Gas dream runs on empty
VW’s clean Passat suffers from government apathy, says Neil Lyndon
There is a fossil fuel for cars which produces 30 per cent fewer emissions than gasoline, costs a fraction of the price to process, and is in such abundant supply that existing resources look capable of supporting global demand well into the third quarter of this century.
What is it? Natural gas. Why don't we use it? That's what Volkswagen would like to know.
At the Geneva Show which opens this week, VW is exhibiting the Passat Estate TSI EcoFuel concept - a car powered by either natural gas or conventional petrol.
This car carries its natural gas supply in a trio of tanks beneath the boot floor. They are supplemented by a 31 litre tank for conventional petrol. Utilising all these tanks, the Passat Estate TSI EcoFuel can travel almost 500 miles. A new engine-management computer controls the switch between conventional fuel and natural gas, and the engine has been strengthened to deal with the higher temperatures involved in burning the gas.
In the past, it has proved impossible to extract reasonable performance from natural gas; but VW has overcome this problem by fitting the 1.4 litre engine with both a supercharger and a turbocharger, operating sequentially. The result is a car capable of 130mph and 0-62mph in less than 10 seconds, at the same time as it returns better fuel economy and lower emissions.
Sound like something you might fancy? If so, forget it. The curious absence of government encouragement ensures that you are as unlikely to run a natural gas car in this country as you are to live to be 120.
Natural gas needs to be compressed before it will work in a car so you can't fill up from your household supply. You need to visit a filling station.
How many such stations exist in Britain?
Comments are now closed on this article