According to a new study, diesel tops hybrids and ethanol isn't even really in the game. Researchers at the Rand Corporation did a cost-benefit analysis of the top near-term alternatives to standard gasoline power-trains that looked at fuel savings, technology costs and performance. They also factored in societal costs in the form of noxious pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions and energy security costs. The analysis was performed for a mid-sized car, a mid-sized SUV and a large pickup truck.

Based on the consumer factors, modern clean diesels yielded net savings over the life of the vehicle ranging from $460 to $2,289 for the different vehicle types. Hybrids yielded smaller but still net positive savings of $198 to $1,066. In spite of the relatively small cost premium to create an E85 capable vehicle, ethanol on the other hand cost substantially more over the life of the car. Thanks in part to the increased fuel consumption of E85, it will cost from $1,034 to $1,632 more than gasoline to operate.

When societal costs are examined the finishing order remains the same although they shift a bit toward the negative. The hybrid car was actually a net negative in this case at $317 more than a gasoline equivalent. The ethanol combination ranged from $1,046 more for cars to $2,049 for pickups. Unless cellulosic ethanol can become mainstream, this fuel simply does not look like a good idea.

[Source: Rand Corporation]