Diesel Electric Car

The diesel-electric powertrain has been around for several decades and is the backbone of the railway system, with most locomotives now operating as diesel electric hybrids. It has been tried in cars off and on for the past century, but has only recently become a production affair.

Diesel electric cars are popular in Europe as alternatives to gasoline hybrids. This is due to the relatively high price of petrol (gas) and the higher efficient in miles per gallon achievable through diesel.

How the Diesel-Electric Powertrain Works

A diesel-electric system couples a diesel engine to an electrical generator to create power for an electric drive train and components. In some hybrid systems, the diesel engine and electric motors work together to propel the vehicle. In range extended electrics (RE-EV), the diesel engine is a generator only and the car is fully electric otherwise.

Various forms of diesel-electric transmission are used in shipping, railways, heavy vehicles, transport vehicles, and passenger vehicles.

Examples of Diesel-Electric Car Hybrids

Perhaps the most well-known of diesel-electric cars are the Citroen C-Cactus concept (pictured), introduced in 2007, and the Opel Flextreme concept, introduced by General Motors in 2010. The C-Cactus never left concept stage and the Flextreme is a diesel model of the Chevrolet Volt.

While several examples were built during the last century, the earliest known commercial attempt at a diesel-electric hybrid was the Third-Millenium Cruiser produced in the early 1980s.

Ford has also entered the diesel-electric concept arena with its Reflex concept car.

The Future of Diesel Electric Cars

The future outlook for diesel electric cars is good. The higher availability of bio-based fuels for diesel engines makes them a more efficient and eco-friendly option than gasoline electric.

Slow acceptance in North America, however, is likely due to the stigma that diesel engines carry there. In Europe, they are popular options for automakers and the Asian market has no stigma against diesel.

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