VW hopes natural-gas-powered models can match success of TDIs image

Volkswagen Ag., Europe’s largest carmaker has big ambitions: the automaker hopes that compressed natural gas vehicles can match the success of turbocharged diesel direct injection – TDI cars.

Basically VW plans to repeat what Audi did in 1989 when the automaker introduced the TDI -turbocharged diesel direct injection into mass production – an engine that quickly become an best-seller among the high-mileage drivers.

The Germans are introducing a TGI Golf model this summer in Europe – a vehicle that will be capable to run on both gasoline and compressed natural gas. Powered by a newly developed 81 kW / 110 PS natural gas engine this will be the first natural gas vehicle to be based on the new modular transverse matrix (MQB). In pure CNG operation the driving range for the version with a 6-speed manual gearbox is a good 420 km. In this mode, the car’s consumption is 3.5 kg of natural gas per 100 km (equivalent to 94 g/km CO2).

The automaker is already offering some top-selling natural gas models in Europe, including the new Up! Citycar, Passat and Touran, but it ranks a distant second to Fiat in the niche – mostly because in Italy, almost 5 percent of all cars sold after five months used the fuel, JATO Dynamics reports.

Another important aspect is that natural gas vehicles are burning very efficiently – and emit 25 percent less CO2 into the atmosphere compared to a normal gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle at identical performance.

In Europe, during the first five months of the year there were sold 36,618 CNG vehicles – up from 29,901 units during the same period of 2012. That translates into a market share of 0.7 percent, up from 0.5 percent in 2012.