Volkswagen Bullish On Diesels For New Fuel Efficiency Rules

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2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI

2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI

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Few people think of modern diesels as being noisy, slow and dirty any more, but diesel's traditional benefit--fuel efficiency--has been getting better all the time.

Volkswagen is a manufacturer most associated with diesels, thanks to strong sales of Jetta and Golf TDIs. And thanks to strong real-world fuel efficiency, VW really isn't worried about the future CAFE regulations.

In an interview with The Diesel Driver, Doug Skorupski--Volkswagen of America's Alternative Fuels Technical Strategy Manager--explained several factors he sees as being key to diesel's increasing adoption in the U.S.

Our guide to every 2012 and 2013 clean diesel car on sale in the U.S.

With diesels making up a fifth of VW's current sales, Doug even agrees that the fuel is almost becoming mainstream--it's no longer the preserve of a select few models like the Touareg SUV, but a major part of the company's volume sales.

It's all about getting good gas mileage without sacrificing driveability, particularly in real-world driving where many drivers are comfortably beating official EPA figures.

And predictably, VW sees diesel as being key to meeting future CAFE targets, like the 2025 54.5 mpg standard. Doug references a recent SAE government and industry conference, in which several of VW's models already meet the sliding target set for 2019--and its cars are only likely to improve in the meantime.

Diesel is beginning to catch on with other makers too, including GM and Chrysler, both of which have mainstream diesel models on the way--the Chevy Cruze diesel and Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, specifically.

2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI Six-Month Road Test

2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI Six-Month Road Test

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While VW isn't committing to diesels alone--the recently-announced Jetta Hybrid is evidence of that, and perhaps an admission that city buyers may be more inclined towards more suitable hybrids--it will still be core to their strategy, with the dual aims of increasing economy and reducing cost. The Passat TDI, for example, is the first non-luxury mid-size diesel sedan in decades, and as such an attractive and affordable prospect for buyers looking for mid-size vehicles.

Skorupski also reveals that VW is evaluating the rest of its model range for diesel power--many models are already sold elsewhere with diesel variants. Some models may even get more than one diesel unit, just as they already do in Europe.

If VW continues to keep ahead of CAFE targets for fuel efficiency with its diesels, and buyers are prepared to trade off the extra cost of fuel and purchase price for the economy savings, then the diesel market could continue to increase for many years to come.

Either way, VW is thinking positive--"We think the future is bright for diesel," says Skorupski.


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Comments (62)
  1. For people doing highway driving, perhaps Diesel is a good choice. But it is nowhere close to being clean.

    299 CO2 gram/mile Passat Diesel
    178 CO2 gram/mile Prius hybrid
    Diesel producing 68% more CO2

    EPA Smog score
    6 Passat Diesel
    9 Prius Hybrid. with 10 being the best (e.g. an EV).

    So if Smog or CO2 emissions is a concern, VW best plan catchup on the hybrid technology.

  2. "For people doing highway driving, perhaps Diesel is a good choice. But it is nowhere close to being clean."

    Now you are just spreading propaganda. The diesel Jetta has lower emissions than the Prius.

    Either you do not know what you are talking about, or you are just maliciously spreading gasoline-electric propaganda. It cannot be assumed that you are doing this in good faith, as I have been reading your consistently negative and incorrect comments on diesels for several years now.

  3. I went to and acutally looked up the Carbon-dioxyde emissions: they are 119 g/km. Converting that into miles, it comes out to 191.5 g/mi, while the Prius is 143 g/mi.

    The "Executive" (the most expensive) version of the Prius is rated at 148.1 g/mi.

    So what excatly are you trying to pull here, a fast one?

  4. The numbers come from the EPA at

  5. That would stand to reason since the Prius ICE engine isn't operating for the entire time of the EPA testing, whereas the TDI is running 100% of the time. Try comparing a TDI Passat or Jetta with the 2.5l and the 2.0T and you'll see that the TDI has 56 g/mile lower CO2 emissions than the 2.5 and 30 g/mile less than the 2.0T.

  6. There are several factors here.
    1) The emissions ranking is something like
    A) full hybrid (best)
    B) Diesels
    C) Gasoline non-hybrids.

    Diesels have certain advantages due to higher efficiency. However, there is more carbon per gallon in diesel than gasoline, so that is a disadvantage. But the larger problem is that non-hybrids have poor city mpg compared to hybrids.

    So I think if your driving is primarily on the highway, diesel are probably good, but if your driving is primarily in the city, full hybrids are probably a better choice.

    Also if your driving is mixed, as in the EPA testing, Full hybrids are a significantly cleaner choice.

  7. European numbers on fuel economy and CO2 emissions are off - and for the sippiest models, way off. The EPA numbers are much more like the real-life fuel economy. Also, VW, like all the other car makers, equip the cars they make for the US market with THE largest engines they've got. These two effects together probably accounts for the 50% difference in your numbers for the Passat.

  8. I agree. I think US Diesels are tuned more for performance than efficiency. In Europe, they sell more fuel efficient diesels, that apparently would have unacceptably low performance for the US market (or so the manufacturers believe.

  9. I disagree, and vehemently, that European numbers are off, because they are right on target from what I and other people have observed on diesel cars, while the EPA numbers never match.

    The Europeans measured it better, the EPA is wrong. Very wrong in this case.

  10. They should have made the Prius with a more powerful electric motor and controller, more batteries, plug in and a smaller gasoline engine.

    In my opinion, the Prius should have been made so that it can drive further in EV only mode at highway speeds for a longer distance, just like how the Chevy Volt achieves it.

  11. About half of the cars in Europe are diesel......where the cost of fuel is twice what it is here.

  12. And, as I understand it, Diesel is more expensive than gasoline in Europe, whereas in the USA Diesel is not more expensive than regular gasoline (but perhaps on par with premium gasoline).

  13. @John: Actually, that's not true. In some countries diesel and gasoline are roughly equivalent, but in several others, diesel is *heavily* tax-advantaged and considerably cheaper per litre than gasoline. That's one reason that diesel passenger cars have taken roughly 50% of the European market overall; the higher cost of the engine is offset by much cheaper fuel AND higher efficiency. Two outta three ain't bad, whereas in the U.S. it's only one of the three (better efficiency).

  14. Dang, I don't know where my head was at. Let's try again.

    And, as I understand it, Diesel is less expensive than gasoline in Europe, whereas in the USA Diesel is more expensive than regular gasoline (but perhaps on par with premium gasoline).

    But, OK with John V. none, perhaps Diesel is on-par with gasoline in some places in Europe.

  15. Ultra-low Sulfur (5 ppm) Eurodiesel is the cheapest fuel in Europe, with the exception of Switzerland which levies additional taxes on it for environmental purposes.

  16. @Annatar: My brother, who lives in London, tells me diesel is roughly equal to premium gasoline there, and more expensive than regular. See this photo, for instance:

  17. There are some exceptions, but in most European countries diesel is the cheapest fuel. And did your brother also tell you that the Brits mostly drive diesels? I was shocked when I saw that German diesels were the majority of the cars on their highways.

    Even if diesel is the most expensive fuel, the diesel engine uses so little of it that one still comes out ahead.

    For example, $60 and 14.1 gallons of fuel gets me two and a half weeks without refueling, and in my state diesel is the most expensive fuel.

  18. @Annatar: Actually, regardless of what my brother might tell me, the data show that the U.K. is right around 50 percent diesels. It was majority gasoline until April 2010:
    which is hardly indicative of a market where Brits "mostly" drive diesels.

    Once again, it's useful if you can provide links to back up such blanket assertions. The data will set us free.

  19. I've just recently returned from Europe. Of hundreds of thousands of cars, I was able to count exactly 14 which were gasoline. Zero were hybrids. Only one was an automatic. The rest were diesels with manual transmissions.

  20. @Annatar: First, I'm afraid your travels aren't a representative sample. Second, the data shows that in the European Union overall, roughly 50 percent of passengers sold have diesels and 50% gasoline engines. There are some significant variances to those numbers in individual countries, however.

  21. "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics."

    Data from a journal article from August 2010 is hardly representative. In order to rely on data, one would have to audit UK's department of motor vehicles - total registration number of diesel versus gasoline vehicles. I do not have access to this data, do you?

    Regardless of the UK, which is almost a world unto itself, I lived and worked in continental Europe for several years until mid-2009. I know what I saw. I know what we had. Diesel car penetration rate was 80% where I lived, in some countries like Croatia is it 99%, and in most other continental European countries it is between 80-90%. We have enjoyed a selection of ultramodern, powerful, fast and eceonomical clean diesel engines.

  22. 2011 diesel/petrol sales figures can be seen here:

    In 2011 in the UK, 981,594 diesel, 934,203 petrol. More or less 50/50.

    In Europe as a whole, the figure in 2010 for diesel sales was 48%:

    That's no doubt gone up in the meantime, but it's certainly not "between 80-90%" as you claim. Unless, of course, you can provide a source for your data.

    Incidentally, I live in the UK and regularly make trip to Europe, rather than just having visited once and made a few guesses.

  23. If you drive in the city a hybrid makes so much more sense. Particularly for lots of short journeys.

  24. Gasoline electric hybrid never makes sense financially, because they are expensive, complicated, and use obsolete technology (the gasoline engine). As if that were not bad enough, in the U.S. at least, every single one of those is an automatic, which in my view is completely unacceptable.

    If they were diesel hybrids and offered manual transmission options (and didn't look horrible), the complexity downside wouldn't be so bad.

    Anything that is complex is no good in the long term. This is acutely true for vehicles.

  25. @Annatar: Do please do a bit of research before making such blanket statements! In the U.S., 6 to 7 percent of new cars come with manual transmissions now--a number slightly greater than none--and the rate seems to be rising slightly:

  26. OK, how is anything I wrote in contradiction to what you are claiming? I merely stated that all hybrids in the U.S. are automatics. If I am incorrect, please point out one that is not.

  27. @Annatar: Ah, so you were saying that all hybrids in the U.S. are automatics? I'm afraid that wasn't entirely clear to me from your first post.

    And it's actually not true either: The Honda CR-Z is offered either with a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. It is, however, a relatively low-volume model, so the number of non-automatic hybrids is well below 10%, perhaps just 1% or 2%.

  28. I agree with John. Also, the numbers do not add up. Diesel is more expensive at the pump, on the MSRP, environment and in maintenance. VW is impressing upon this media "group think". My advice, do not go there. I owned a TDI Golf for 8 years and a Honda Civic Hybrid for 9 years. Guess which one was cheaper to own.

  29. Comparing cost of ownership, including maintenance, between a Honda and a VW is always going to be a losing proposition for the VW: European cars have almost always cost more to maintain than their American or Japanese counterparts.

  30. Cost of ownership varies according to what one wants to count as a "cost". My sister has a three year old Accord that she unlocks and locks the door manually. She does that because Honda uses a proprietary battery in their key that costs about $75 to replace. I wonder how many nick-knack costs of Honda's are not factored into Cost of Ownership.

  31. No problem: let me just get a diesel mazda and nobody is going to be able to beat it in terms of ownership costs. Nobody.

  32. Just to be clear, I am really not any diesel. When clean diesel was developed, I was very excited about the environmental benefits particularly as diesel may offer lower carbon emissions compared to standard gasoline engines.

    However, as the cars started market and EPA started publishing the numbers for carbon emissions and smog scores, I was shocked by how much worse they are than full hybrids (e.g. Fusion hybrid).

    So I don't really want to see people switching to diesel only to find out that they really aren't the cleanest choice.

    I will admit the EPA numbers for Diesels may be 10% worse than reality, but even that will not make up for the 68% higher CO2 emissions or the smog issues.

  33. The disconnect between EPA estimates for diesel cars and real world performance has been discussed numerous times on GCR.

    For example, the current model Passat TDI is estimated at 34 mpg (combined) EPA, but owners on are reporting 40-41 mpg, or 18-21% better than EPA.

    For the current model Prius liftback, EPA estimates 50 mpg (combined), while real world performance reported by owners on is 48-49 mpg, or 2-4% worse than EPA.

    Diesel car owners have known for years that there's something wrong with EPA's fuel efficiency test for diesels. This has held back sales of these fuel efficient vehicles, and it will hold back sales and development of even more efficient diesel vehicles, such as diesel hybrids.

  34. Your right in every way. It will be a mute point in California because the progressives are putting a death nail into diesels by forcing diesel fuel prices to approximately $8 gallon in the future. More diesel for the more advanced states!!

  35. @Pat: Fascinated by this idea. I'm unaware of proposals by "the progressives" to affect diesel-fuel prices. Can you provide a link to the plans you're referring to, please?

  36. @John: It was in November 2012 Diesel Power Magazine. This is due to the Low Carbine Fuel Standard requiring alternative fuels and CARB cap and trade. This will add an estimated $2.22 to the price of diesel in Cal. Increasing prices to approximately $7.00

  37. Even accepting the data you provided proves my point.

    40-41 mpg for diesel
    48-49 mpg for hybrid.

    The hybrid is more efficient. Given the higher carbon content of diesel, the CO2 emissions are worse than the MPG number comparison suggests. Add to that the smog forming pollutants of diesel, and hybrid comes out way ahead.

    Bear in mind, the EPA numbers I provided at the top show diesel being 68% worse on carbon, so a 20% error in EPA numbers will not change the story.

  38. First of all, there you go again using EPA numbers. EPA numbers are not correct. They simply are not because I have a diesel and I know what kind of fuel consumption I get, and at the end of the day, it is all about how much I have to pay out of my wallet.

    Second, you are blatantly disregarding the fact that hybrids are more complex, use automatic transmissions, cost more to own and maintain, and are simply weak performance wise.

    Let me see a Prius produce 236 footpounds of torque at 1,750 RPM and get 51.2 miles to the gallon. (I get 39 MPG in the city.)

    Gasoline hybrids are a losing proposition.

  39. Do you have any figures to back up your assertions that hybrids cost more to own and maintain?

    Toyota suggests that its hybrid models - and those of Lexus too - make up the lowest warranty claims of all its vehicles. And we've written at length here about hybrid taxis going on for 300K+ miles without any failures of the "complex" hybrid systems.

  40. By the way, if you took a gasoline hybrid and a diesel hybrid, which one would come out ahead?

    You are comparing a gasoline hybrid to a clean diesel with no assistance, and the diesel still wins. How then would a clean diesel hybrid compare to a gasoline one?

    Bottom line is: gasoline hybrids are inferior to clean diesels, but don't take my word for it: ask any automechanic who services both, and ask them what they would pick, and why.

  41. Sorry, but that is just unsibstantiated propaganda.

    Clean diesel is the way to go. No ifs, buts, or maybes.

  42. VW Diesels, even the new "green" ones have maintenance and reliability problems. The typical sequence of events is as follows.

    1)Cylinder head cracks after 25 to 40 thousand miles because Diesel fuel in the USA is not terribly "clean" or free of hard-solid impurities. Diesel is typically used by giant trucks which are insensitive to the "dirty" diesel "truck" fuel sold at most gas stations.
    2)This is considered "Wear and Tear" by VW and is not covered by any standard warranty. The problem is that small-engine Diesel cylinder heads are very expensive.......3,000 to 6 thousand dollars a pop, including installation and tuning labor!.....
    3) VW's are mid class cars and 5000$ out of pocket is too much.

    So, VW Diesels are expensive to keep

  43. That isn't a typical experience with current generation VW diesels. Consumer Reports shows 2009-2011 VW TDI Sportwagens and 2010-2011 VW TDI Golfs having better than average engine reliability. They don't have enough data to report stats on the current generation VW TDI Passat, but all of these VWs have the same 2.0L TDI engine.

  44. C/R do not discuss long-term maintenance costs and reliability issues. Their reports are great for newer cars under warranty, not driven over 35,000 miles. But read any online consumer forum on 4 to 8 year old TDI's and you will see that VW diesels have problems with Diesel fuel impurities that end up costing thousands to fix.

    New cars on C/R "often" have great reliability but that’s not the real story for a major family purchase that needs to clock 120 thousand miles on the odometer and last 10 to 12 years!

    VW cars are engineered to break at 50- 65 thousand miles, and diesel engines, sensitive to dirty fuel, are way more expensive to repair out of pocket than regular gas engines! So the +ve fuel econ payback is not real!

  45. I disagree. Consumer Reports tracks long-term reliability trends for cars that are up to 10 years old, there's no cut off at 35,000 miles. One has to subscribe to C/R to see this data. The current generation VW 2.0L diesel has been on sale in America since 2009, and it has better than average reliability according to both C/R and Edmunds -- not just short term but going back to 2009.

    I've read many posts on the online TDIClub forum, and owners there often praise the long-term reliability of VW diesel engines.

  46. You are free to disagree. See 8 actual TDI Diesel complaints below:

  47. Well I have a mazda diesel also, over 80,000 miles and not a drop of oil or any other fluid anywhere. The engine looks like new. And I beat that engine in long shots of 6+ hours on highways going 140 MPH on European highways. It was pedal to the metal for hours on end. Never had a problem with the engine. In fact it was sitting for three years straight without being cranked once, after three years I took it out of storage and it fired right up. The first thing I did after changing the oil and the filters was floor it 140+ MPH on a stretch of highway. Runs like the first day she came from Japan. I'm going to be dead before I get rid of that diesel.

  48. What you say is nonsense, where do you get these facts. All diesels truck or car have extremely fine filters 15 microns or less. Contamination in diesel if unfiltered ruins injectors or pumps not heads.

  49. I guess my diesel engine didn't get the memo because I'm just past 40,000 miles and the engine is running like new. And I beat it. I beat the living daylights out of that engine at maximum torque twice a day every day.

  50. IMHO natural gas is the way to go. Would love to see more articles on CNG vehicles. Natural gas is the future of energy. It is replacing dirty, dangerous, expensive coal and nuclear plants. It is producing the electricity for electric cars. It will directly fuel cars,pickup trucks, vans, buses, long haul trucks, dump trucks, locomotives, aircraft, ships etc. It will keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money. It is reducing CO2 emissions. Here are over 1,500 recent links for you:

  51. More people have been killed by save Natural Gas than ever killed by those "dangerou" Nuclear Power Plants! Nuclear Plants have Zero CO2 emissions.

  52. @Pat: That's actually an interesting comparison. Can you provide a link to your data?

    I'm curious how far out it stretches from a public-health perspective: Does it include delayed mortality from radiation sickness from accidents at TMI, Chernobyl, etc.?

  53. @John: No person has ever died from radiation exsposure in an American Commercial Nuclear Power Plant. Nobody was exposed at TMI beyond normal radiation limits. Thousands have died from natural Gas explosions. You should remember the Texas to California natural gas pipe line in a neighborhood the killed numerous people.

  54. @Pat: Great info. Show me your data source, please?

  55. Of course, Pat Butler would offer his backyard for some of that nuclear waste storage.

  56. Yes, except when a nuclear power plant reactor core busts, it takes 982 years for I-131 half decay. So for the radiation to fully cease, it takes 1,964 years. Thanks, but no thanks.

    If it were me, I would shut any and all nuclear powerplants down yesterday, and did what the Danes did: huge farms of wind generators on sea and land. Solar panels on every house, like Austrians have them, and have had them from the '80's of the past century. Dam up every river after doing an environmental impact study and designing the dam to be environment friendly, like the Swiss do.

  57. @anna: It is a good thing people with so little knowledge, like you, are not in charge! TMI had a total core melt down and no radioactive material was released. The core was removed and buried in a high level waste disposal. By the way I-131 half life is 8 days it will be gone in 56 days!

  58. Well when Chernobyl had a meltdown, the radioactive I-131 cloud spread all over continental Europe, in a 5,000 km radius, and even though I was so far away, we still got the radioactive rain and I stood in it not knowing what it was.

    I do not want to go through that ever again. If the Japanese could not get it right of all the people, then nobody else will ever be able to. Then I lived in another country just three minutes away from a nuclear powerplant, and some of my colleagues worked there. That country had a growing problem with mounting nuclear waste, and as a result will be shutting down operations.

    Never again.

    As for you sir, I warmly suggest reading up on radioactive half life of I-131, Cs-137 and the whole process of meltdown.

  59. @Anna: I have a nuclear Engineering degree and have worked 35 years in Nuclear Power Plants! I believe your the one showing your lack of knowledge, by the way you being so knowledgable about nuclear you probably forgot that Russian power plants do not have containments like the Western Plants.

  60. Annatar -

    Iodine-131 half life: 8.0197 days (

    Caesium-137 half life (which you didn't mention before): 30.17 years (

    Neither are anywhere near 982 years.

    Once again, if you're to discuss subjects with others, it's always wise to ensure you have the correct facts to hand.

  61. There are more comments in this thread
  62. Natural Gas is fine for the short term but it is still a non-renewable resource and will eventually disappear. A much better idea IMO is a renewable resource like the biodiesel created by algae and already approved by the FDA as a drop in fuel (direct replacement for Diesel and cleaner burning to boot). Natural Gas will make a fine stopgap until renewable biodiesel ramps up capacity. Solazyme is one of the leading companies in renewable oils and I'm pretty excited about what the future holds in regards to this technology.

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