Comparison: Plug-in EVs/PHVs, small displacent turbo diesels & Det3 US offerings



Can you find anything wrong with the logic or values of these comparisons?

Comparison of Plug-In EV/Hybrids, small displacement UE type diesels and US light vehicles

Try this for starters.

US electrical power = 49% from coal fired power plants

US Coal Plant Emissions (in 10E+6 metric tons) annually

. CO2 ==== 24,800

. SO2 ======= 78

. NOx ======= 33

US coalfired “power plant fleet efficiency” = 33% i.e., 1 kWh (3,412 Btu/kWh) output per 10,400 Btu coal input

Transport of electricity (estimated transmission efficiency) ~ 92%-94% … which results in a “coalfired system efficiency” of 30% just getting to the vehicle plug.

It is hoped that CO2, SOx, and NOx emissions will be reduced reduced to more acceptable level from the US coalfired fleet within 15 to 25 years … but, it will come at a price in power plant efficiency (additional parasitic losses between 5% and 20% in efficiency just for emissions abatement).


Volt Emissions in EV mode (Predicted ASSUMING 51% of Electrical Energy is from hydro, solar, & Wind)

=======grams/mile ==== grams/km

. CO2 ===== 319 ======== 198

. SO2 ======= 0.512 ====== 0.318

. NOx ======= 0.217 ====== 0.135

Tier 2 Bin 5 Limit

. NOx ======= 0.070 ====== 0.043

Note that in EV mode, the Volt’s NOx emissions appear to exceeds Tier 2 Bin 5 limit by more than 3x even with ONLY 49% of the electrical energy coal sourced and assuming the remaining electrical energy is emissions free (Actually, about 20% is natural gas generated, at roughly 50% efficiency, adding more CO2 emissions).

Astra 5 Door Hatchback 1.7CDTi 16v (125PS) diesel

. CO2 ===== 200 ======== 124

. NOx ======= 0.208 = ===== 0.129


Insignia (Regal?) 2.0CDTi (160PS) EcoFLEX M6 diesel

. CO2 ===== 219 ======== 136

. NOx ======= 0.172 = ===== 0.107


It appears from available data that the 60~76 mpg(Imperial) combine [about 50~63 mpg(US) combined] European type Step V small displacement (below 2 Liters) turbo diesels are potentially cleaner and more energy efficient than the current PHVs and EVs as a general class operating with energy demands HIGHER THAN 0.250 kWh/mile from the GRID.

Energy consumed (released) Btu/mile = HEAT = thermal polution?

note: 1 Btu raises 1 pound of water 1? F

= 3420 — Volt with 50% coal & 25% NG/mile

= 2800 — Astra * http://www…p?id=24330

= 3111 — Insignia (Regal?) * http://www…p?id=24829

= 3500 — S-Max (a moderate sized SUV?) search/vehicleDetails.asp?id=25604

= 2211 — Fiesta * http://www…p?id=25511

= 2261 — Focus * http://www…p?id=25545

= 6222 — average US light vehicle in 2008 at 22.5 mpg combined (Monroney)

= 4999 — predicted average for 2016 US CAFE compliant fleet at average 28 mpg combined (Monroney)

* These vehicles could save 17 to 19 barrels of crude oil plus about 55 million Btus in thermal emissions [enough to boil roughly 187 tons of water or thaw 190 tons of ice] per vehicle year for the life of the vehicle (20 to 25 years) when compared to the current and 2016 US domestic light vehicle fleet fuel economies.

These are a reasonably accurate comparison of emissions, carbon footprint, and relative energy consumption.

And for those that believe ALL diesels are noisy, VCA data indicate that there are a number of Euro Ford and Opel(GM) small displacement diesels that are as quiet as the as the Prius when moving, 69 dB(A). These are certainly not the typical Det3 domestically (US) designed and built diesels.




The second line should have read “Comparison of Plug-In EV/Hybrids, small displacement EU (European) type diesels, and US light vehicles”.

Also the link for the S-Max (a moderate sized SUV?) was damaged. Here is the corrected link

Appologies to the forum.

BTW, for those interested in fuel frugal vans, pickups, and 4X4s see:

And Iveco is (or at least was) part of Fiat’s trucks.


It is difficult to pull it all together. Since there are factors we don’t have any data on, others have limited data, and we have no way of accurately predicting possible new technologies. That said, it appears you have put together a collection which is about as good as anyone can put together with the information available and no crystal ball.

I suspect that within 10 years there will be enough changes in available technologies that the net results could be far different (either way) That said, I believe we all have to use the information available and just stay alert for new data and theories that likely will become available.

The most common reaction of just putting one’s head in the sand, will only mean bad things for our children and grand children.


What’s the impact of building one of these cars from scratch Vs. keeping an older car that produces more emissions on the road?


Let’s do it this way …

When a NEW vehicle replaces an older vehicle … is it usually scrapped?

Probably not unless destroyed … at least modern vehicles seem to retain a 15 to 25 year life span. And, even when destroyed (totalled), the carcusses are often a source for recycled parts to keep similar vehicles running (a VERY BIG business).

There are plenty of 20 to 50 year old US vehicles still running around in some of the less afluent countries (even in the US) still putting out their old level of emissions.

I think WE will have to think about this one for a while.

A side comment … you got me thinking … collectively, my three vehicles together have had 50 years of service. YIKES! And, they all deliver better than 24 mpg combined average (and above 32 mpg highway) when the AC is not running. The best, a 15 year old CIVIC, delivers 45 mpg highway and 38 mpg combined.

So I am looking for a truly “fuel frugal” vehicle for the next 10 to 15 years.

And, I REFUSE to buy NEW any SLIGHT … INCREMENTAL (2% to 6%) … increase in fuel economy every few years for marginal improvement in fuel economy or emissions. Of course, that is just me.

Everyone has to make THEIR OWN DECISIONS based on their “wants” and “needs”!


My 3 vehicles have about 59 years all together, however in my case not a single one gets better than 19 MPG in regular driving. But then again like you said everyone has different wants when it comes to cars, I favor power and capability over anything else. To me anything over 15 MPG is pretty frugal :slight_smile:


Geely, a Chinese auto company just purchased Volvo. Volvo just brought to market in late 2009 their 72+ mpg(Imperial) combined C30, S40, and V50 with diesel DRIVe StopStart power trains. By the way, 72+ mpg(Imperial) combined is about 60 mpg(US) combined supporting almost 70/83.1 mpg(US/Imperial) highway for the V50.

Why is this important?

China will probably export very few vehicles for the time being … simply because their internal auto market will be between 15 and 18 million units for 2010 (compared to 10 to 12 million for the US).

And the Chinese auto market is expanding at a rate between 12% and 20% per year!

At that growth rate, by 2017 China’s auto industry can be predicted to be building between 50 and 80 MILLION vehicles annually!

Considering their expanding production, it is reasonable to believe that between January 2010 and mid 2017 China will put MORE ADDITIONAL light vehicles on their roads than are currently registered in the US.

Currently about 2% of China’s potential drivers have a vehicle. In 2017, between 10% to 20% of China’s potential drivers will have vehicles.

At that point China’s auto market will approach saturation and therefore switch from EXPANSION … to … REPLACEMENT RATE … resulting in an EXCESS automotive manufacturing capacity GREATER than the total annual US automotive market!

And Geely (and China’s auto industry) will have had seven (7) years to IMPROVE on that 60/70 mpg(US) combined/highway Volvo technology.

It also appears that China will require, by statute, a minimum vehicle fuel economy ABOVE 42 mpg(US) combined by 2015 … 2016 at the latest, resulting in average fuel economies for 2015/16 vehicles above 50 mpg(US) combined.

And, by the way, the EU and S. Korea will require, by statute, above 42 mpg(US) combined [CO2 emissions below 140 g/km] to avoid VERY STIFF surtaxes up to USD $ 90 per gram above the limit on EVERY non-complient vehicle sold starting January 2015.

Meanwhile back in the US, in 2016, we will hopefully achieve 34.5 mpg CAFE (with the help of “credits” and “swaps”) which will result in an average fuel economy at or below 28 mpg(US) combined on the Mornoney sticker seen on vehicles at the dealer.

That is what I see … UNLESS … there are VERY RADICAL changes here in the US!!!

How is that for a prediction of the future?

NOW … YOU … tell me what will probably happen to the US auto industry and OUR US economy between 2015 and 2018.

OR … PLEASE … tell me what is wrong with my logic.


You’re forgetting that the American people won’t necessarily be on board with any huge taxation plan that limits has MPG or pollution limits. And there aren’t alot of politicians that will be willing push such an agenda as it would be political suicide in the current financial climate. The new CAFE standards were met with some resistance and yet another set of lofty standards being introduced so close to the new CAFE standards probably won?t fly. Maybe in another decade and a half, but not any time soon.


The small diesel is more efficient than the PHEV charged off the grid mainly because there are many more conversion steps for the PHEV.

PHEV: heat of combustion to mechanical to electrical to battery to electrical to mechanical.
That’s five conversions from the combustion chamber of the power plant to the output shaft of the vehicle motor.
And not counting transmission losses.

Diesel: heat of combustion to mechanical.
Two conversions.

Another possibility would be a stationary diesel or other type of engine at the home base to charge the EV battery.
Waste heat from the engine can be used for domestic hot water, building heat or even air conditioning with an absorption chiller.
In this scenario combustion engine efficiency jumps from ~30% to ~80%, plus transmission loss is basically eliminated.

Capstone Turbine Co. makes a natural gas system that can do this.
It’s starting to catch on at Hotels etc. to generate electricity and hot water.


There is NO NEED to increase taxes.

IF … one is in the market for a new vehicle … would an overall 300 to 400 gallon per year savings in fuel at least be enough encourage looking at these truly fuel frugal vehicles? Certainly not everyone … but many would at least consider them. And if the needs/wants are met … a sale?

Beside, making EXISTING … VERY FUEL FRUGAL technologies available to the US consumer would actually be the QUICKEST and most COST EFFECTIVE … i.e., MOST PROFITABLE path for the Det3 to follow in order to EXCEED 2016 CAFE requirements!

Any other alternative requires 6 or 7 years of ANNUAL incremental development accross an entirely new line of I4s, V6s, and V8s to improve emissions and fuel economy, replacing almost ALL current domestic ICEs in order to barely satisfy 2016 CAFE … which results in roughly 50% lower fuel economy (and higher emissions) than the Det3’s current EU offerings

Take a look at Chrysler-Fiat, Ford, and Vauxhall-Opel/GM fuel economies here

Radically better fuel economy has the potential of becoming a “self funding” economic stimulus strategy! Not for everyone certainly … just for those that NEED/want it.

IF only 5% of domestic auto sales went to DOMESTICALLY built small displacement diesels, that would add over 1/2 million units of production annually. And if that were split within the Det3 that could potentially be a 10% increase in market share.

Keep in mind that diesels make up about 80% to 85% of VW’s US Jetta sales, if my information is correct. And, lots of US consumers do not even like/trust VW’s reliability/durability/long term cost of ownership. Plus, based on my observations, the demand for VW diesels has been sufficiently HIGH that VW has been able to increase the prices of their diesels almost 5% over the last 16 months while other OEMs are concerned about how much they have to discount to make a sale.

Just the way I see it … FWETIW …


So your vehicles only get 15 mpg, that is fine with me.

Your life, your money/resources … therefore, YOUR decision!

If you look at the expansion of China and India’s “on-the-road” fleet over the next 7 years … it is reasonable to expect a 5 to 10 million barrel/day increase (about 4% to 8%) in world petroleum consumption.

What will that do to the price of crude?

Gasoline at $4 to $7 per gallon? I honestly have no idea! One thing is certain, by 2017 the price of fuel WILL BE HIGHER than today.

Is it enough of a concern to influence your thinking? Again, that is a “ball in your court” and quite frankly, none of my business.

Regardless … keep that “old iron rollin’” … be safe … and enjoy LIFE!


I think it’s safe to assume that the price of almost everything will be higher than it is today. The only thing that’s of real consequence is whether or not wages keep up with inflation, and the U.S. citizen’s buying power stays the same. People like to talk about the days in the 60’s when gas was ten cents a gallon or whatever, but they don’t talk about how much lower the wages were back then. A gallon of gas today is really no more expensive than it was back in the good old days.

Also keep in mind China has some decent proven oil reserves that they haven’t come close to fully exploiting yet. If they wanted or had to they could increase their own oil production substantially and at least partially offset their growing oil/petroleum requirements.


I was thinkinking about your statement: “In this scenario combustion engine efficiency jumps from ~30% to ~80%, plus transmission loss is basically eliminated.”

I agree that transmission losses would approach “0”, however, I recently read that the MOST EFFICIENT internal combustion engine is only NOW approaching 50% and generally even the best production diesels are in the 40% range.

Although I do agree that figuring out how to utalize “waste heat” could increase system efficiency.


This baby exceeds 50%:


Thanks for the UPDATE! The link is VERY interesting!

Now … IF we can only get Detroit to put that type of efficiency into US automotives!

I guess Det3 could get by with less than 14 cylinders and 1,556,002 cubic inches (25,480 liters) displacement for their autos. Ya think?

I suspect the “horse power” guys would be disappointed in the low RPM redline though. Do you think the RTA96-C can get above 120 RPM?

Again … thanks for “new news”! Here is another link on the RTA96-C


I wonder what it sounds like.
The 12 cylinder version purrs with a 20Hz fundamental at 100rpm.
(by comparison a 4 cyl 4 stroke at 700rpm is 23Hz)


Your post views things as they are now. Nuclear power provided electricity for electric vehicles will be back making CO2 emissions whether from coal or petroleum a moot point. There are more things that have been overlooked such as using algae to produce diesel fuel and even gasoline from plant sugars as is being researched at the U of Wisconsin in Madison.


Agreed that nuclear changes the equation … but 20~30 years down the road.

Most of the current plant technologies are obsolete and nobody has built a domestic nuclear plant in years … much must be relearned … and there an entirely NEW SET of TRADE-OFFs.

Coal plant efficiency and emissions can be improved significantly! Unfortunately all of the old plants would have to be REPLACED. Again 20~30 years.

Algeal bio diesel, butanol, or ethanol certainly would help … but FUEL FRUGALITY probably should lead the way … from where I sit … small displacement (under 2 liters) Euro type turbo diesels are probably the best, QUICKEST, and most cost effective “bridge technology” to what ever future technologies can offer!


Strangely enough. There’s no shortage of sub 2 liter turbo diesels. The thing is, nobody in the U.S. really wants them. Remember our first foray into diesels in the late 70’s and 80’? It didn’t go well, and the American public still views diesels with disdain because of it. Granted modern diesels are an order of magnitude better than they were 30 years ago. But we’re going to be petrol country for the foreseeable future.

A guy down the street from me has two Jetta’s (his/hers) One’s a TDI and the other is powered by the gas VR6 model. I’ve driven both of them back to back, and I much preferred the VR6. The TDI had good grunt off the line, but wow, does it ever fall flat on it’s face past 2500 RPM or so, it’s annoying IMHO. Sure the TDI gets great gas mileage, but you do give up alot too.


I think “The thing is, nobody in the U.S. really wants them” is a bit inaccurate!

I and many others would like to have a FUEL FRUGAL small displacement diesel!

Of course, that CERTAINLY DOES NOT MEAN THAT EVERYONE DOES! And that is OK with me.

It should an “opportunity of choice” whether it is between pickups, vans, suvs, sedans, coupes, ATs, MTs, displacements, CNG, gasoline, diesel, … even flex fuel or electric.

Sorry you are disappointed about VW’s TDi performance roll-of above 2500 RPM.

IF … I understand Ford’s DuraTorq turbo diesel holds up pretty well (relatively flat) up to about 4k RPM. Of course WE don’t have them in the US to find out do we?

Apparently Ford’s 3.7k pound curb weight Mondeo Estate with a 1.6L DuraTorq can tow almost 2 tons and probably will provide about 45 mpg(US) combined for the “light-footed” US driver.

IF that is NOT you thing … PLEASE … DO NOT BUY ONE!

But at the same time … please … try to support the [i]choice[/i] for those with a different need or want! IF … WE do NOT support each other for reasonable choices … it sooner or later be one of your preferences that is eliminated.