Volkswagen Gets More Blue--& Is Happy About It

  A couple of data points about Volkswagen: (1) Last week the company announced that Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand delivered a record 5.1-million vehicles in 2011.

 

A couple of data points about Volkswagen: (1) Last week the company announced that Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand delivered a record 5.1-million vehicles in 2011. In line with the announcement, Christian Klingler, VW group board member for Sales, said that the gains were a result of “a fresh, innovative and environmentally friendly model range.” (2) Last week we reported that in addition to environmentally friendly vehicles, VW is also going to the extent of making sure that its factories are green, as well.

It all goes to VW’s “Blue” initiative.

Which brings us to two introductions the company made yesterday at NAIAS. One a production vehicle that will become available by the end of the year. The other a “study,” or concept car, which means that it is not ready for prime time.

Perhaps that should be “not quite ready,” because conceptually, it is a reasonable execution as part of the company’s eco-conscious approach to vehicles.

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The Jetta Hybrid is the one that will hit the streets sooner rather than later. This vehicle combines a 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine rated at 150 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque with a 27-kW electric motor. Meaning that it is a hybrid vehicle that is not only thrifty—the estimated combined fuel economy rating is 45 mpg—but quick, with a 0 to 60 mph time claimed <9 seconds. The peak output of the powertrain is 170 hp.

It features a seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) transmission, which puts it at the top of the class automatic transmission-wise. And an interesting aspect in this arena is the decoupling of the engine from the drivetrain when the vehicle is running on electric power alone (it has potential of traveling 1.2 miles on electricity alone and at a speed up to 44 mph) or when the driver has lifted from the accelerator pedal prior to braking. This helps more efficiently recharge the 220-volt lithium ion battery pack during regenerative braking. When the car is stopped, the engine shuts down (assuming there is enough energy stored in the battery) so that when driving recommences it is done on electricity alone. There is also an engine shut down if the driver lifts from the accelerator when driving at a steady speed (up to 84 mph).

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Strict attention was paid to assuring that the car is light for purposes of eking the most out of a gallon of gas: the battery pack weighs 80 lb., the DGS transmission weighs 163 lb., and the four-cylinder engine weighs 216 lb. Compared with a non-hybrid Jetta, it is just 221 lb. heavier (<3,310 lb.).

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As for the study, it is an electric vehicle (EV) based on the Beetle, the “E-Bugster.” While the new Beetle itself is lower than its processor, the E-Bugster takes this further, being nearly three inches lower than a conventional unit. Visually, there is a flatter roof and shallower windows.

But the most significant aspect of the car is what powers it, an electric drive unit that VW is calling “Blue-e-motion,” and which the company says it will use in future products, including a Golf Blue-e-motion. That leads us to think the E-Bugster isn’t outside the realm of reason.

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The electric motor produces 114 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque. There is a 695-lb. lithium-ion battery pack packaged in the rear of the vehicle. It is claimed to provide a driving range of >100 miles. Recharging can be done with chargers of Levels 1 through 3 (120-, 240-volts and quick charge: 80% full in 30 minutes).

As the company is undoubtedly interested in eclipsing that 5.1-million mark and in burnishing its “blue” credentials, look for VW to roll out with more production vehicles and studies that are of this type.