Alternative drives: VW turns the natural gas Passat into a fun vehicle

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VW turns the natural gas Passat into a fun vehicle

Alternative drives: VW turns the natural gas Passat into a fun vehicle-natural

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Source: Volkswagen

Alternative drives: VW turns the natural gas Passat into a fun vehicle-natural

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Source: Volkswagen

Alternative drives: VW turns the natural gas Passat into a fun vehicle-passat

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Source: Volkswagen

Alternative drives: VW turns the natural gas Passat into a fun vehicle-alternative

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Source: Volkswagen

For the first time, VW is bringing a natural gas engine with a turbocharger and compressor, which is considered to be lame, up to speed. Driving in the Passat TSI EcoFuel is an affordable pleasure – a tank of fuel costs only 20 euros. The Spar Passat will be launched at the end of the year – WELT ONLINE has already been able to test the car.

B.For drivers who are concerned with alternative drive systems, it is not just concern about the global climate that forces them to take this step. Rather, the constantly skyrocketing petrol and diesel prices at the petrol pumps cause a lot of frustration. Another fuel that millions already know from the kitchen creates a significantly better mood: natural gas, also known as CNG (Compressed Natural Gas).

Fill up once for less than 20 euros. That sounds almost like a fairy tale – but it’s not. Natural gas has also become more expensive – the price per kilo is currently around 96 cents – but since taxation is still set at the EU minimum rate for ten years, a lot of money can be saved, at least in the medium term.

No wonder that in Germany a small niche faction has become a natural gas fan community of over 70,000 members within a short period of time. And the automakers are reacting to it. In the compact class in particular, there is a large number of natural gas cars available from the factory. Opel, Ford, Mercedes and VW have corresponding cars in their product range. But small cars can also be driven on natural gas in an environmentally friendly way. The best example is the Fiat Panda. Customers currently have to wait several months for him.

Natural gas is the most environmentally friendly of the fossil fuels. Compared to gasoline, its combustion produces 20 percent less carbon dioxide, two thirds less carbon monoxide and up to 40 percent fewer hydrocarbons. In addition, there are virtually no soot particles. The life cycle assessment would look even better if renewable biogas were used.

So far, natural gas cars have been rather lame

Unfortunately, natural gas vehicles do not have a particularly good reputation when it comes to driving dynamics – motto: clean but tired. Volkswagen would like to get rid of this image with a technology that is so far unique. In future, it will be installed in the Passat, which will be launched on the market as an EcoFuel version, both as a sedan and as an estate at the end of the year. There are no prices yet. After the Caddy and Touran, it will be the third gas-powered model in the VW range.

For physical reasons, an engine in gas operation always has less power than if it were fired with gasoline. To compensate for this shortcoming, the particularly economical TSI petrol engine from the Golf sits under the hood of the new Volkswagen Passat, a four-cylinder only 1.4 liter. However, by means of compressor and turbocharging, the engine has an output of 150 hp. It should accelerate to 100 km / h in 9.7 seconds and create 210 km / h.

There is no trace of tired driving impressions on the first test drive. The TSI reacts spontaneously to gas commands and willingly revs up without being loud. Even at a little more than 1500 revolutions, a powerful 250 Newton meters of torque is available. Even the usually harder engine running – typical with natural gas combustion – is not noticeable in the Passat. It’s hard to believe that there’s really only a 1.4 liter engine under the hood. It feels a lot bigger. The Passat TSI EcoFuel has a bivalent design, which means that it can be operated with both natural gas and petrol – there is still a 31-liter tank in the rear.

This dual use forced the engineers to take special measures in the engine. Since in gas operation, unlike in the combustion of gasoline, there is no additional lubrication from the fuel and the pressures are also higher, the valves, piston rings and pistons had to be specially hardened and reinforced. At the same time, the turbocharger was made smaller and special gas injection nozzles were placed in the intake pipe. The effort also had a major impact on exhaust emissions. The Passat TSI EcoFuel meets the Euro 5 standard that will only come into force in September 2009.

The three steel tanks under the floor of the car hold a total of 22 kilos of natural gas. With an average consumption of 5.2 kilograms per 100 kilometers, which VW specifies for the Passat, the gas supply is sufficient for around 400 kilometers and currently only costs around 20 euros. A bargain. There is no cheaper way to move a car of this size. So what’s the catch? For the conversion to natural gas operation, VW requires around 3000 euros compared to a comparable gasoline engine. It takes around 50,000 kilometers before the additional costs are paid in again. Some owners can do this in a year, others maybe in five.

The relatively thin network of natural gas filling stations could also cause some skepticism among some motorists. Although VW speaks of around 850 pumps in Germany, a navigation device should perhaps be part of the standard Passat equipment in order to be able to target a gas station on longer journeys.

Manufacturers like TomTom are already selling navigation devices with a natural gas search function. The utility group E.on plans to position another 150 natural gas pumps in the next few years. It can be heard that all gas taps should be on the highways.

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