Unless you’re looking to pull heavy loads and need the extra torque diesel engines produce, the primary reason you’d choose a diesel engine for a vehicle today is for better fuel economy. But although the diesel torque and economy combination has been an accepted argument for decades, that may be changing. Volvo’s new T5 plug-in gasoline engine and electric motor hybrid is positioned to deliver mileage that competes with or is better than diesel motors without the emissions challenges, according to Autocar.
At a time when diesel engines worldwide are under scrutiny because of VW’s Dieselgate and when emissions standards are getting tougher, the appeal of diesel engines is fading, especially for consumer vehicles. Hybrid power systems, meanwhile, cost more today than gasoline or diesel engines. As hybrid development continues and production volume increases, however, the expectation is that in time hybrids will be less expensive to buy and operate than diesel-powered vehicles.
Volvo’s T5 combines a 74 brake-horsepower electric motor and a three-cylinder 180 bhp turbocharged, 1.5-liter gasoline engine. Both the motor and the engine attach to a seven-speed, dual-clutch, automatic transmission. According to Volvo the power and the torque of the combined 254 horsepower hybrid provide lower operating cost and emissions when compared to an equivalent diesel engine. In electric-only mode, the T5’s 9.7kWh battery pack has a range of about 30 miles. The T5 hybrid will first be available in Volvo XC40 crossovers next year.
Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson recently said, “It is a very attractive alternative to a diesel engine. It offers much lower CO2 levels but more or less the same performance in both horsepower and torque. On cost, I would say that within a couple of years, we will see a crossover, the diesel getting more expensive and the [hybrid system] going down.”
Samuelsson also said that after its initial introduction it is likely the T5 hybrid will be available in all 40-series and 60-series models, but not the larger 90-series vehicles.