Diesels versus hybrids.
We might as well be bringing together cats and dogs. Or Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann. What was once simply an interesting choice between alternative high-efficiency powertrains has recently been spiraling into a quasi-religious conflict among their supporters. Moreover, I'm starting to wonder if which "camp" you're in is even an entirely chooseable thing. Having visited Germany on press trips for (gasp) over a quarter century now, I'm still amused by how giddy German engineers get over pretty much anything HONDA THAT S
mechanically complicated (cuckoo clocks, anyone?).
A mechanism that pulses with reciprocating pistons, bulges with psi, and has a whistling 100,000-rpm turbine? Deutschland's brightest get dizzy at those press conference podiums just describing them.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the planet, if you've ever walked through Tokyo's Akihabara district, you'll appreciate how effortlessly Japanese engineers conjure impenetrably complex -- and inevitably reliable -- microelectronic devices. (Hey, what's a mere hybrid to a country that effortlessly creates flat-screen, 3D TVs?) Recently, I sat next to an editor from the Japanese magazine Engine during dinner, and he confessed to me the dire state of Japanese car magazines. "The economy, eh?" I asked. "No, the real problem is that young Japanese males are so engaged by Smart
phones and electronic games that they've stopped driving." Is that happening in Germany?
Doesn't appear to be. There are lots of reasons why Europeans embrace diesels as they do -- immensely favorable taxation being the biggest schnitzel enticing them. But frankly, I'd be surprised if diesel's Euro-popularity would be hurt all that much if their governments suddenly stripped away its generous spritz of financial sweeteners. Diesel is in their veins now.
So the philosophical aspect of our stage is set. What we need now are some automotive actors for this two-part, hybrid versus diesel drama we've dreamed up.