look under the hood and what you would see was a look of empty space — there just wasn’t much there. I know, this is the kind of car that makes anyone who knows diesels from a few decades ago shudder.

    The thing was, on top of this simple diesel engine was a very high-tech turbo charger. It just screamed! The car had a top speed of about 125mph (making it nice for driving around Germany), and the acceleration was amazing — one of the fastest on the road. It was part of the efficiency of the car, that made it fast and gave it a lot of power as well as fuel economy, and the two went together. It didn’t matter how hard you accelerated, it was still economical to drive. It would however lose most of it’s fuel economy at sustained high speeds (above 75mph). You could even ‘chip’ the car, if you wanted more power.

    Because at it’s basic level it was a simple diesel engine, it was no problem to get routine service from any mechanic. The turbo charger was a sealed unit, and if it ever needed repair it could be removed by any mechanic and exchanged at the dealer for a rebuilt unit. My turbocharger only failed once, a few months after I bought the car, and it was still under warranty. The car was very reasonably priced at the time too, but I think newer models are pricier.

    In the years following my car, Volkswagen came out with two big improvements. The first were large minivans, with a more powerful version of the engine, that got about the same mileage. The other improvement was a very small, 2-3 person, three cylinder car that got about 100mpg. It too had a lot of power for a small car.

    I really put a lot of miles on the car, and it was pretty dead when we traded it in for a new car 2 years ago. I would have loved to get a similar car, but road tax structures and the current list price made it out of the question, so we opted for a Honda Jazz (called a Honda Fit in the US).

    Almost no one here drives a hybrid car, they just don’t compare in any favorable way to turbo diesels. Hybrids are more expensive to buy, they have batteries full of toxic materials which we are promised can be recycled when the time comes, but the technology doesn’t exist to do it yet. When they need to be fixed, you usually have to take them to the dealer. The technology is just too new, and there are too many rough edges, especially compared with turbo diesels which have been around for nearly 15 years now.

    I hope before anyone in the US rushes out to buy the latest generation hybrid will consider that the European diesels planned for release in the US this year may be a lot better, and if you buy a hybrid now it may just be a throw away consumer waste item full of toxic materials in a few years. It’s always possible they won’t make them right in the US, and they won’t be worth buying, but I would at least give them a chance before you rush out and buy a new car now.

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