Chicago Auto Show Blog

Diesel vs. Electric vs. Hybrid

Posted by: Jennifer Morand

Shopping for a fuel-sipping vehicle? With more than 40 hybrid vehicles on the market and another half-dozen electric vehicles, your choices are plenty. And with the recent renaissance of diesel vehicles there are still more choices. Throw in hyper-efficient gas-only models and your head is bound to spin.

To help you in your quest, we sat down with Wayne Gerdes, founder and journalist for, who highlights the benefits of electric, diesel and hybrid vehicles and discusses how lifestyle should play a big role in the purchase decision.

Diesel (The Long Distance Driver)
Let’s start with diesel. Diesel fuel is one of the most efficient and energy dense fuels available today and delivers better fuel economy (typically by 25 to 30 percent) than gasoline. Also, government pressure to produce low-emission diesel engines for passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, etc. has resulted not only in low-sulfur diesel fuels but also specialized catalytic converters, advanced filters, and other devices to cut down or destroy toxic emissions. So, diesels have come a long way throughout the years.

Gerdes recommends diesel vehicles for the long distance driver. In fact, Gerdes himself just set a new Guinness World Record for achieving 77.9 mpg for the category of "lowest fuel consumption in the continental U.S. for a non-hybrid car" in a Volkswagen Passat TDI Clean Diesel. Gerdes commented that the TDI is beyond efficient and it’s no wonder Volkswagen owns 75 percent of the diesel market.

Cruze Clean Diesel FINAL

Chevy Cruze Clean Diesel at 2013 Chicago Auto Show

Electric (The Close Commuter)
Gerdes stresses the importance of finding a green vehicle that fits your lifestyle. For instance, an electric car is a great option for drivers who travel shorter distances at slower speeds. Since electric vehicles are powered solely by electricity, their range is limited to the capacity of their battery pack (typically 60 to 100 miles per charge).

Beyond taking distance into consideration, it’s also important to determine where charging stations may be found in your area. A key point to remember is that driving at slower speeds and with more stop-and-go will help electric vehicles maintain battery power.

2012 Nissan Leaf 4

Nissan Leaf

Hybrid (The Green Conservative)
Gerdes says the perfect candidate for a hybrid vehicle are those who want to make the switch to a more fuel-efficient vehicle but also want the flexibility of switching to gas when needed. Gerdes advises that while hybrids are more expensive in the upfront cost, owners typically save more at the pump and at resale.

For those who have longer daily commutes and don’t want to make the jump to diesel just yet, a hybrid vehicle is a great option because once the electric charge is depleted, the vehicle will automatically switch over to gasoline. Some extended-range hybrids get up to 35 miles of real-world driving on a single charge before switching over to gasoline.

Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid at 2013 Chicago Auto Show

Are you looking for advice on particular vehicles? Tweet Wayne Gerdes @CleanMPG or leave a comment here and we’ll share with Wayne.

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