Nein, Says Volkswagen To Diesel-Electric Hybrids

Diesel engines have traditionally delivered better fuel mileage than their gas counterparts, and today, thanks to technology, their emissions output rivals gas powertrains. Adding an electric hybrid system to a diesel would, therefore, seem to make sense—a green car with superb fuel economy.

For years, Volkswagen has showcased a number of diesel-hybrid concept vehicles. That might give you the impression that VW dealers will soon have them in their showrooms. Repeat after me: That’s not going to happen.

VW spokesperson that recently told Great Britain’s Autocar that “diesel hybrids still don’t make good business sense.” The spokesperson continued by saying, “The higher cost of clean diesel technology would make them even more expensive than petrol-electric cars. The markets where hybrids are most popular are also the ones where diesels are least popular.”

Keep those business realities in mind the next time you see a diesel-hybrid concept at an auto show.

At the same time, don’t expect VW and others to stop parading the diesel-hybrid combo, like they did in 2008 when it introduced the Golf TDI Hybrid Concept and its 69 mpg at the Geneva Motor Show. A couple months later, green car fans really got in a lather about the possibility of the plug-in Golf Twin Drive diesel electric with a lithium-ion battery pack.

Or, how about last year at the Frankfurt show with the unveiling of the bullet-shaped L1 diesel-electric hybrid that dished out a whopping 157.8 miles per gallon, had a top speed of 100 mph and an “impressive” driving range of 416 miles. And that wasn’t all. Three month later in Los Angeles, VW took the wraps off the Up! Lite, a three-door, four-passenger city car with a diesel hybrid system capable of 70 mpg on the highway.

Of course we’re wondering why Volkswagen put all of the time, money and engineering resources in to developing these concept vehicles, when shortly after the Golf TDI Hybrid Concept was revealed in 2008, the company was quoted in Auto, Motor und Sport that they wouldn’t build the car because it would be “too expensive.”

Oh well. That’s show business.

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  • JamesDavis

    I have always known those Germans are smart. So what are they coming out with…total electric?

  • Micheal73

    Electric cars concept id good. But, few disadvantage having electric cars like the batteries will need to be recharged. another disadvantage to an electric car is that the batteries will need to be recharged. This will require advanced planning because you’ll have to allow adequate time for the batteries to be fully charged.


  • MS

    The germans are not developming anything really new for mass consuming market on electric cars. They have some concepts, but as the diesel hybrid, are mostly show off.

  • George Parrott

    I believe VW (and others) may be totally misjudging the buying market for “high efficiency” vehicles. Look at the price of the Chevy Volt vs. Nissan Leaf. The Volt is commanding at least $8k more than the Leaf, and for the added range confidence, for many of us, it is worth that difference. I have been hoping for a diesel/hybrid combination. The EV technology would drive the vehicle for regular short commutes and the diesel extended range function would allow the car to travel for real road trips at a MOST economical fuel impact. Since the Volt appears to find plenty of interested buyers (at MSRP, but not AT MARKUP pricing) and since other even gas/electric combinations like the Fisker Nina (which has not even been shown yet) or Karma (at $87,000 territory) are also at higher price levels….a volume maker with a diesel + EV drivetrain could appeal to a rather decent market base….IMHO anyway.

  • JamesDavis

    George, you seem to be very smart, but you are not looking at the big picture. The American big three auto makers do not want you buying electric or hybrids cars; look at their electric cars – they look like they belong in a circus with clowns crawling out of them. They want to stay with total fossil fuel vehicles because they are stupid in their ways and afraid of change because of what the oil industry will do to them…cut their funding. The two our of three auto makers in America that needed the tax payers to bail their ass out of debt – refuse to show their gratitude by offering Americans a higher quality electric vehicle that can get, like Telsa Motors electric cars can, over 150 miles per charge. These cars would cut green-house gases by over 80%. If President Obama would give Telsa as much money as he did these three big American auto makers, we could be free of foreign oil in less than ten years.

    If the American people do not stand up, shout, hollow, and scream that we want only electric cars, or we will not buy any new car, then the three big three American auto makers may see the light and start competing in the global market with only electric cars.

  • Tom

    I’m wondering if they are applying the phrase “business sense” correctly here. Seems to me that if they are appropriately rewarded for selling this car, then that makes “business sense”. People will pay a premium for these cars, beyond the savings in fuel, out of… passion for the environment, feeling good, the appeal of being an early adopter, etc. AND… Vokswagen gets the image boost. Please, please, please.. put aside the normal math that “making this car a hybrid saves $3000 over it’s lifetime, therefore we can charge up to a $3000 premium”. It does not work that way at this time, look at the Volt. $3000 is only the low ball estimate of the premium you can charge. That’s the premium that a bean counter would pay. But, buying is an emotional decision, emotional factors need to be added into the price.

  • Achilles

    For VW’s detailed views on spark ignition versus diesel engines, take a look at:-

    Here are a couple of quotes:-
    “It’s a much cheaper engine to produce. Its structure is simpler. It has a lot less material and less weight. Putting these new gasoline engines into our cars, we come very close to the fuel efficiency of the diesel, but with much lower costs,”

    and further on:-

    “Yes, we use HCCI for the ‘main operation’ area. It’s easier to fit with all the restrictions we have,”Middendorf noted. “Particularly with hybrid cars, it gives more freedom to make the engine run in the ‘sweet spot’ of that technology. So we have to perhaps rethink our use of this [HCCI] technology.”

    It would seem the big bet is being placed on hybrids with gasoline/biofuel HCCI engines, just like Mercedes. The implication is that conventional diesels will also fall off in popularity in Europe, now that most governments are reducing the tax advantages of diesel fuel. About time….

  • jettaJack

    I wonder if these “good business sense” Germans are the same Germans, who in the 90’s said that the internet was the only good for big businesses. Small businesses would never need to be part of the internet, because it was too costly and did not make good business sense.

  • DonMiller

    If true, what disappointing news about the VW L1! I went to the L.A. Auto Show in late 2009 with a prime objective to check-out the promoted second-generation L1 prototype, only to learn it didn’t make the trip. I see this car’s unique design, innovative engineering and construction — and “bragging-rights” mileage potential — as among many reasons to be seriously interested in purchasing one in “2013.” VW’s deep pockets and public relations quotes offered some promise this wasn’t just more automative vaporware. The indicated $25K sticker, though $10K over a Corolla, still seems justifiably-affordable when viewed from certain perspectives (including smiles-per-mile and collectability). I still WANT one, Volkswagen!

  • etcgreen


    My engineering team has been working in transportation for several years and while we initially supported the EV solution, we ran into such a long list of negative issues and ultimately total show stoppers, we simply had to admit the reality that EV’s and Hybrids are not our Future. They are actually far from Green and unsustainable. If manufactured at large scale, their price will actually increase as their performance statistics will likely decrease. This is due to their high volume demand for rare earths and heavy metals. Peak Minerals will also likely result in a Peak Prius.

    In small numbers – a few million per year – the EV’s have some excellent justifications and applications, but to manufacture these at large scale to replace the majority of ICE vehicles on the planet would require we mine the minerals of Mars or master alchemy (fusion).

    If you have deep pockets and can handle the occasional embarrassment of having your windshield soaped with the message – “Mineral Hog”, go for it – all new technology needs fearless benefactors. There is always the possibility that graphine or something like it will provide some solutions. Article: EV’s and Hybrids are not our Future

  • joe

    There is another possible variation on the plug in hybrid that avoid using extra batteries. This would be a plug in hybrid compressed air car. Let me explain my idea. When the car is recharging an electric motor is powering a 4-stage compressor which will be used as 4-stage expansion engine when the car is running. The heat of compression would be stored in an insulated tank filled with paraffin or a eutectic salt solution. These melt between 150 and 200 degrees fahrenheit and store a lot of heat while doing so. This heat would be withdrawn from storage while the car is running to reheat the expanding air, which becomes very cold as it expands.
    Now comes the best part! The waste heat from a small gas engine (ie exhaust) can seriously boost this reheating which boosts the power and energy of compressed air engine. If it is a piston engine is used there is no need for a transmission and regenerative braking would be easy to incorporate. The power from the small gasoline engine can be used to turn the compressor motor as an alternator to power the electrical system and perhaps power a small electric drive motor as well. Or the compressor motor would be used as an electric drive motor. If this car needed an extra lead-acid battery or two it would be no big deal.

  • Eric Law

    VW parades around these cars to get consumers excited about their brand and to show the oil companies what could happen if they stopped providing the auto industry with billions of dollars in kick backs for their poor performing cars. This is why diesel has not taken off in the US.

  • Kili

    I currently own a 2006 diesel New Beetle…. the ONLY way I would upgrade/replace my car at this point is if someone came out with a diesel-electric hybrid. Would I pay the few thousand dollars above the few thousand extra I paid for diesel in the first place?

    The answer is a resounding YES. If VW doesn’t think there’d be a market for diesel-electric hybrids, then they aren’t paying attention.

  • Joseph D Basal

    I have owned overTwelve VW and Audi cars,
    and I would like VW to build a Diesel electric Hybrid car suchasthe L1 concept car that gives you something like 157 plus miles per gallon ASAP Many of my friends would support this idea!!!

  • shelly

    This car looks awsome i would love to drive it

  • William Boyle

    Id love a Diesel/hybrid

    Id also love it if it could seat 8 people because I have a large family

    so, Diesel/hybrid SUV? that gets 40~50 mpg sounds possible and im possitive welcome in the American market

  • James A. Burt

    Nich nein!! Sagen sie ja!!

  • james braselton

    hi there wow hybrid tdi full size sadan 70 mpg hybride 2 passanger vehicals 158 mpg 261 mpg 300 mpg 420 mpg 550 mpg 700 mpg 1,400 mpg 2,100 mpg 2,400 mpg