Hybrid Car Math, German Style

Peter Langen, senior vice president of powertrain development at BMW, agreed and said that the hybrid is not the cure-all for more fuel efficiency. He thinks hybrids are only suitable for limited vehicle concepts, which might explain why BMW doesn’t have any hybrids on the market, and has only announced a token hybrid for production, a gas-electric version of the X6 SUV.

Like BMW, Porsche believes that it must retain its brand’s high-performance characteristics, even when the company eventually delivers its first hybrids. Dr Heinz-Jacob Neusser, director of powertrain development for the Porsche Cayenne and Panamera hybrids—due to arrive in a couple years—believes that customers will happily pay for more horsepower, but hybrid technology will need to be subsidized in the market to make it attractive to car buyers.

Mercedes-Benz breaks ranks from the other German carmakers, but only slightly. Dr. Leopold Mikulic, Mercedes vice president program management and development for car engines and powertrain, prefers a modular design for Mercedes-Benz vehicles so hybrid systems can be applied to vehicles at some point in the future—just in case the German company’s calculations on hybrids prove incorrect. They announced plans for the company’s first hybrid—of the flagship S-class—next year in Europe.


  • Milwaukee T

    Let’s see how their numbers add up, when Diesel is over $5 a gallon in a year or 2!

    Die spinnen, die Deutschen!

  • VaPrius

    Do they think cars are thrown away after three years? Any sensible person, who has the means, would add a $2000 option to their car, that would save them at least $500 per year. Then increase the car’s residual value by at least $1000 after three years.

  • steved28

    Once again a car manufacturer talks green, and then starts the excuses.

  • JohnT

    3 years? Why would any company as intelligent as a car company makes an assertion so ridiculous? I applaude Volswagen’s diesel efforts. But clearly this is a company not dedicated to the environment or their buyers’ pcoketbooks. 500 euros per year is 5000 over the life of a car. More then pays for a gas or diesel hybrid. Go back to school and learn math. Then go back to church or your mirror and look into your conscience as a steward of this planet.
    Also, I was very disappointed at the new rabbit, did not deserve that name.

  • David

    Oh, we don’t think their going to put it into production? Why not? lets get out of the box… All the way out. It couldn’t hurt us anymore than we already have.

  • Jake

    Well looks like Toyota will catch the German car companies sleeping just like they did GM here in the states. These car companies just don’t get it. Toyota is steadily increasing hybrid production and these guys barely are scratching the surface Now I see why Toyota is bound to over take GM for the sales crown.

  • Charles Nesbit

    Great 19th Century thinking by the 20th Century German car industry!! Truly impressive. But a new century came along over 8 years ago already & they hadn’t even noticed. Aren’t new centuries meant to inspire new thinking? So they can continue to contaminate the once beautiful German countryside, their cities & of course their Autobahns, whilst Chinese, Japanese, Canadian & possibly even U.S. made electrics rule the rest of the planet……
    Whatever happened to ‘Made in Germany’ standing for quality and innovation? Ah well….Sayonara!

  • Dave K.

    I own a ’01 VW and believe me, you don’t want one anyway, my ’04 Prius makes it look about as reliable as a Yugo.
    Japanese cars are great!

  • Armand

    How can the Germans be serious about hybrids when all they make are overweight, overpowered, unreliable piles of shit that idiots from east coast to west coast of American are lining up to buy their garbage and rave about all the time?

    German cars are the European muscle cars. Shame on them for making such gas-guzzling piles.

  • Armand

    One more thing…it sounds like the Germans simply cannot make a technology that actually is up to par with Toyota’s hybrid system. They just can’t do it. If I-drive in the BMW is any indication of how poorly Germans can design electronics, it’s no wonder they are making excuses…

    They simply don’t have the know-how.

  • RandalH

    Milwaukee T: Diesel has been over $5 a gallon in Germany for years. Same goes for gasolilne.

  • GR

    Does anyone know if any company installs aftermarket stop-start technology into cars built without them? I don’t have a hybrid (yet) but I figured in the meantime I could look into getting something that would save gas whenever I’m in traffic (I live in LA).

    Not sure if any company does this but it could be a great idea if the price was reasonable.

  • Joan in Maine

    It’s not all about cost savings. Those of us who bought our Prius’s when gas was cheap didn’t buy them to save money, but because it was the right thing to do. If they factored in pollution, global warming, health care costs, etc… there would be a clear win in savings. This is a case of ‘build the car and they will come’.

  • Michael Pelekis

    Only gas is under cosideration, what about service,engine lubricant engine wear etc. ??
    and please consider that a hybrid is a twin engine car, far more advanced than any german diesel

  • Andreas

    Not sure if this is possible without big costs. Some things to think about:
    - Starter: used only a 1-5 times a day in normal operation, used 20-30 times in heavy red light city driving in an hour. Starter will wear fast
    - Battery: heavier use of charing and discharging. Normal Batteries will wear fast
    - AC: is driven by the ICE, with the ICE stopped at red lights, the AC will not work. Not to nice in some areas
    - Navigation etc. are normally muted when you start the ICE, so again something that does not look well, when your in city stop-starting often if you don’t alter the system.
    and so on.
    Lot of things to consider, so no “reasonable” = “cheap” pricing availible

  • Dom

    Anyone that has owned a VW TDI will understand why the Germans aren’t tripping over themselves to worship hybrids. The TDI is probably the best kept secret in America – it’s as fuel efficient as a Prius without the extra complexity. It’s also really fun to drive, as you don’t have to drive like grandma to get great mpg. CAN the Germans build a full hybrid? Of course, as the Golf TDI hybrid concept proves. It’s just a cost-benefit analysis problem.

  • Al

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It is very simple: people talking about 3 years based on the expectation of the distance one drive per year. If you drive less and therefore lifetime of a car gets bigger it is fine but then please do not expect 500$ saving per year.

  • docvb

    The TDI is a nice piece of work–bought a ’06 Jetta. Real life fuel economy is about 40mpg for us.

    But it isn’t invisible to the owner, either.
    -not all stations sell diesel. You need to plan ahead if driving in a large urban area.
    -the fuel is stinky and will stink up your garage, particularly on cold winter mornings, especially if you close the garage door right away when you leave. There is a big blast of smoke on really cold starts.
    -the diesel engines heat up very slowly and suck in cold winter environments: if you run the heater fan fast enough, the motor never reaches full operating temperature! This kills your mileage too. Never mind having to worry about it starting if you park outside for more than 2 hrs when it’s Zero or colder outside.
    -The TDI is a very particular motor: it needs very specific oils, filters and lubes. Do not buy one unless you like the VW dealership and have one nearby. You can’t go to Lube World for oil changes: Wally world does not have anything you’ll need–not even AutoZone or Advanced have the oils you’ll need. You must keep motor oil and spare fuel filters in your vehicle!!!
    -The TDI comes installed in a Volkswagen. That means there is a whole new world of quirks and limitations and costs that you must live with. Like odd fasteners (triple-square wrenches???wtf), odd designs, uncomfortable seats, vinyl-leather.

    Now I’m sure a Prius is just as wacky in its own ways. And probably just as bad in super-cold weather seasons as well. And just as quirky to live with. To be fair, I should buy one of these for the family to drive for a true comparison.

  • Milwaukee T

    The Prius isn’t great in cold weather. The mileage really plumits below freezing and it’s too light to navigate snow deeper than ohhh….. say 4 inches! It floats across the snow… My Jetta handles snow much better. That said I’ll take the Toyota over the VW any day – mileage, mileage, mileage…. environment, environment, environment.

    The Germans need to get with the program: they are doing some great things with wind and photovoltaics – they expect their (very cloudy) grid to be supplying with 40% renewables by 2020!! But with cars, they are risking a lot by sticking to diesel…

  • Boom Boom

    The diesel/hybrid debate is a false dichotomy. There is not reason why diesel’s can’t be hybrids. They work fine together. The only reason that it is an either/or debate is that VW isn’t willing to take the risk to build one for mass production and Toyota/Honda don’t make many diesels. (They mostly make them only for the European market.)

    The cost-benefit argument they make is not well thought out. Gas is only going to get more expensive and eventually it will make sense for diesel hybrids. When it does, it will be the companies with hybrids on the road that will dominate the market. Honda and Toyota came out with hybrids when gas was barely more than a buck. It didn’t make monetary sense to buy one at that point, and most people didn’t, but when gas shot up, they were ready. If VW (and other european automakers) stick their heads in the sand about hybrids, then I guess we’ll all be driving Japanese cars before long….

  • Armand

    MOST CARS won’t navigate snow deeper than 4 inches. So the Prius is not worse.

  • Armand

    No the Germans can’t build hybrids…if they could, they would. Do you think they are enjoying Toyota’s hybrid domination?

    Plus, certain things need to transcend just simple economics. We are now very quickly approaching some serious environmental issues…and diesel solves NONE of these problems. So diesel lovers can say all they want, but it solves nothing in terms of fuel use…

    Use half as much fuel driving while you use twice as much producing…does that make sense?

  • M Pelekis

    I don’t think its rocket science to add an electric motor to regular car,especially today with modern electronics,

    what is the extra price of an electric motor added to a diesel car,

    a hybrid diesel would be more efficient than a simple diesel,

    I don’t understand why so much discussion for such a simple case,

    please try to compare the cost of a hydrogen fuel cell car which everybody admires as a non polluting car, which is not true, hydrogen fuel cell cars produce water vapour which is a pollutant in congested cities

  • steved28

    Just to address Andreas points

    - Starter: used only a 1-5 times a day in normal operation, used 20-30 times in heavy red light city driving in an hour. Starter will wear fast

    Hybrids don’t use starters, they use the second drive motor, which is already in motion.

    - Battery: heavier use of charing and discharging. Normal Batteries will wear fast

    Hybrids use deep cycle 12V batteries which are designed for many such cycles. (not speaking about the hybrid batteries here, which are designed for many thousands of cycles)

    - AC: is driven by the ICE, with the ICE stopped at red lights, the AC will not work. Not to nice in some areas

    Some hybrids don’t run the A/C off the ICE, those that do will keep the engine running at stops if needed.

    - Navigation etc. are normally muted when you start the ICE, so again something that does not look well, when your in city stop-starting often if you don’t alter the system

    Nav systems do not shut off with the ICE in hybrids.

    I assume you don’t own one. That’s OK, but don’t spread falsities about them.

  • Shines

    I suspect VW is looking at Clean Diesel technology as an alternative to hybrid diesel. Yes you can build a diesel hybrid, but if it is not the clean diesel it kind of defeats the purpose (a hybrid that smells bad, is noisy when the diesel is running and belches smoke). You can combine clean diesel and hybrid but now you are talking very expensive. Clean diesel requires a catalytic pre-filter to add extra oxygen so the diesel can burn its fuel efficiently and still requires a special exhaust to remove the carbon dust. Then add the hybrid motors and LI battery and you have a very complicated and expensive car. As far as the Prius being too expensive, well that’s just plain wrong. Compare on Edmunds the 5 year cost of ownership for mid-sized sedans.

  • EVtransPortal

    Mercedes is developing a 100% electric S class
    http://benzinsider.com/2008/03/mercedes-benz-developing-100-electric-car/

    and gas electric hybrid Smart Cars for the US market with Lithium ion batteries http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/environment/2008-03-23-mercedes-electric-car-battery_N.htm#LogIn

    Also, Loremo is introducing a hybrid version at launch: http://evolution.loremo.com/content/view/13/47/lang,en/

    For more information see http://EVtransPortal.com/evindustrynews.html and http://EVtransPortal.com

  • GR

    VW should create both a clean diesel hybrid and a clean diesel. That way when diesel prices shoot up (like they have been doing…similar to gas prices) they have a production ready vehicle to start building. Obviously easier said than done, but might as well start now.

  • GR

    ps – and also make it only a hybrid vehicle (like the Prius) so people aren’t always focused on the price (especially for a diesel hybrid).

  • Raffy Long

    Volkswagen really Drive me crazy specially when it it unveiled the diesel-electric VW Golf Hybrid. I really love the way VW design cars it is just too amazing, the concepts were really one of a kind.

  • Lara

    I know there’s a lot of hate on this page about the German diesel hybrid…. but does anyone know if you can convert this concept to be a bio-diesel hybrid?