The Myth of Disruptive (Reprovisioning) Technologies

I had laid down a massive stinker: new technologies rarely kill off the old technologies, at least not soon.  I then clarified that in the context of solar power vs. existing energy.  Now, I will explain the statement:

-Electrics will not force gas stations from the map, and I don’t mean electric stations either… some form of chemical, combustible fuel will survive for decades, even if it’s in the form of hybrids.

Folks, I give to you Exhibit A… and B.  The coming Peugeot Hybrid4 and Land Rover diesel-electric hybrids.

Many groups have been experimenting with diesel-electric road vehicles.  There’s Ford, Volkswagen, Audi, and Volvo, experiments by UPS and FedEx, and Japanese maker Hino in cargo vans, plus more hybrid buses than I can count.  Let’s add, of course, about a century of diesel-electric locomotives, submarines, and surface ships.  More recently, the US Army and other DoD offices have demo’d land hybrids for their “stealth” mode and their logistical savings.

There are reasons not to hybridize a diesel engine, though.  Diesels lack throttle plates and their associated pumping losses.  It is this loss which electric hybridization helps cut.  Economically, a diesel costs more than an equivalent gasoline engine already; hybridizing a diesel then makes you less competitive twice, without being more efficient twice.

And yet, two companies are now going for it.  They’ve apparently found something I haven’t- perhaps the lower prices for diesel fuel in much of Europe, and wider availability of pumps, qualified technicians, and parts suppliers.  Note that the new Land Rover hybrid will not be shipped across to the US (yet…), while Peugeot does not sell here at all.

Purists will decry compromise, as purists do.  But as much as battery-electric vehicles can actually do, they exist only in a few segments of the road-vehicle cosmos.  The fact that electrification of SUVs is continuing shows more progress and even more viability.  Note, for example, that Land Rover claims hybridization did not affect their vehicle’s stream-fording and rock-scrambling capabilities.  The stream depth appears to have increased.  If electrification actually works, then we should see these SUVs whether you like it or not.  Apparently, it works.

And such is compromise and progress.  Service stations will continue to have diesel pumps for a long time, if only for diesel-electric hybrids.  Plug-in hybrids will occasionally fire up the fuel engine.  High-compression pistons will draw ethanol or methanol blends, while fuel-cell hybrids will draw natural gas, methanol, or butane… from service stations that will still look like today’s.

Edit: For those of you who think the coming Land Rover isn’t a “real” offroader, because it’s too snooty or expensive or whatever, I give to you Exhibits C and D: the Mitsubishi Outlander Hybrid and the Toyota RAV4 EV.  Yup, too snooty, that Mitsu.  No cred, anywhere, with them Toyotas.


2 thoughts on “The Myth of Disruptive (Reprovisioning) Technologies

  1. Pingback: Charging, Part One | cableflux

  2. Pingback: Four-By-Slower | cableflux

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