back to article French motorwonk savages hybrid cars

A French automotive-industry researcher has published an attack on hybrid cars, suggesting that they aren't a good sustainable way to save the planet and will prevent other technologies from developing. The author of Hybrid vehicles: a temporary step is Jean-Jacques Chanaron, Research Director at the French National Centre for …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    He's right

    In the warped world of US motoring we already have the green SUV hybrids...WTF!

    personally the sooner we have windmills on top of the damn things the better.


  2. Matt Bryant Silver badge


    I'm sure the fact that the current leaders in the US hybrid market are the Japanese manufacturers, not the Fwenchies, had nothing to do with this.

  3. Andy

    Buy me a pint Lewis and let me do the thinking

    Very entertaining fluff. However, the article is about marketing not science and how the word Hybrid is such a popular selling point that it makes people feel good about buying a car even if it still has hideously mileage. It's nothing to do with whether it's a useful technology or a Prius is a good thing. Possibly the same principle could be applied to the use of nanny state-ism in internet magazines discussing climate science.

    Just for interest, some conservative real life mileage figures here if anyone is interested (

    Skull and crossbones for using a dead detectives words in vain.

  4. Andrew Heenan

    So Citreon and Peugot Don't Do Hybrids?

    Even the French are entitled to their opinion. It would be nice to see some logic - and maybe some evidence - to support their assertions, but you can't have everything.

    It won't stop the development of hydrogen fuel cells, as there is a misinformed craze for hydrogen vehicles especially in countries that don't do hybrids.

    Of course it's a temporary step -but as all 'pure green' energy-saving vehicles have thus far been a joke, we need SOMETHING to lower carbon output until science catches up.

    Back the lab guys, and stop whining!

  5. Anton Ivanov

    Does not surprise me in the slightest

    People do not buy hybrids for their mileage or green credentials. They buy them to get around Red-Green Ken's congestion charge or for the green-cred they bring.

    After all, the old Honda Civic Hybrid which probably had the best mileage out of all "green" vehicles sold least. Guess why - according to Honda itself it did not "Look Green" enough. It looked like a normal car and drove better than many normal cars so it did not have the appeal to all the people desperate to show how green they are while they continue wasting enormous amounts of resources.

    By the way, once you put normal tires on the Prius so you can take UK corners and roundabouts at normal speed without killing yourself your mileage hits rock bottom straight away.

    As far as the mileage table is concerned looking at it nearly every French Diesel vehicle can beat the best Hybrids so frankly the French definitely have a point here.

  6. analyzer
    Thumb Down

    Don't forget

    The energy input required to make the batteries and dispose of them at end of life. Lots of people forget about those things and seem to think they just appear.

    I haven't seen a study the looks at the making of a standard car and a hybrid over say a 15 - 20 year life cycle, and the energy and pollution requirements in those cases.

    The claims of the hybrid makers could well be fluff as well.

    Thumbs down, they should have tried harder

  7. Nev
    Thumb Up

    It's about time...

    ... people started pointing at the naked-emperor that is hybrid car technology.

  8. Jeff Deacon
    Thumb Down

    As a Prius driver ...

    I have to agree with all the knocking copy about the car. Every driver of a French diesel car I have spoken to (OK, all half dozen of them) gets a better mpg than I get out of my Prius. Recently it had a recall (concern about a possible lack of integrity of the cells in the HT/traction battery). The recall should have been a one day job, but the agent I use for service does not have the necessary specialist staff, so it was sent away to one of their other branches, and became an overnight job. Then they discovered that the "engine computer" wasn't talking properly to the "battery computer" and kept it for another two weeks. Since I've had it back, the mpg has been going dramatically and steadily south on the graph I keep.

    No they will not get a repeat sale to me. Even Mondeos do better on the mpg stakes than this thing does at present!

    You might recall the Mini QED produced a short while ago by electric motor manufacturers PML FlightLink Ltd. In a recent exchange of emails they said that "We hope that either the Volvo recharge project or the Lightning cars

    roadster will be the first car manufacturers to use our motors as demonstrated in the Mini." And they hope to be in production within the year.

  9. Joey Y

    There is one advantage

    The dumb billions who own cars can get used to semi-electric cars more easily than switching 'cold-turkey' to all-electric. This leads to an increase in car-grade electric motors and possibly to better batteries. As more hybrids come out, more and more people will demand plug-in hybrids to increase their range without using petrol.

    Hopefully, as there are more plug-in hybrids, parking garages, apartment complexes and work parking lots (and maybe park-and-ride lots?) will get plugs so you can charge your plug-in hybrid there, too.

    Once that happens, we could switch to all-electrics...

    (I have always doubted the validity of hybrids, though. I have a friend who drives a [petrol] Toyota Echo and it gets the same in-town milage as the Prius, and much better highway milage.)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A craze for what's available

    "misinformed craze"? Do these idiots have any idea how distorted the car market is in the US?

    I live in the Pacific NW, prime enviro-nutter country. When I was looking for a new car a couple of years ago I wanted a small engined hatch back: it's the same kind of car I have always owned as far as I can (albeit with some wobbles on engine size in the late 90s in the UK). At the time, my options for hatchbacks were:

    - Golf: 1.8 engine, scarce as hen's teeth

    - Audi S3: 2.0 engine, expensive (I had a 1.6 A3 in the UK... I miss it)

    - Mazda 3: 2.3 engine

    - Toyota Matrix: crap. Well, it feels like you are sitting on a shelf and the drive is about as involving as a wheelbarrow.

    - Ford Focus ZX[35]: 2.0 engine, but had a ZX3 before and didn't like it

    - tinpot US tiny cars. US makers make rubbish hatchbacks.

    Things are a little better now (apparently I was just buying a car at a bad time), but the Japanese makers just don't sell the range of hatchbacks that are available in Japan and Europe here in the States. Now you can buy Smart cars here, but they are a $30k novelty item.

    Anyway, my point is that hybrids may be a poor middle technology, but they are also the only thing that's actually available here in the States that makes any sense at all. The US makers are just so obsessed with trucks and saloons the size of a cricket wicket that the smaller cars simply are not sold here in any numbers.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Windmills of my mind

    "personally the sooner we have windmills on top of the damn things the better"

    Or propellers - a windmill on the front, and a propeller on the back! Perhaps someone could revive those old Messerschmitt cars, with windmill/propeller drive. They're streamlined, small, easy to get out of in an emergency.

    If only there was a way to harness the power of wind. I choose Paris Hilton as my avatar because she would benefit from having a windmill on top of her head.

  12. HKmk23
    Thumb Up

    People you are not trying are you?

    Hybrids -6

    Hydrogen -5

    Horse and cart +10

    simple is it not?

  13. Brian Miller

    Bicycles are better? Maybe.

    I've been without a car for over three years now, and it isn't all that inconvenient. Like Duncan, I live in the PNW, but I get around with public transport and bicycle. There isn't much that can't be done that really requires a car, and that can be rented fairly easily. That's really the only way to beat all of this "less carbon than thou" crappola. (plus it's cheap!) Of course that's not for everybody, but if you can do it, then go for it.

    As for hybrid cars and alternate fuels, anybody notice the study published about how crop-based ethanol is not really a "green" solution? ("Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat," New York Times) We don't really have any solution to replace petrol fuel, other that muscle power. Current fuel cells require platinum, which is a rare metal. Batteries have to be made and then disposed properly. Currently nothing beats petroleum for fuel, and it is the best fuel source.

  14. gollux

    US Bloatville

    Despite what they say, hybrids are a step in the right direction as well as smaller cars.

    Where I live, large SUV's, F250's, F350's and Dodge Ram pickups are the status symbol to have, despite the fact that they only carry one person and no cargo. Make it 4 wheel drive for extra status and reduced fuel mileage, despite the fact that if it ever got a speck of mud on it, the owner would have a heart attack, plus when it snows here, 4WD stuff predominantly is what ends up in the ditches. (Somehow 4 wheel drive gets you going faster than your already standard 4 wheel braking can get you stopped and doesn't actually give you better traction in turns.) Make it diesel so you can pretend you're a truck driver despite the fact that it's tremendously more expensive when you need repairs.

    You'd think that at 3 dollars a gallon (gasoline), people would be buying something more economical, but all they do is complain about the price of gas. I guess they have such loads of retirement money coming in that they can afford to blow it all on burning dinosaurs.

    The reality is that most people don't really have anywhere important to be going and just eliminating all the unnecessary traffic would do more to reduce the carbon footprint than hybrids, hydrogen and biofuel supposedly will ever help.

  15. Frank Bough


    "As far as the mileage table is concerned looking at it nearly every French Diesel vehicle can beat the best Hybrids so frankly the French definitely have a point here."

    Not true as soon as you get off the motorway. Hybrids are an elegant short term solution. The next stage is to a) fit them with plug-in recharging options and b) fit them with Lithium Ion batteries which are both lighter and have greater energy density c) swap the petrol engine for a Diesel.

  16. Andy

    Maybe I'm missing the point here but:

    Does the engine drive the wheels? Yes. Then how is this a hybrid?

    Does it get wonderful MPG? No. Then how is this a hybrid?

    The report has one thing right -- using the word "hybrid" in this context is just marketing-speak.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Andrew

    Citroen's are the only vehicles that I've ever known to become worth more for scrap metal after being driven off the showroom floor...

  18. Anonymous Coward


    For those that choose to buy and drive the behemoths for reasons other than regular hauling of people and/or goods the only status gained by driving them is the status that the driver is both selfish and delusional of the problems facing the world and at the same time flush with disposable income to pay for the fill-ups.

    This is not a status that I would want.

  19. Pieter L

    "Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage"

  20. Scott
    Dead Vulture

    Air car has potential

    From what I have seen the air car has potential as a city driving vehicle which is what most people use their car for anyway

    I don't know anything about the corresponding production footprint so there may be an issue there.

    The only concern I have is that while people still choose to drive around in war wagons then safety is still to much of an issue.

    Dead vulture as compressed air would obviously be cold not hot

  21. Andy
    Paris Hilton


    Maybe not in a lot of states; but I've witnessed a practice prevalent in Nevada whereby shoppers park up in the local Wallmart or precinct and leave the engine running whilst they go for a good old shop/hoof manicure. The only reason being - it keeps the aircon running for their return. Presumably it helps to keep their choc ices cold for the journey home.

  22. Rebecca Putman

    Hydrogen fuel cells are the wrong way to go, people.



    There are more websites out there that explain all this, but just go read those two to start with. Hydrogen is an energy *carrier*, not an energy *source*. There are energy losses all along the way of getting hydrogen out of water and getting it into a vehicle; there are more losses in using that hydrogen in that vehicle.

    It is much wiser to generate the electricity from wind and solar and use a pure electric vehicle to start with. Hybrids are just a good step towards that.

  23. Rebecca Putman
    Thumb Down

    Uh, Pieter?

    If you do a search for (without the quotes) "prius hummer damage" you find lots of links - all pointing to various postings of that ONE article. ONE article that has ZERO factual links to back up its claims.

    Nice try at continuing a myth.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We all know batteries cease taking a charge after a certain lifespan.

    Batteries are very expensive, in both monetary cost as well as environmental.

    When the batteries in the current crop of hybrids run out, it will likely cost more than the value of the car to replace them.

    Ergo, destructive planned obsolescence. I'm not anti-green, I'm anti-stupid.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quiz Time

    Q What does the word "Citeron" mean?

    A "Ahhh Citeron, it is French for lemon".

  26. Dick

    Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage - unproven!

    I'm no Prius fanboy but that "Dust to dust" paper Pieter L links has been pretty well discredited, not least of the problems is that the lower cost/impact of the Hummer is based on it having a most unlikely life of 300,000 miles. Note that this was a Hummer H3, which is a tarted up little SUV built on GM's cheap/small pickup truck chassis, not the brawny real Hummer.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ Pieter L

    Seriously? An article from a school newspaper written by someone who can't even get their facts right about the Sudbury nickel plants?

  28. Paul Murray


    I reckon my Piaggio gets better milage - about 3l/100k at the moment.

    And hydrogen fuel is a joke, greenhouse-wise. It just moves the combustion from a few metres from the wheels to a power station 100s of ks away, with transmission losses etc etc.

    Nuclear Fusion is humanity's only hope. Without it, this current time will be the never-to-be-repeated golden age. In a couple of centuries, anything made of plastic will be a priceless antique.

  29. Ole Juul

    Wimps can't peddle

    We all know that the Prius is worse on the environment than a Hummer and fancy all-electrics are faster than gassers.

    Those kinds of topics are really not very relevant to any discussion about carbon usage. We should be discussing why people are so stubborn or lazy as to need a passenger car in the first place. Are these people all old, sick, or disabled? If not, then a passenger car is just a toy. How come the average car owner doesn't have the guts to peddle their own ass to work? That is the real question.

  30. chris
    Paris Hilton

    I still like the idea of ethanol fuelled cars

    I still like the idea of ethanol fuelled cars. You can convert most petrol engines to run on alcohol fairly simply and while they do generate CO2 it's the same CO2 that was absorbed when the source crop was grown, not stuff that has spent the last million years trapped under the ground

  31. Jim Black
    Thumb Down

    @ gollux and others

    How nice that I do not have to decide for myself what I need or want - so many are glad to do that for me. Now I can just lay down and sleep while gollux and the other BRANES will solve all my problems. [Capitalized to keep it separate from the Brane theory of the universe.]

    This is the perfect solution for everything. See how well it worked in Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union and now in giving all that prosperity to the North Korean's and the Cuban's? Let the state bureaucrats solve all the problems.

    Just for the record, what I need and what I want are my concern and you can just keep your damned hands off. The Cult of AGW is very similar to the National Socialist Democratic Workers Party and the thugs that ran that party. The King Ranch in Texas is roughly 200,00 acres (call it 80,000 hectares) and you don't get around it with a bicycle - you need a pickup. If someone needs a large pickup truck to haul a 40-foot cattle trailer, it will frequently also be the family car because the budget only allows one vehicle. Haul cattle one day and groceries the next. Or maybe we could tell the people on the Stations in Australia that they can keep their motorcycles and bicycles but the multi-trailer land trains won't be around anymore. In other words, solutions that properly serve the metropolitan areas are usually a disaster for the suburban and rural areas.

    Show me the science behind the hockey-stick curve (the creation of a computer program) and show how all the real data from the Maunder Minimum, Malenkovich Cycles, Greenland ice core sample analysis, etc., etc., have been taken into account and maybe I will be convinced that IPCCC report is something more than a piece of fiction designed to enhance control of humanity by a few malicious individuals. Not likely but it could happen.

  32. Adam Collett

    @ Quiz Time

    Oh dear, if you are going to make jokes then at least get them right...

    Citron - means Lemon in French

    Citeron - is not a word in any language

    Citroen - is a brand name of a French car manufacturer, I'm not saying they're NOT lemons, but you might want to check your French grammar before poking fun!

  33. Bobby Billingsley

    old(ish) but still relevant

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Rebecca Putman

    "There are energy losses all along the way.." This sounds like a restatement of one of the laws of thermodynamics, which will apply to putting wind power into a car as well.

    BTW. the citations look less than authoritative...

  35. Matt

    Prius and CO2 etc

    First of all it's Citroën, not Citeron so not the French for Lemon.

    Secondly it seems that the Prius does a lot better for people who adapt their style of driving to take advantage of it' strengths. Those who do that and drive more around town seem to do pretty well. On the other hand the latest diesel Mini does pretty well too, although it's a smaller car.

    Thirdly, one person flies to Oz and that's my cars lifetime CO2 usage gone, let alone a satellite launch or Space Shuttle. It's also worth bearing in mind, that compared to the US we Europeans are paragons of virtue when it comes to CO2! If the UK turned off all cars and factories tomorrow it wouldn't really make much difference if the US continued at it's present rate. However, even that pales into the background compared to the deforestation in countries like Brazil and Indonesia.

    Just thought we might need some perspective :-)

  36. JamesH

    @Ole Juul

    Hmm. So anyone who lives in the country (and almost by definition >cycling distance from work, with no public transport) all have to be old, sick or disabled before they can have a car? Nice one.

    My passenger car is NOT a toy, it's an absolute requirement for me to get to work. I drive it sensibly to maximise my MPG - I'm trying to get my work to allow me to work from home - not sure what else I can do.

    I cannot move closer to work (in fact just had to move further away) because I cannot afford the housing. Have you got any suggestions that may help here???

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Mine gets the best mileage

    Ooops, maybe not but then it is a 4 litre V8 TVR - who gives a shit about the environment - it is fun to drive.

    Skull and crossbones - cos I apparently am a planet killer. Luv it....

  38. Geoff Mackenzie

    Small petrol engine

    Never seen a hybrid that beats my 11-year-old Rover Metro on MPG.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Lazy humans

    I second what Ole says - too many of us westerners seem to think we have a right to be lazy and not use our built in power systems. Some of us live in places which are too cold and refuse to put on more clothes, or places which are too hot for our liking so we burn fuel to cool them down.

    Maybe if we could use the resources around us better - like using daylight for work and play rather than electric light - we humans might stand a chance.

    Sadly too many choices are made based on laziness and short sighted economics.

    Never mind, hopefully the oil will run out or we will all choke to death and then we won't have any problems.

    [That icon because I'm a speccy git too]

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Why is Hybrid petrol + diesel?

    If modern diesel engines outperform hybrids in terms of MPG and CO2 emission, why are Hybrids using petrol? If a hybrid used a combination of electric and diesel, it would return fantastic economy.

  41. GrahamT

    @ Quiz Time

    AC, there this thing about spelling: if you put different letters in a different order it's a different word!

    Citeron - never heard of it.

    citron - French for lemon

    Citroën - French for good value car

    Your "joke" makes as much sense as "Ford is American for Fraud" or "Prius is Japanese for Pricy"

    I have had Ctroëns for over 20 years and have had one breakdown in that period. My wife drove the same AX for 15 years until the MOT cost more than the car was worth. It was ungaraged for all that time and had moss growing on it but it still went like the clappers and gave 48 mpg even when thrashed down the motorway at full speed (85mph)

    The latest petrol C1 is exempt from the congestion charge- like the Prius - as it is so low emitting .

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC with the TVR


    Personally I need to see the evidence of dead polar bears before I buy any car.

  43. Frank Bough


    because hybrids were primarily designed for the Japanese and US markets where they don't like Diesel. Fitting Prius with a good Diesel generator would certainly increase efficiency - possibly by >30%.

  44. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Down

    Re:US Bloatville

    ***"You'd think that at 3 dollars a gallon (gasoline), people would be buying something more economical, but all they do is complain about the price of gas."***

    Wait until your prices get to the same level us poor suckers in the UK are forced to pay. £1.04 per litre of unleaded, which equates to £4 per gallon(US) or, at current exchange rates, $7.80 a US gallon. So it'd cost you $125 fill up a Chrysler Voyager (16 gallon tank).

    And our feckin' wonderful government is going to slap another 2p tax on each litre (equiv to 15 cents/gallon) in April.


  45. Nìall Tracey

    @Jim Black

    "The King Ranch in Texas is roughly 200,00 acres (call it 80,000 hectares) and you don't get around it with a bicycle - you need a pickup. If someone needs a large pickup truck to haul a 40-foot cattle trailer, it will frequently also be the family car because the budget only allows one vehicle."

    Jim, we're not talking about people like you -- we're talking about the city dudes who buy a stupidly over-sized truck as a family car to play at being cowboys.

    This is why we generally talk about dirt: a clean 4x4/pickup is driven by a poser who deserves a slapping whereas a dirty 4x4/pickup is driven by someone who needs a 4x4/pickup. The former is a waste of fuel, whereas the latter is a good use of fuel.

    Nothing against you -- just against wasteful idiots.

  46. Tony Humphreys

    Yea - and

    After enjoying a warm 18 degree February day on Saturday, even I agree hybrids are not the way.

    I think we should all get big 4 litre 4x4's - this global warming is becoming a hoot, and we will soon be able to sale over the top of Canada - just like the Vikings did (they obviously had 4x4's and jumbo jets too as they successfully changed the climate).

    One day will dig up a great big pit full of viking fridges - the ozone busting ones they dumped to cause the cooling.

    Is'nt mankind clever!

  47. Sam


    from 13 Feb 06;

    "PSA will produce the first diesel-electric hybrids

    PSA Peugeot Citroen has become the first manufacturer to announce the production of a diesel-electric hybrid. Peugeot 307 and Citroen C4 Hybride HDi models will be on sale in the UK by 2010 and 4Car has already driven the prototypes at a test track near Paris."


  48. anarchic-teapot

    The French are missing an important source of energy anyway

    Considering the regional dish in the southwest of the country is cassoulet - basically a bean hotpot made with preserved duck or pork (absolutely delicious, and I say this as a vegetarian who's trying to lose weight) - maybe a small alteration to the design of the driver's seat could make use of this major natural resource for powering the car?

    In the UK, the less gastronomic curry'n'lager mix could provide the same service. In the Americas, lovers of refried beans everywhere would cease being antisocial overnight. Indeed, it would be a patriotic duty in many countries to eat dishes containing dried pulses and/or onions, and down a regular pint (although we'd need a regulatory body here and I suggest CamRA).



  49. Chris Long


    It's hardly surprising that the Pious isn't all that - like all these hybrids, it gets all its energy from burning petrol - the fact that some of it is stored in some enormously heavy batteries temporarily doesn't change that fact. Allowing for the losses in coverting the kinetic enregy of the engine to electrical, and then back again, they're bound to be less efficient.

    The only efficiency advantage with a hybrid is the regenerative braking, which recovers the kinetic energy of the car instead of converting it to heat and throwing it overboard.

    As I understand it, the only reason hybrids are popular at all is because of the Californian-style zero emissions legislation which will disallow petrol cars in city centres. The hybrid avoids this by inefficiently generating electrical power with its petrol engine before going into the city. It has nothing to do with reduing the energy usage.

    Catalytic converters were developed for the same reason - to get rid of the smog in Los Angeles. They make a petrol engine *less* efficient and generate *more* CO2 - will we be seeing them banned any time soon?

  50. Sam

    I want electric car

    I drive 15 miles each way to work ( I can't afford to live any closer to work due to house prices ) Its all motor way miles.

    If i could get an electric car to do the journey I would, As it is I have just bought a Skoda Fabia VRS (effectively a VW Polo with a different badge) its a sensible 1.9 turbo diesel (with a 130hp and 405nm of torque) which on my journey to work retuns 57MPG over a tank.

    Tell me can I get a hybrid that does this well? Can I find an all electric car that can drive on the motorways?

    And why is everyone so sure about little French cars, the German diesels are far better (performance/reliability/economic) having just replaced my old Xsara.

    Flame Icon for anyone who loves their French cars.

  51. Perpetual Cyclist

    The future of the car

    I spent my day in the warm February sunshine cutting (by hand tools) wood for my stove from a (sustainably managed) ancient coppice woodland. This AGW is not all bad.

    The point that these threads always overlook is that the personal car HAS NO FUTURE. Hybrid or any other technology. We are running out of fossil energy. Oil, gas, coal. They will all be in irreversible decline within twenty years. We will all be using less fossil energy in the future. If hybrids are sold as part of our future lifestyle then it is a lie. If they are sold as a transitional technology to tide us over until we ADAPT OUR LIFESTYLES and infrastructure to live without most personal transport and other wastes of energy then they have a place.

    Personally, I think a full electric car with four motors (one in each wheel hub) and a small diesel engine to recharge batteries on long journeys is a design worth further development.

  52. MarkMac

    @Brian Miller

    "There isn't much that can't be done that really requires a car, "

    try getting six children to/from school, with school bags, sports bags and musical instruments ! (not all mine, we carpool with 4 other families).

    ObTopical: we looked at a hybrid when we bought our peoplecarrier. Unfortunately mileage and space was too low. Maybe they're better now, but I don't get that impression.

  53. Anne van der Bom

    Myth sources

    One article was already mentioned ('Hummer greener than Prius'). Another fine example is the 'Dust to dust' study by CNW Marketing Research, Inc. Their claims are not verifyable, they disclosed neither their data sources nor their methodology. Counter studies done by different research team paint a very different picture.

    So don't be eager to believe either side in this debate.

  54. Anne van der Bom

    Diesel vs. petrol


    You should know your subject better. Diesel IS NOT petrol. Diesel is a denser fuel that contains more energy per litre, weighs more per litre, costs more crude to produce and emits more co2 per litre.

    Don't ever ever compare diesel mpg to petrol mpg 1:1!

    57 mpg diesel is comparable in efficiency and CO2 output to a 50 mpg petrol.

  55. Stef
    Thumb Up

    @ SAM

    Here you go:

    (by Citroën no less, by way of two good-natured fingers @ AC and the Citroëen-bashing brigade)

    Thumbs up, because I test drove a fully-electric Clio and a fully-electric AX well over 13 years ago - way ahead of their time, but the problem has always been the same for "fully electrics": lack of range (60 miles max at the time, has improved a little since, but not quite enough still).

    I have been commuting my 6 - miles return trip in central Dublin on a fully-electric scooter (the vespa type, not the kiddy type) for the last 2 years now. Still not super (winter time cuts your range big time - batteries still don't like cold, regardless of tech), but it's a start.

  56. Eponymous Cowherd


    ***"try getting six children to/from school, with school bags, sports bags and musical instruments ! (not all mine, we carpool with 4 other families)."***

    With the wankers that constitute our local council wanting to close fully *HALF* the existing primary schools, the school run can only get worse.

  57. Stef

    @ Perpetual Cyclists

    With nuclear (or for the more PC-persuaded, wind and/or solar) electricity, fully electrics certainly appear the most viable alternative medium to long-term, if the 'personal transportation' model is to live on.

    Comparable performance to run-of-the-mill cars, with better torque (less energy 'wasted' in standstill/go situations, e.g. at lights) and, save as to tyres, windscreen wipers and brake pads (and batteries but on a much larger timescale), there is no "regular maintenance" required whatsoever.

    So not only do you do away with the fossil fuel production/supply line, but you also do away with the best portion of the spare parts industry (and logistical requirements of same) and the only downside that I see, would be the need to "refill" more frequently (perhaps Li-ion/Li-po tech, with substantial recharging in very small timeframes can assist) and *of course* to re-train squillions of car mechanics into electricians ;-P

  58. Anne van der Bom


    Sorry for my post, I actually didn't read your post too well, but was annoyed with a few others that did seem to compare Diesel vs Petrol like they are the same thing.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Should not be compared to petrol also because it produces particulates in the emissions - something more worrying IMO that the emissions from petrol engines.

  60. Anonymous Coward

    @AC re: Diesel

    I recall reading an article about particulates in emissions. I cannot remember where I read it, but I'm sure a Google search would throw something up.

    Basically, petrol also produces particulates, but they are much smaller and are more harmful as the body is unable to expell them. Diesel particulates are larger (more like soot) and the body is better able to cope with them.

    I'm not saying one is better than the other. Just that if particulates are your main concern, then neither fuel is better than the other. Diesel returns better MPG per volume of fuel, so has to be the better option in terms of cost and CO2 emission.

  61. Bob Wilson

    Circle of authority

    This is a review of the original paper that requires a fee to read. But sometimes, refereed journals can suffer from circular authority and depart from reality. Commenting on a reviewer's summary is a waste of time but the comments posted have brought out a lot of emotional responses lacking facts and data that can be addressed.

    As for hybrid batteries, USA patent 6,936,371 covers how Toyota approaches NiMH battery refurbishment. Full copies can be obtained via Google's patent service. I'm testing variations of this patent and one of my early tests indicate it works. As for traction battery recycling, I would rather deal with nickel and potassium hydroxide than lead and sulfuric acid. Given the amount of nickel in my battery, it has more salvage metal value today than when it was manufactured.

    We have about 500,000 hybrids in the USA and the first models were sold in 2000. So far, traction batteries from accident salvage yards appear to meet our needs for 'worn out' batteries along with the occasional warranty replacement. This won't last forever but patent 6,936,371 shows how 'worn out' batteries can be rebuilt.

    Toyota has already announced an operational profit on the Prius since 2004. Small wonder that last year's Prius sales in the USA were 181,000 and the Toyota Camry plant in Georgetown KY reports "1/3d of the Camrys they make are hybrids."

    The ultimate test is the market place and regardless of individual opinions, the sales are hard to ignore. More importantly, GM has made a sea change towards adopting hybrid technology, following what Ford had already accomplished in their Ford Escape. Seeing 181,000 Prius sold in 2007 spoke much louder than a million words by hybrid skeptics.

    Bob Wilson

  62. Ralph Hodgson

    @Eponymous Cowherd

    There are actually 4.55 litres in a gallon so at £1.04 per litre, it's more like £4.73 per gallon not £4, and when converted to $ this is approx. $9!

    I do agree that the yanks have a nerve to whine about $3 per gallon! If we paid $3 per gallon I could fill my modest Peugeot 306 for about £10.

    There are three things certain in life......and one of them is Taxes.

  63. Fred Goldstein

    US market quite different

    Europe has a lot of diesels, which get good fuel economy, even factoring in the higher carbon density per litre/gallon. But they're verboten in much of the US! Until last year, our diesel fuel had high sulfur, which would destroy the catalytic converters needed for clean diesel engines. That was finally fixed, but then some nitwit (remember who runs the US regime now) came up with a new rule (I don't know what) that again banned even clean diesel cars. So except for a few hundred 2007-model-year European luxury cars imported in late 2006, which fell into a loophole, diesel cars have remained banned in much of the US, including the New England area where I live and California.

    Besides, the #2 oil that is used for diesel fuel is used here for home heat, and it's expensive: I pay about $3.50 for heating fuel vs. $3.00 for motor gasoline, only the latter including tax. This is the reverse of the historic norm, implying a shortage of the #2 grade.

    Because of regenerative braking and time spend idling at traffic lights and in congestion, hybrids (which don't run the engine when stopped) do much better in city driving than gasoline engines. That makes them a good choice for urban drivers. Diesel-electric hybrid would be even better, I suppose, if they'd allow it. That's what most American trains run on..

  64. Adam

    Diesel, ugh!

    If you recall, diesel cars were the source of much humour until the late 90s here in the UK. Images of people in sandals with beards who bragged about how many cheaply they could run their Citroen BX did spring to mind!

    The reason hybrids are popular in the US is that diesel cars have never really taken off there. There HAVE been occasional diesel cars out there, but they never did well because of the cheap petrol. Diesels are horrible to drive compared to an equivalent petrol, although they have got better since the advent of high pressure common rail injection.

    At the end of last year I was in the market for a cheap old diesel to run on veggie oil, but I soon found waste oil is no longer free or easy to find and virgin oil costs nearly as much as diesel. The small difference doesn't make up for the increased maintenance costs as fuel pumps wear out etc. I only do 8000 miles a year so it turns out I'm better off with a petrol, both financially and because I don't like driving something that has all the grace of a tractor.

    I'll stick with my mid-mounted whizzy-whooshy 8000rpm petrol engine!

  65. Dana W


    "We should be discussing why people are so stubborn or lazy as to need a passenger car in the first place........ How come the average car owner doesn't have the guts to peddle their own ass to work?

    I'm guessing you live in one of those small and mild climate European nations.

    I noticed while visiting England, the non realization most people had about how far APART everything is for most of us in the US. 30 km to my friends house, 10 km to the grocery store 15 km downtown. its a thirty-four hour drive to my mothers house!

    Public transit is a bad joke and dangerous as well. And do YOU want to wait in the cold for 45 minutes with no sheter for a bus at -20 C with a wind chill twice that?

    And in the winter its regularly -20 to -25 C where I live. "It gets worse", if you want to pedal a bicycle, be my guest! As to electrics, battery performance degrades incredibly at these temperatures. I want to save fuel. I traded off my old but comfortable SUV for a little Toyota pickup, when I could find someone actually wiling to part with one. Small trucks are rare, my town has the Ford Ranger "small truck" plant and its going to close because most people only buy F-150s or larger!

    Very few people here have the luxury of being able to live close to a job, especially these days, or the climate that lets a bicycle be any more than it is for most people here, a summer toy.

    In the US, the real trick is trying to afford an affordable smaller car when the used market is tank sized trucks.

  66. Eponymous Cowherd
    Paris Hilton

    @Ralph Hodgson

    I did say US gallons.

    There are 1.2 US gallons per UK gallon, or 3.78 litres per US gallon.

    Paris, 'cos even she would have known that ;-)

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    American w/ diesel

    I used to have a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit pickup truck. Was about 12 feet long, 6 feet wide, and got damn near 70mpg. Saved me a fortune when I was in high school. Sadly it bit the dust a few years back, but I've been a fan of diesel power ever since.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Why petrol in hybrids?

    One reason is because its easier to start and stop petrol engines due to the lower compression ratio, electric ignition and lighter construction. Hybrids frequently start and stop the engine automatically in response to power demands.

  69. Martin Usher

    They are an interim solution...

    ...because we can't buy diesels in California yet. The problem's not the diesel but the local fuel, it has had too high a sulfur content. We will be able to get our hands on those diesels later this year and then we can enjoy decent mileage figures.

    Hybrids get more than their fair share of hype -- these Frenchies are on to something. Some of it is well deserved -- we used to get really good tax breaks and goodies like permits to drive in HOV (carpool) lanes and incentives to drive what are really just slightly oversized golf carts.

  70. Mark Hartman

    Prius owner weighs in

    Hey, just trying to do the right thing by purchasing the best alternative on the marketplace at this point in time. Go ahead and develop new technologies, and if they're good, consumers will buy them. But don't yank my chain for doing my part to save more of the planet's crude oil in the meantime, French Loser Boy.

  71. RRRoamer

    I still have to laugh...

    My dad was driving cars 20 years ago that get better mileage than the current small hybrids do. Oil burner of course...

    It was also cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain and it only had ONE battery that would need replacing from time to time.

    And the occasional glow plug.

  72. Sam Therapy

    Well, since nobody else has said it...

    ...when the French can actually build a car that's worth driving (come to that, when they can actually drive) I'll take notice of their "expert" opinions.

    Yup, bike jacket and skidlid, please.

  73. Ole Juul

    @ Dana W

    "I'm guessing you live in one of those small and mild climate European nations."

    Nope, but most people who live in flat countries like Denmark or Netherlands should be ashamed to drive. I've done most of my peddeling in a very hilly Canadian city and I can say that an average person can still maintain a good 15mph in the traffic... including stopping for lights. Cars tend to do less in the city, when you talk about door to door. Funny how drivers never want to talk about parking and all that fuss climbing in and out of the vehicle!

    Where I live now in the mountains people generally need a car because they carry heavy items (like firewood) and travel distances are often in the 100 mile range. I do note though, that when my son comes to visit, he can make a trip to the store (24 miles) on my old clunker bike and be back in two hours. (Ahh to be young again)

    @JamesH "any suggestions?" The problem is not individuals. The problem is a general mind set that promotes things that are "modern" or "popular" and come from China. I note someone above considering 300,000 miles on a car to be unrealistic. I would say that a mechanic that can't keep it running twice that long is the wrong one to go to... or did they really mean that by that time they would be justified in desiring a NEW one. I say... get a grip... and a wrench. My neighbour's regular driver is a 1948 GMC pickup. He wins.

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Hydrogen and compressed air

    So ultimate fuel in paper, so pain in the arse at practical level and finally: Environmentally even worse than gasoline, at some point.

    First: Hydrogen must be stored as a liquid to be used for anything or transported and that means severe cooling and/or very high pressure. 5 kg H2 needs a 130 liter tank at -253 ºC and the tank itself weights 90 kilos. On top of that, H2 is lost (thermal leaks, overpressure) about 1% of mass every day. 5 kilos of liquid hydrogen won't get you very far, either, about 100 miles.

    Cost of cryosystem is immense and that is needed to every vehicle. And these are the problems after you've initially made a huge amount of H2 and cooled it to -250C. H2 is usually separated from seawater with - surprise! - electricity.

    10-fold improvement in total efficiency if you use just batteries and electricity as itself.

    Second: Compressed air. Sounds fine until you begin to think that how compressed air is made: You take a huge electric motor, a lot of cooling power and then you pump a lot of air into small container with an efficiency about 30%, the rest is heat. Then you use that compressed air to move pistons in an engine, again with about 50% efficiency and you've lost about 75% of the _electrical energy you had before compressor_. Obviously a brain dead method. Use a battery and electric motor and total losses are less than 10%.

    "Hybrid car" without option to charge it from the wall outlet is a marketing gimmic, not much more.

  75. Bob Wilson
    Thumb Down

    $40 for rubish

    Having paid the $40, I'm able to quote and criticize the original report, something despirately missing from the current reviewers including those selling this useless report:

    The authors report on pp. 277 that "According to Ashley (2002), OEMs ""must subsidise current hybrid car models heavily to make them affordable"" " Unfortunately, the authors failed to report from "consumerguideauto" that, "Toyota officials recently told Bloomberg News that Prius is turning a small per-unit profit after some 75,000 worldwide sales as of late December 2001. Starting with 2002, the company will increase yearly Prius deliveries to the U.S. by about 40 percent to some 17,000 units." In fact, the author's figure on pp. 273 of "Sales of HEV vehicles in the USA" shows a greater than 10 fold increase between 2002 and 2006 with no explanation of how the 2002 "subsidies" are maintained.

    The authors inflate diesel efficiency pp. 276 with "when comparing with modern diesel vehicles with high pressure direct injection and turbo charging, HEVs lose out when it comes to constant driving over longer distances." This well qualified and limited diesel, by no means the standard for all diesels, is further limited to only "constant driving over longer distances" as if cities and urban driving do not exist. It is a fact taken out of context if not by the authors but certainly by the reviewers making inflated diesel claims.

    There are other errors including inadequate references, pp. 279 to "Les Echos, 5/10/206"; misleading appendices pp. 287 mixing models to mask hybrid efficiency with vehicle classes having no hybrids; or pp. 288 equating the "Smart for two CDI (diesel)" and a Prius for mileage as if payload was unimportant.

    The paper flaws are only matched by reviewers who cherry pick whatever nonsense they wish to echo. Worse, there is no synthesis, no value added analysis but what appears to be a collection of disjointed and often dated references. Rather than advancing our understanding, this paper sweeps together a collection of outdated and improperly qualified reports with no synthesis. Thus they remain bewildered by a Chinese hybrid market rather than observing the obvious.

    With this paper, I've bought $40 of rubish and would warn serious people away from this paper and the unethical panders of this poor excuse of for research. The authors Chanaron and Teske may be serious people but this must not be their greatest work.

    Bob Wilson

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "try getting six children to/from school, with school bags, sports bags and musical instruments ! (not all mine, we carpool with 4 other families)."

    Put 'em on the school bus. What, can't do that cuz you sent them off to some snobby school 40 miles away? This just proves you live in an area that's poorly designed. Your kids should be walking to school, doing their activities and walking home, living in a well designed *community* where the things you need are within a mile or two of home.

  77. markp

    Citroen bashers, mileage, cycling, etc

    Just a few random thoughts while i'm supposed to be job hunting, as well as other things.

    Sorry if it gets a bit tl;dr. I have lots of stuff that gets piled up in the dark corners of my head.

    People making crap Citroen jokes. Well done, you're peddling the same unfunny, ignorant twaddle that your peers have doled out for almost the last *seventy* years. About one of the most interesting, pioneering and innovative motor companies in the world. The Traction Avant, 2CV/Dyane, GS, A/B/CX, Xantia, C1, etc. Not always the largest, fastest or ultimately most powerful vehicles (I understand this is a disproportionately important thing for some people), but usually pretty decent cars and often ahead of their time.

    Coming out of the showroom and only fit for scrap my ass. So long as you keep a handle on the frame rust, a 2CV will likely last forever. The GS is a solid classic. My dad had a series of Xantias, all of them excellent cars (particularly the turbodiesel, though that was unfortunately a short term company car), and the last one served him quite reliably for 10 years thru a period of financial hardship, eventually still selling for £500. Biggest problems being the cost of refreshing the auto-levelling suspension fluid and the slightly slushy auto box (far better than that of both the Volvo and Honda that replaced it, however). Though the styling of the C2 and C3 don't really thrill me, and the Berlingo is admittedly horrible to drive (being a non-turbo diesel mini van), I'd have any of their current passenger car range without a second thought.

    And food for thought: The AX. I almost had one, except the terrible LHD-to-RHD conversion meant the pedals were arranged for someone twelve inches smaller than me - with three left legs. That and the notoriously nonexistant crash protection. Apart from that though, it was apparently an excellent little hatchback - quick, good handling, versatile, good looking, well equipped, and surprisingly efficient. The diesel version is in the guiness book of records following an UNMODIFIED one driving from London to Seville (1000 miles) on a SINGLE 10 gallon (UK) tank of standard diesel. Or, a certified MORE THAN 100mpg.

    And that's for a car designed and built in the 80s, and quick enough to happily keep up with traffic and accelerate acceptably in-town and on the motorway (on paper at least, as quick as my first, more recently built, petrol powered car).

    If only it had been better adapted for the UK market, and didn't have the passenger & rust protection of a tin can filled with broken glass, sulphuric acid and double-strength seawater, I'd have taken it and would probably still have it.

    Hybrid mileage: the overall Prius mileage is indeed pretty shocking considering the low performance, size/shape of it and the amount of tech that went into it.

    But it does apparently manage some incredible economy around town, which is really what it's meant to be - a Z/LEV electric city car that happens to have a nominally efficient conventional engine installed to allow it to travel *between* cities as well. Reports of getting 90 or even over 100mpg if you drive it sympathetically in-town, acclerating/cruising such as to not kick the petrol motor in until the battery is nearly drained, etc, whereupon it will run quite efficiently for just long enough to recharge them, then stop again. The petrol motor itself is probably very efficient for motorway cruising, but it has all that complicated drive system in the way between itself and the batteries, sapping performance and potential economy.

    The hybrid concept is sound. People's distorted expectations for it, and some of the current implementations, are not. Hybridising a car will do very little for "highway" economy, as the ICE, particularly a medium-small one, is already running about as efficiently as it's able to in these situations (in fact, they're generally tuned for best possible economy along the continuum between typical motorway & A-road limits). It is, as I've said, in town where it helps, as modern, higher powered petrol engines are drastically less efficient in comparison below 25~40mph (depending)... one of the reasons why 20mph limits are dopey. (25s could work..). The effect is similar but more muted with diesels, as both their idle and strong-acceleration fuel consumption figures are lower, though still not as good as for cruising. The electric motor and batteries fill the gap by allowing the ICE to be halted at lower speeds (eg where you'd be in 2nd, maybe 3rd gear at best, and it'd just be chewing up fuel) and run off the electric motor that has different, more sympathetic speed/efficiency curves. In particular, an electric vehicle tends to consume LESS energy per mile as speed falls, as drag and friction becomes the main factor, rather than the baseline energy needed just to keep the suck-squeeze-bang-blow cycle going...

    I've even considered hybridising my own, pretty inefficient mid-90s hatchback (by which I mean, typically 35mpg UK)... get a couple 1 or 2hp hub motors, overdrive them and connect to the rear wheels with enough battery power for a mile or two. Can then be used to inch the car forward in traffic queues or to maintain a low constant speed (10-15mph, if I'm lucky?) for short distances (I live in Birmingham - the traffic isn't typically THAT horrid door-to-door), and I can still pop the engine on for a minute every 4 or 5 minutes to either move it more quickly, or recharge the batteries direct (strengthened alternator).

    On the subject also of using diesels for hybrids, the reputation of diesel cars etc: Well, I think the VW TDis have comprehensively revised the overal rep, but I have a personal example. My dad has a Fiat Panda Multijet. It's a great little thing. It's only 1248cc, but it has as much power (and more torque) as my 1600cc petrol-powered Astra, and manages to double the economy with about as much comfort, handling and interior room (save for the loss of a seatbelt/room for that crucial "half an adult" on the rear seat and a bag or two from the boot). Perfectly suitable for use with a hybrid as well - the cranking effort would indeed be a bit more, as it's higher compression, but it hasn't yet had any trouble starting in a second or two (plus another second for the small turbo to spool from scratch, if you're after instant high power). Not exactly excessive fire-up time. Its not the days of old Leyland diesel vans with a two-litre lump needing two minutes and most of the battery to get going and about 30bhp net.

    The impressive thing is how it scales. The panda gets something like 70-75mpg on a good day. A friend of mine with a 2 litre Mondeo TDi still reports upto 65mpg, and he drives faster to boot. Not that a hybrid with a decent motor and control setup should need anything even as large as that for good performance. There's few opportunities on the open road not involving dragging loads over mountains where you'll ever be putting down over 60hp continuous for more than a minute or two (which will send you to a ton-plus terminal velocity in that time, on the flat), and I'd hope a hybrid system worth its salt could cover the deficit for a short period.

    Anyhoo. Its not just the yanks with dibs on complaining about things being too far to reasonably cycle. Even living in a city suburb, my bike often lies fallow. There's places I can walk to happily, places I can take a train if I'm going to have a drink, nearby places where I tend to need to drive as I'm going to & fro quickly or carrying loads, and far away places where cycling is technically possible, but would be a considerable undertaking. Only a couple of jobs in my work history have I considered cycling - because my measured in-car door to door average road speed was 12mph or less - and only one I've tested it (and almost took up as it WAS faster, but then the weather turned awful for an extended period, and I can't do with turning up to work looking like I showered in my clothes and didn't towel off - or being killed because my tyres no longer have significant cornering grip, and my brakes need two or three moisture-purging seconds to respond). It's just not a viable thing any more, now I'm no longer a kid with all the things relevant to my life being within a 30 minute bike ride radius. I spent my first two years at university with a bike, and it was often quite handy.... but even in a town which measured all of 2x1 miles, there were enough things that demanded some kind of motorised transport - and the local bus service so dire - that the focus of my 2nd/3rd year summer break work was to "gather enough money to get ANYTHING with four wheels and an engine".

    (And get it I did. VW Polo with a 45hp, 1.0L engine. Capable of 80+mph and nearly 40mpg with five large guys and a whole load of diving gear crammed into it. Basis of my theory that most modern cars are drastically overpowered, and they could be so much more efficient if things were made more sensible, as more powerful engines often = hungrier engines. It *almost* had enough power, compared to the astra which *just* has enough. The addition of a ~15hp leccy motor for accelerative bursts would have made it a truly excellent runabout).

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