70 MPG Volkswagen Golf Hybrid

Thanks to a reader for calling this story to my attention. I will be spending most of my time in the U.S. by summer, and I think I am going to have to get a car. Right now, I don’t own a car, and am happily biking to work. ๐Ÿ™‚ While biking is the national pastime in the Netherlands, I fear this is not a good option for Dallas.

The New VW Golf Diesel Hybrid

I had just about decided on a Toyota Prius – because it gives me the best possible compromise between something I can haul the family in, and something that gets great gas mileage (EPA-estimated 46 mpg). I really couldn’t find anything else that came close. (Suggestions are welcome, though).

But the Prius will soon have a worthy challenger. Volkswagen has announced that they are building a diesel hybrid Golf that gets 70 mpg. Wired reports:

According to a Google translation of Germany’s Auto Bild, the potential Prius killer sports a 74-horsepower three-cylinder TDI engine — Autoblog speculates it’s the 1.4-liter used in the Polo BlueMotion — mated to a 27-horsepower electric motor and a seven-speed double-clutch DSG transmission. There’s a nickel-metal hydride battery in the trunk; a regenerative braking system helps keep it charged. The car has stop/start capability and a full-electric mode at low speed. An “energy monitor” display on the dashboard keeps tabs on what the powertrain is doing.

According to Auto Bild, the hybrid Golf will get 69.9 mpg and emit 90 g/km of carbon dioxide. An earlier report by Britain’s Auto Express said 89 g/km, but either way that’s less than the 104 g/km emitted by the Prius and 116 emitted by the Honda Civic Hybrid.

When can I buy one? Well, there’s the rub. Reports are that they are expected to be on sale in Europe at the end of 2009, but no details of when it might be released in the U.S. (Although that link does say that it will meet California’s stringent air emissions standards).

Looks like I will just have to get that Prius, unless someone can suggest something better.

39 thoughts on “70 MPG Volkswagen Golf Hybrid”

  1. Yes I saw that on GCC last week. As the owner of a Golf TDI and a Jetta TDI this is my dream car. Pity I’ll have to wait until 2010.

    BTW, when I bought the Golf in 2005I had intended to buy a Prius, but one drive of the Golf and I was sold. I was so impressed I bought another one, with a boot (that’s a trunk for Americans)

    In Europe where people are already paying more than $6/gallon, the market has spoken. More than 50% of new car sales are diesels, while hybrids represent less than one percent. Its hard to argue with that.

    Robert, I don’t know if they’re selling 50-state diesels there yet, but before you buy a Prius, test drive a diesel and point it at a hill.

  2. Yes I saw that on GCC last week.

    Yes, I have let stories back up a little bit. I am trying to avoid multiple posts per day, but sometimes that means by the time I post something, it’s a few days old. There was a new cellulosic ethanol study put out a few days ago, and I am trying to do something on that before it gets stale.

    Cheers, RR

  3. If you project higher gas prices you can probably get a Prius AND whatever follows.

    I’ve essentially been driving my Prius for free, with a resale price right at what I paid. Of course the carpool stickers help with that. I could get them in 2005 and they can’t now. The stickers stay with the car on a resale.

    As we discussed in the year-end summary post, I’m slow to put “futures” into today’s accounting. There are many a slip between cup and lip.

    In this case, we have a car that as I understood it (from gristmill) is not even scheduled for US delivery.

    So I use as my this-year options the things that are in my market this year.

  4. Note that I also live in California, which is slower to allow small diesels and prices diesel fuel way above gasoline.

    The cheapest gallon of regular gasoline in OC is $3.19 right now, the cheapest diesel is $3.75

  5. I’ve owned two VWs and loved them. But my wife hates the German sensible engineering. She prefers the two Toyotas we’ve owned.

    Today in Houston gasoline is $3/gallon and diesel $3.42. On a BTU basis diesel is more expensive. I think the price will come back in line as the higher sulfur grades are phased out over time and we get back to a single ULSD spec.

    So the Prius might be cheaper to operate, for now. But I wouldn’t buy one . . . well maybe if I could put a “I heart Halliburton” sticker on the back. Or my new favorite bumper sticker:

    “EARTH FIRST . . . we’ll mine the other planets later.”

  6. I loved the 3 VWs I owned (at the time), but I new I was making an maintenance/repair trade-off.

    But in fairness (I think keeping mum would be polite but not truthful), a VW buyer should really take a gander at this page

    Kind nice (for me) to see the Prius on the best list, and kind of scary to see the VW on the “worst of the worst.”

  7. I personally like the Camry hybrid as a compromise between interior space and fuel efficiency. Gets around 40mpg. One problem: they don’t make a wagon. If you can wait a year or two, have room for a charging station, and can afford it, Tesla is supposed to be releasing an all-electric sedan for half the price of the roadster.

  8. I would guess that with a non plug-in hybrid, the planned city vs. highway mileage of the owner is going to be the decision maker.

    The extra weight of the generator, motor and batteries doesn’t give you a lot of gain if you are on the highway a lot and don’t step on the brakes. A diesel doesn’t do very well in the city and at a constant rpm on the highway a diesel is going to be running at it’s best efficiency.

    I can still get >40mpg on the highway from a ’99 Saturn (Canadian gallon) that is worth about $5k with 130,000 km and looks like it did new. I can do my own repairs on almost anything, so the ’97 4 cyl. S10 and the Saturn will probably do us for another decade with the 10,000km we put on each in a year.

    The best small diesel I have owned was a 4cyl John Deere in one of the high clearance sprayers. Too bad it has a list price of $10k for the bare engine, it would go nicely in a small truck.

    On bumper stickers, the best one I have ever seen was on a mid ’70’s Ford pickup with a farm shop built back bumper: “Income tax is the boil on the ass of prosperity.”

  9. The key phrase in the consumer reports list is “several years of above average reliability.” That doesn’t mean your power train will last 200,000 miles. Subarus are still on the recommended list, but they are notorious for engine failure between 70,000 and 130,000 miles. Another source (sorry I didn’t bookmark it.) says the Prius is very expensive to maintain for the second 100,000 miles.

  10. Doug – we had an ’87 Camry Wagon, 2 L, 6 speed when our kids were very little. I routinely got 33 MPG in it. Other than the passive seatbelt system, it was a great car. Since then the Camry’s have gotten bigger and they dropped the wagon. I wish it would come back.

    My VW Scirocco and Jetta TDI were just fun to drive. The only major maintenance issue I ever had was clogged fuel injectors.

    For the reasons our Canadian friend gives, I think the diesel – electric hybrid (a diesel Volt) is the way to go. If the diesel isn’t mechanically driving the wheels you can tune the engine over a narrow RPM/power range to get very good efficiency.

    I would agree with the tax bumper sticker. IF you put a bunch of consevative, pro-business stickers and wraps on a Prius I wonder what response you would get from the liberals?

  11. I wonder if anyone is experimenting with a gas turbine driving a generator. Tucker wanted to put planetary drives in the wheels rather than a transmission. The sprayer I linked above works like that, but hydrostatic drive not electric. The hydraulic pump is mounted right on the flywheel, a hydraulic motor mounted on a planetary drive in each wheel hub.

    A novel approach to a hybrid would be a gas turbine driving a generator with an electric motor driving a planetary in each wheel and a trunkload of batteries.

    The wacky folks at Nye Thermodynamics have been working on a microturbine. They also stuck a 1370 hp gas turbine out of a helicopter in a jet boat. The point there is that the turbine engine has an extremely high hp to weight ratio. They weren’t exactly going for fuel efficiency, (see video), but if you are building an electric vehicle with batteries, charging the batteries with a reciprocating engine probably isn’t the most efficient system or the best weight-to-hp ration. An electric motor such such a high torque at low rpm that a traditional transmission doesn’t make much sense either. Tesla has the motor mounted in between the back wheels and a 2 speed transmission. Apparently you can start out in either gear.

  12. If you can wait a year or two, have room for a charging station, and can afford it, Tesla is supposed to be releasing an all-electric sedan for half the price of the roadster.
    You might have to wait more than that. There is even a Tesla Birth Watch series going on. Ditto the much hyped Chevy Volt. You may notice that some of the stories get cross-filed.

    At least somebody is having fun with the EV & PHEV, until is actually reaches production…

  13. Tesla has the motor mounted in between the back wheels and a 2 speed transmission. Apparently you can start out in either gear.
    Apparently it’s the gear box that’s holding up production. If you can start in either gear, they could conceivably simplify to a 1 speed. So much for the Speedster.

  14. 70 mph? Wow!!

    Does anybody really think there will be an “oil crisis”?

    We are talking about global demand for crude falling every year.

    Certainly, the transportation sector will use less and less and less.

    I have said it before, and I happily say it again: Never bet against man’s ingenuity in a well-capitalized, roughly free society.

    And we are early into the era of high oil prices…imagine the improvements ahead….imagine PHEVs, which on most days will not use any fossil oil….imagine

  15. A bit off topic – anybody looked at TWIP? The US added another 2 million barrels of gasoline inventory last week even as prices went up. We are way outside the normal inventory range.

    EIA put out their long range forecast. They have US demand growing at a measly 0.4% per year. By 2030 we will be using about the same amount of crude oil as we used in 1978. The US is 25% of the world market, and is not growing. Europe is about 15%, and is not grwoing. Japan and the other Asian tigers are 10%, and not growing liquid fuels. So where is all this runaway demand supposed to come from? India? China? Their economies are a fraction of the size of the US. Economic growth alone won’t drive consumption, they need to add LOTS of cars to the few roads they have. Most families in India and China can’t afford a car. (Well maybe the Tata.)

    I’m not buying the forecasts that have crude demand growing to 120 million barrels per day in 20 years.

  16. Annonymous said

    And we are early into the era of high oil prices…imagine the improvements ahead….imagine PHEVs, which on most days will not use any fossil oil….imagine

    So what energy source exactly is going to run these PHEVs???

    40% of global electricity comes from coal.

    40% of UK electricity comes from natural gas

    No developed country, apart from France (possibly) has enough nuclear to power a fleet of PHEVs.

    IMHO the 70mpg hybrid VW is a step in the right direction, but will have to go a long way to gain public acceptance of the diesel powered vehicle in the US.

  17. Ken and King-

    We can easily supplement our electrical grid with extra juice from solar, wind, geothermal, clean coal and nukes. Yes, we have to start building — but for once, building the American infrastructure, instead of wasting $1 trillion in Iraq, a crappy little country of 20 million.
    The PHEVs largely charge up at night — when the grid is not overtaxed anyway.

    King! God bless you! Finally, there is one other human being on the planet (besides me) who actually is looking at demand! Yeah, it going down, not up!
    India’s demand was actually down in 2005, then up 0.6 percent in 2006. That is not runaway growth.
    China’s demand is growing — but beware, they are planting huge jatropha plantations in Indonesia, building coal-to-liquid plants and much more. Addtionally, who syas when they start buying cars they will buy 30 mpg guzzlers. Maybe, by then, they buy hybrids which get an averageof 120 mpg in actual sue (mostly battery).
    By the way, the last time oil prices hit this level, demand contracted by 10 percent, and did not recover for 10 years — when oil was a lot cheaper.
    We are setting up for a replay.

  18. I trained as a commercial marine radio op in the late ’80s, just as off-shore oil shutdown and I never did work in the industry. There is a strong possibility OPEC is going to mess with Tar Sands and other high capital projects by flooding in cheap-to-produce crude and forcing the price down below the feasibility of Tar Sands type projects. Even if they can’t keep boosted production up for long, if investment starts pulling out of the Tar Sands, it will take another 20 years to draw it back. A straight repeat of the 1980’s.

    The same goes for renewable energy projects, PHEV’s and EV’s and everything else that is attracting investment with $100 oil. If OPEC is faced with a serious competitor and a lowered demand flooding the market with crude for a year or two is going to look tempting.

  19. benny – Oil is primarily a transportation fuel. It CAN be used to generate power. But at $100 oil there are cheaper alternatives. I think some forecasters looked at trends in the developing world and just drew the line out into the future assuming that demand would grow despite higher prices.

    I could be wrong, but someone needs to lay out the reasoning for huge demand growth into the future.

    If oil demand is flat or shrinking in the developed world, which accounts for 50% of the world’s demand, someone needs to explain to me how the rest of the world can double consumption in the next 20 years. If as Benny says, India missed its 5-10%, that means in 2030 it is behind MORE than 5-10%. If they miss again in 2008 then there is no way we see 120 million barrel worldwide demand in 2030.

    Besides, the inrastructure just can’t keep up. The cost of the car itself is just the starting point. You also have to invest in roads to drive it on, fuel infrastructure, maintenance, and everything else. Double digit growth in oil demand means double digit growth in roads – or massive traffic jams.

  20. Benz also just rolled out a hybrid. You know hybrids are here to stay when the hybrid-hating Germans come onboard. 90 g/km is a 15% improvement over Prius. I figure about half of that comes from being a smaller car, half because TDi is about 10% more efficient than Toyota’s Atkinson gasoline engine.

    Bob, turbines suck (haha). Good microturbines are 25% efficient and very expensive. Prius engine is about 40% efficient and VW’s TDi has been tested at 44%. Both are dramatically cheaper than turbines.

    It’s very difficult to get high thermal efficiency with continuous combustion. Recip engines only expose their materials to peak gas temp for a brief instant followed by a long cooloff. Turbine materials are exposed to hot gas continuously, thus must run at lower temp and lower efficiency.

    Carbonsink, Euro diesel demand is spurred by tax policies which have worked a little too well — Europe must now export excess gasoline to the US.

  21. For a while I was seeing a Mercedes A-Class on Highway 5. Since I saw a black one up in Oregon and a black one down in California I wondered if it was a road test guy, just going back and forth.

    There are lots of interesting cars we don’t see officially here.

  22. Carbonsink, Euro diesel demand is spurred by tax policies which have worked a little too well
    Ummm … so you’re criticising the Europeans for sensible tax policy? Besides, in France, where diesels are now >70% of new car sales, petrol (gasoline) and diesel are the same price.

    King and Benny:

    The Europeans are actually having a lot of trouble curbing growth of carbon emissions from the transport sector (despite all those diesels and despite the highest fuel taxes in the world).
    EEA Report: EU Fails to Curb Transport GHG Emissions; Focus on Vehicle and Fuel Technologies is Not Enough, Demand Must Be Constrained

  23. It looks like there have been several attempts at gas turbine direct drives and hybrids, including Chrysler’s decade long program, which ended up being the ’66 Charger body. I love that conspiracy theory on the 7th generation engine at the end of the wikipedia article.

    I’m not buying the lower efficiency statement by doggydog. A turbine with no heat recovery system is 25-35% efficient. It also has 1 moving part and doesn’t have much higher material restrictions than a turbocharger.

    Because all of the heat is in the exhaust, it would totally be possible to build a Combined Cycle gas turbine that will run on anything combustible at near 60% efficiency. There is no way to improve reciprocating engines to that point, because the heat dissipation is split between the coolant and exhaust.

    The question of whether it’s a gas or diesel (or propane, CNG, biogas, hydrogen, ethanol, etc) becomes irrelevant.

    A gas turbine can be decoupled from the power train and only charging batteries at a constant RPM. A 100kW engine would weigh a few hundred pounds with very few moving parts, even with a combined cycle.

  24. There is a strong possibility OPEC is going to mess with Tar Sands and other high capital projects by flooding in cheap-to-produce crude and forcing the price down below the feasibility of Tar Sands type projects.
    Strong possibility, eh? Where did you here that? Any proof? How is OPEC going to flood the market? They seem to have trouble keeping it well supplied!

    A straight repeat of the 1980’s.
    RIIGGHHHHHT! That’s a weird interpretation of what happened in the 80s.

    Here’s what happened in the 80s (and again in the 90s): Recession takes a bunch of demand of the table and suddenly supply exceeds demand and oil prices take a dive. OPEC? Their main concern was to try and prop prices up during the drop.

    And yes, this could certainly happen again.

  25. Hey Robert,

    This is IgnoranceisaSin from TheOilDrum.com and I just found your blog and I love it, I want to start one of my own now based on energy and that state of the world. Good luck on the move back to the US, wherebouts are you headed around here?

    Anyway, yes it is frustrating the lack of subcompact and ultra economy cars that are here, people I don’t think are going to catch on until things get bad.

    Best Wishes,
    Crews

  26. Optimist – don’t forget that Alaska North Slope crude came on line and North Sea fields. Non-OPEC expansion increased rapidly. The difference today is that western oil companies don’t have similar opportunities because access is limited. Leading them to heavy oil plays in Alberta and Venezuela (until Chavez nationalized).

  27. I think we will see oil prices crack, and hard, at some point. Not entirely good news — conservation and alternatives will get whipsawed.

    But evem some doomsters talk about 95 mbd in a few years — when crude demand is at 86 mbd and falling!

    Unfortunately, Americans have no tolerance for gas taxes. We need $2-3 a galon more in fed. taxes, to kepp people moving towards PHEVs. There is a real risk that oil will crack, people will buy Hummers again, and we have to watch scenes of our President hugging and kissing oil sheiks again. Like Bu$h. jr.

  28. Hmmm,Its not often I get to weigh in on a topic here. This one, I feel I actually have something to add. Robert, if you are still looking for a car, here is my 2 cents worth: A 2000-2003 VW TDI diesel Golf is an incredible car for the money. I have owned 4 TDIs, and my wife is driving one at the moment. Here is the basis for my opinion.

    -They actually get 45-50mpg, honestly. This is the average of the TDIs I have owned, plus my honeys…over about 250,000 miles accumulated.

    -They have great resale value. I bought my first TDI, a 99.5 golf for $10K cash with 10K miles on it.
    The previous owner, a women, had brought it back to the dealer and traded it for an Expedition(!).
    I sold it right at 120K miles for $12.5K, and the owner still calls me. Every other TDI has been comparable in this regard. If you are correct, and we hit a peak in the next 5-6 years, these cars will be the last ones to really hit rock bottom. At least compared to, say, a Tahoe…

    -Since you have fiddled with making your own soil, I assume you are, in general, a fiddler like me. I am experimenting with using my compost pile to produce hot water for hydronic heating, then off to my garden. The neat thing about a diesel, is that an average guy, such as myself, can experiment with fuel options. My Golf ran for 45K miles on WVO(waste vegetable oil).
    My wife’s TDI new beetle has done almost 90K. There are, of course, a few quirks. But not many considering that you are in essence, duplicating what cost VW millions for a few hundred dollars from craigslist and home depot. Her car, which has the most data collected, shows an average mileage of 43mpg on grease. Even if the experiments hadn’t worked, the avoided cost of fuel we DIDN’T buy if almost equal to the value I paid for the car. This is not insignificant. I value my time as a professional, and collecting the grease I use for fuel is the equivalent to having a $140/hour job. I should qualify this by stating that I live smack in the middle of Napa Valley, an area with a LOT of high end restaurants. Waste vegetable oil is easy to procure. Even so, my little experiment has made it very obvious that biofuels are not going to be the answer, at least not the way we currently do it. Sad to say that my opinion is unpopular, both with those who think they are going to drive their hummer on ethanol, or the berkeley granolas who think we are going to biodiesel ourselves away from OPEC. Even more sad, it the fact that they both want to do essentially the same thing. Drive as much as they want…ironic.
    The interesting thing about either making your own biodiesel, or using
    WVO(or SVO) is that it makes you very aware of how much energy you use. Very much like playing with your own solar setup. An experiment IS worth 1000 words.
    There is also bragging rights with WVO. I get grease straight from the French Laundry, which, in the grease world, is like lighting your cigar with a $100 bill…

    -They are safe cars, with both passive and active safety features.

    -There is a lot of hands of advice from the passionate folks who drive them TDIclub.com Those folks are very energy conscious, by and large. BTW, the 2003 and earlier cars have a simpler injection system more suited to higher viscosity fuels.

    As an aside, I am using a TDI drivetrain as a basis for my own entry in the Ansari Automotive X Prize, in the alternative class:
    http://auto.xprize.org/

    All in all, its just a car, but some cars suck money out your household like a hoover. These don’t.

  29. OPEC? Their main concern was to try and prop prices up during the drop.

    No, Saudi Arabia tried to reclaim market share and produced enough to drop prices before they realized all they were doing was forcing down the market. It’s a little different now because the new competition isn’t other light crude, but expensive to produce crude.

    I was pretty young, but I seem to remember an OPEC embargo in ’73, predictions of $100 oil, Asian compacts selling like crazy and runaway inflation. They tried to stimulate the economy by dropping interest rates and between oil pricing and increased debt, inflation ran away.

    What is different now? Well.. all I can think of is that we have Hummers instead of muscle cars.

    If there is a recession and demand drops, the producers with light crude can either cut back production sooner or later. They don’t need more production to flood the market. If they do it later, the price of oil will fall enough for investors to panic out of the Tar sands. Competition will be killed for another 20 years along with all of the renewable energy projects. After that happens, they can cut production and let oil climb as far as it does.

    This is based on data derived from studying WalMart business practices, watching American Gangster and some vague memories of things I watched on the news when I was 5 (in ’73). It’s just as valid as anything else you read on the Internet. ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. Robert, if you are still looking for a car, here is my 2 cents worth: A 2000-2003 VW TDI diesel Golf is an incredible car for the money.

    I will look into that.

    Since you have fiddled with making your own soil, I assume you are, in general, a fiddler like me.

    Yes, I am anxious to get my composters set back up. That’s like a science experiment in my yard – and a very interesting one to boot.

    On the diesel, I have also considered making my own biodiesel. I have used straight vegetable oil in a diesel (diluted), but you have to careful or you will get deposits.

    RR

  31. Good luck on the move back to the US, wherebouts are you headed around here?

    I will be in the Netherlands until summer (off to India at the end of next week) and then Dallas by summer. I know it is suburban hell, but not far from my family farm in SE Oklahoma.

    The specific town we are looking at north of Dallas is very small. Interestingly, Deion Sanders lives there on a big place with his own lake.

    Cheers, RR

  32. I’m not buying the lower efficiency statement by doggydog. A turbine with no heat recovery system is 25-35% efficient.

    The best small turbines are 25% efficient. Huge powerplant turbines with exotic materials and turbine blade cooling schemes can hit 33% but don’t apply to this discussion.

    It also has 1 moving part and doesn’t have much higher material restrictions than a turbocharger.

    A turbocharger sees exhaust gas after it has been expanded (cooled) in the cylinder. Turbine engine parts are continuously exposed to peak temperatures. Even fighter jet engines with extremely exotic materials operate at much lower peak gas temperatures than car engines.

    Because all of the heat is in the exhaust, it would totally be possible to build a Combined Cycle gas turbine that will run on anything combustible at near 60% efficiency.

    An interesting idea. BMW’s Turbosteamer uses a secondary steam cycle, so it should be possible with a gas turbine. You won’t get anywhere near 60% at automotive scale, but TDi/Atkinson efficiencies might be doable. Cost is still a huge problem.

    A gas turbine can be decoupled from the power train and only charging batteries at a constant RPM. A 100kW engine ….

    50 kW is sufficient. Chevy Volt is 53 kW.

  33. The Saudis crashed oil prices in early 1986 to punish OPEC cheaters and because they’d reached the end of the road. The pain suffered by renewables, oil sands, etc. was a side effect. The chronology goes like this:

    1970: US peak oil. OPEC gradually realizes it’s in control.

    1973: OPEC flexes a little muscle. Oil quadruples from $3 to 12.

    1979: Iran revolution and ensuing Iran/Iraq war take supply off the market, driving oil to $40.

    1980-1985: Global oil consumption declines due to recession, CAFE, switch away from oil to NG for electricity, etc. Non-OPEC production increases, spurred by high prices. OPEC decreases production in attempt to offset these two trends and keep prices above $35, then $30, then $25.

    Early 1986: Suadi Arabia production is down almost 70% (!!) from the 1980 peak yet oil prices are still drifting down. Other OPEC members are openly cheating. Suadi Arabia realizes they’ll be at zero exports in 12-24 months, i.e. the game is over. They open the floodgates and oil crashes below $10.

    If you ask me where we are today I’d say about 1977. There’s no guarantee we’ll see a 1979-style 3x price spike (e.g. $300/bbl), but it’s possible.

  34. On the diesel, I have also considered making my own biodiesel. I have used straight vegetable oil in a diesel (diluted), but you have to careful or you will get deposits.
    There are three ways to convert your diesel vehicle to run on WVO (or its products):
    1. Biodiesel
    2. Add equipment (heat exchangers) to heat the oil so that it approaches the viscosity of diesel.
    3. Mix in some solvents to achieve the same goal.

    Biodiesel is the least desirable option, IMHO. Takes a lot of methanol and catalyst (which I believe cannot be recovered) and is frequently made with food grade feedstock. But this is the option with the true believers.

    The obvious disadvantage of option #2 is the upfront cost, what with a separate grease tank for any place with cool winters. If you decide after two months that this isn’t working for you, you’re stuck with a rather large investment ($800 up to $3,000 if you get all the bells and whistles and have someone install it for you).

    The third option is marketed by an outfit known as Diesel Secret Energy. I know, your BS detector just exploded. Depending on how you look at it, these guys (have only/are still) around since 2005. For some reason the biodiesel true believers hate this idea.

    According to sources (that’s Dr. Google) this basically consists of mixing 100 gal of WVO with:
    10 gal of kerosene,
    5 gal of gasoline(!),
    some DieselKleen+CetaneBoost
    the secret DSE ingredient.

    This is where we need the skills of a good petroleum engineer. The kerosene would obviously decrease the WVO viscosity without sacrificing other properties. Not sure what the gasoline does, other than a drastic drop in viscosity, at what somebody must have figured was an acceptable sacrifice in fuel quality. The cetane booster is probably a good idea, even for option #2, considering the low cetane number of WVO.

    According to some, the DSE ingredient is xylene, supposedly used to encourage water separation from the WVO (petroleum engineers does that make any sense?).

    As I see it, the third option has some clear benefits, but obviously some grave risks. What is needed is a knowledgeable person to experiment and report his findings. Mr. Rapier, I have your conscience on line 1…

  35. Optimist,

    For what its worth, here is my experience. I started out making BD, just for the ‘neat’ factor. After awhile, and a few bad batches, and storage issues, and expensive methanol, etc. I rethought the whole thing. Which was easier in the long run: convert the fuel periodically(usually monthly), or convert the car once. It seemed easier to simply convert the car. I watched someone pretty sharp in berkeley convert one and charge the women $4K. I knew he would not be doing MY car. I had a friend TIG up a tank for the spare tire well, bought the rest of the components on ebay(or CL)and sat down and did it in a weekend. The total cost was around $450-500. I drive a lot, and I recouped the cost in less than 5 months. Which is over a 200% ROI, or, a plain good use of money. There are some things you have to assume here. One, that you are pretty much going to be buying fuel. Most people do, because that is how we set things up in this country, which will probably bite us in the ass someday. Also, you are not actually paying $3.89 for diesel(in napa valley). You are paying $3.89 plus whatever you had to pay in taxes at the time. Fuel is bought with after tax money. This skews the ‘what is my time worth’ question significantly. So, for me, the picture looked like this:
    I actually pay $3.89, but I had to EARN $4.98(28% tax bracket)to buy that gallon of diesel. So, I figured out that when I go and collect WVO, and filter it, it would take a $140/hour job AT LEAST to equal the amount of fuel I would have to buy anyway. A bargain. There are other, less tangible benefits as well, but you get the picture. I also have a 93 chevy diesel that I have fiddled with blending for about a year now. 50/50 diesel and WVO with a touch of unleaded, roughly 2%(for a little added volatility). I pulled the injectors when I bought the truck as a basline and also used a borescope. I did it again after 20K miles of the blend. The carbon buildup was virtually the same, and disappeared when I ran a water injection system post intercooler.
    As for issues, I have had none that pertain to the use of WVO. After watching my neighbors pull their hair out with their new powerstrokes…well. BTW, Diesel secret is snake oil. You want xylene, go to the paint section of wal-mart, its far cheaper, and you know what you are getting. Acetone has shown some experimental benefit, at least for WVO. A test bench injector shows a better spray pattern with 1% acetone added, quite a bit better. My wifes TDI is still clean as a whistle after 100K on WVO. I attribute this to start up and shutdown on diesel, and never switching over until the motor, and WVO are hot. I have lots of respect for the folks at Elsbett, but I think a two tank system is the better way to go. You can always run regular diesel if you want, or any blend of diesel and vegetable oil in the second tank. You also end up with a VERY long range TDI, and how can that be a bad thing?

  36. Anon,
    Thanks for sharing the info. Sounds great. What model Chev is that? Is it holding up well? I’m interested in doing this same thing but I wonder about the limited options with diesels here in the Golden State. The Volkswagens seem to have maintenance issues. I guess one can go with a tank (80s Mercedes) but those are getting seriously dated.

    I agree, the two tank system is much more bullet-proof than the other approach.

    Are you mixing anything with the WVO? I wasn’t clear if you are actually running it on 1% acetone.

    DSE may well be snake oil, but in fairness, the jury is out on that. I know xylene can be bought at Home Depot. The question is whether DSE = xylene or = xylene + another key ingredient.

    Also, did you notice a benefit from adding the gasoline? Better cold starts? Have you ever added a cetane booster?

    Again, thanks for sharing.

  37. DoggyDog:
    65 kW electrical gas turbine CHP advertised at 29 % electrical efficiency, 33% for the 200kW model.

    The point is the open fuel options and the weight to HP ratio. The 1370 hp turbine I mentioned above weighs 350 lb. The 460hp Cat diesel I have in a Peterbilt weighs 3600 lbs, 10x more for 1/3 of the HP.

    We don’t see a lot of diesel helicopters, engine thermal efficiency isn’t the whole ballgame.

    If the design goal is to build a multifuel 50kW battery charger that is as light as possible, I wouldn’t pick a diesel. If the vehicle is a PHEV, you are lugging around a lot of extra weight that isn’t needed at all on short trips.

    The turbocharger->gas turbine projects here wouldn’t have decent efficiency but very good weight-to-hp ratios. The above CHP turbines wouldn’t have had any effort put into making them light, because they are stationary.

    I am going to guess that it would be possible to build a turbine generator that weighs 1/4 of the equivalent diesel and has 30% electrical efficiency. A separate steam turbine running off the exhaust would put the efficiency past any diesel at much less weight and have much wider flex-fuel options.

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