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VOLKSWAGEN background and news

Volkswagen Environmental Protection Credentials

Volkswagen Group has made a significant statement of intent by committing to achieving average carbon dioxide emissions of 95g/km in its European new car fleet by 2020. Any car that emits less that 100g/km CO2 is currently considered clean and in many cities qualify for congestion discounts, hence such low average emissions across Volkswagen’s range of cars would be an enormous step forward in reducing pollution. Volkswagen is currently the largest new car maker in Europe and the second largest globally behind Toyota.

With Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda, SEAT and Porsche amongst others in its collective, Volkswagen Group already offer 245 models that emit less than 120g/km CO2 and 36 models that emit less than 100g/km CO2. They are also the first manufacturer to commit to the 95g/km CO2 target.

Speaking on the eve of this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Chairman of the Board, Dr. Martin Winkerkorn, said that this is a “Herculean task calling for the best efforts of all our 40,000 developers.” He went on to say that the technologies used in the new XL1 1-litre car would find their way into series vehicles, in particular the plug-in hybrid technology that allows the XL1 to cover 30 miles on electricity alone. With transparency in mind, Volkswagen group is stressing it “is not speculating on any loopholes to achieve its target,” and is already on track to reach its target of average fleet emissions of less than 120g/km CO2 by 2015.

Earlier this week Volkswagen Group unveiled something of an environmental product offensive in Geneva, with plug-in hybrid and natural gas versions of the Audi A3, as well as the groundbreaking XL1. Emitting just 21g/km CO2 and offering real-world fuel economy well in excess of 100mpg, the carbon-fibre XL1 will be made in limited numbers initially but Volkswagen may increase production volumes in the future. In the immediate future, a Bluemotion version of Volkswagen’s award-winning Golf VII will average over 88mpg and emit just 85g/km of carbon dioxide when it goes on sale in the summer.

The Bluemotion programme sees VW’s introduction of ‘eco’ models which aim for high mpg ratios and low carbon dioxide emissions. The three door Polo Bluemotion 1 offers 74mpg and just 99g/km of carbon dioxide emissions, and this system is planned to be introduced across the entire model range.

According to VW, the medium-term future of ecological motoring lies with biofuels – therefore they are developing a new type of engine known as the Combined Combustion System (CCS) which blends the best advantages of petrol and diesel into one, and is claimed to be flexible enough to run on so-called ‘designer’ biofuels such as SynFuel and SunFuel, created from sustainable organic crops and natural gases – widespread use of these would significantly reduce the burden on non-sustainable fossil fuels, although there are side effects, such as the rise in price of crops in areas where such organic matter is produced.

VW’s longer view is aimed towards a high temperature hydrogen fuel cell, with the idea being that the fuel cell will power an electric motor that drives the car allowing for silent running and zero exhaust emissions. VW acknowledges that coolant systems for hydrogen cell power cars currently are one of the reasons for high cost of such vehicles, and therefore as a workaround is looking to develop a fuel cell that has a greater tolerance to higher temperatures and thus requires less coolant to maintain energy efficiency.

Volkswagen prides itself on the high environmental standards maintained throughout VW group factories with the majority of them having attained the ISO 14001 certification that encourages good environmental practice.

VW is also well-advanced with fuel cell technology and intends to offer fuel cell vehicles by the middle of the next decade. The company has a policy of building cars that last longer and require servicing less frequently which eases the burden on raw materials. Volkswagen is aiming to include lighter, more recyclable materials in the production of its cars.