Swiss investment bank UBS expects diesel cars to almost disappear within the next ten years, and many world cities are talking about an outright ban on diesel vehicles of all kinds.
So why is Fully Charged—a show all about the greener side of motoring and energy—driving around a city in a diesel car? Well, it's because the Volvo V60 DH5 is a four wheel drive (all wheel drive to you Americans) plug-in hybrid. So if you're going to drive a diesel, this is a far sight greener than most. It'll let you do many shorter journeys in all electric mode, it'll still get decent diesel-related MPGs on the highway, and you can also opt to save your battery on your commute and switch to it when entering a city—particularly useful if you are entering a zero emission zone. (Something which, as Robert Llewellyn states, is going to be a lot more common in the coming years.)
As with any plug-in hybrid, it's a little hard to get an accurate figure on overall fuel consumption because—more than your average internal combustion car—how you use it will define your MPGs. Someone who does mostly long distance highway driving, for example, will get proportionally a lot less benefit from the electric motor than someone who mostly uses it in town. But I have a little insight here: My brother has been driving one of these for the last year or so, and doing so in and around that very same beautiful city of Bristol where Robert is pootling about. (Yes, purists, he does also own a bike and walks regularly.) And because he likes to nerd out, he did collect some fuel economy stats in a spreadsheet for a while, and they pretty much confirmed what I said above.
Last time I checked with him, he was averaging in the 70mpg range. Some months were down in the mid 50s—when he had lots of long distance driving to do—and some months were in the 80s when he was mostly local. Perhaps more interesting than that, is that my brother's experience confirms another PHEV benefit that Robert touches on here: Having driven one of these for a while, he now seems to be pretty darned interested in a pure electric vehicle instead. It seems the sound of that diesel engine kicking in just becomes a bit of a bummer when you've been driving emission free. Here's how he put it when I ran the idea for this article by him:
"You have hit on the big point, I am a total convert to electric driving. I have yet to find the perfect car that suits me, but I am very convinced that my next car will be all electric."
He also had a little more to say about MPGs and the mix of diesel-versus-electric driving:
"I am happy with the fact that I am able to drive in town on electric, I am a bit disappointed on the overall mpgs though. The big thing that Volvo missed out on that only the Outlander does, is faster charging. If I could charge the battery at the ecotricity faster charging stations on the motorway for example, then I would happily stop for coffee, juice up, and go again a lot more often, and hence get much better mileage on the motorway too."
Ultimately, what may be most fascinating about a car like the Volvo V60 DH5 is the fact only that ten years ago, many green car watchers would have considered it a dream car. Indeed, we were pretty enthusiastic about it five years ago. Now, it just feels a little outdated to be rocking those huge tailpipes (exhaust pipes to you Brits) and spewing out emissions, however sparingly. Still, it's a step in the right direction. Next steps: viable, long distance, fully electric vehicles and cities where the personal car becomes unnecessary.
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