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Volkswagen’s BlueMotion blues

Blue Polos: VW goes green with BlueMotion in Polo, cutting fuel consumption to 3.6L/100km.

VW's BlueMotion technology scales new heights in Polo, but not in Australia

18 May 2009

By MARTON PETTENDY in SARDINIA

VOLKSWAGEN has showcased one of the world’s most fuel-efficient vehicles, but don’t expect the Polo BlueMotion or other members of the German maker’s green sub-brand to be offered in Australia because there is no current timetable for the eco technology to become available with an automatic transmission.

That is the unfortunate news to emerge from this week’s global launch of the all-new Polo hatch, which goes on sale in Europe in June with the choice of six engines – three of which will be available with the MkV Polo when it reaches Australia in early 2010 (see separate story).

A BlueMotion version of the new common-rail 1.6 TDI turbo-diesel variant will come online in Europe later this year, using as little as 3.6 litres of fuel for every 100km on the combined average EU cycle.

That makes it more economical than next month’s Mini Cooper D and July’s third-generation Toyota Prius hybrid, both of which will set a new fuel consumption benchmark of 3.9L/100km in Australia.

A second, even more environmentally-friendly BlueMotion variant of the Polo, based on the 1.2 TDI BlueMotion concept car that was displayed at the worldwide Polo launch in Sardinia this week, further reduces average fuel consumption to a staggering 3.3L/100km and is expected to enter production around the same time Australia receives the new Polo in early 2010.

However, neither example of BlueMotion technology, which is Volkswagen’s answer to BMW’s EfficientDynamics and Mercedes-Benz’s BlueEfficiency fuel-saving concepts, will be made available in Australia until they are developed in conjunction with a twin-clutch DSG automated manual transmission.

3 center imageBoth German luxury brands have committed to releasing economy-focussed model derivatives in Australia this year, representing a significant jump on Germany’s largest car-maker, whose first Polo BlueMotion appeared in the MkIV version in 2006 – the same year Mercedes’ first ‘Blue’ model hit the US.

With consumption of 3.8L/100km, the first Polo BlueMotion was billed as the world’s most frugal five-seater – the same mantle now assumed by the MkV Polo BlueMotion.

The Polo 1.6 TDI BlueMotion emits just 96 grams of CO2 per kilometre, while the Polo 1.2 TDI BlueMotion reduces that figure to an even cleaner-burning 87g/km.

There are 10 BlueMotion models currently available from VW in Europe – including the Golf, Jetta, Caddy, Touran, Sharan and Passat – all of which employ an automatic idle-stop system, low rolling resistance tyres and specific aerodynamics, including an enclosed underbody and 10mm lower ride height.

Specific to the 1.2 TDI Polo BlueMotion, which weighs just 1080kg, will be a regenerative braking system which, together with an idle-stop system, is claimed to reduce fuel consumption by 0.25L/100km.

Overall, VW says the modifications yield fuel savings totalling 0.9L/100km compared to a conventional Polo TDI with the same power, plus a CO2 emissions reduction of up to 20 per cent.

“I anticipate that we will be able to go into production in February 2010,” said development chief Dr Ulrich Hackenberg. “Meeting this schedule will be an athletic accomplishment. Yet the engine and other systems of the Polo BlueMotion are already performing with such promise that we are on course to meet our goal.” While the new 55kW triple-cylinder direct-injection 1.2-litre turbo-diesel engine and its BlueMotion application are said to be nearly production-ready, GoAuto understands development work on DSG versions of any BlueMotion models is on the backburner because of strong global demand for VW’s DSG transmission.

That makes any Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) dream of rivalling the Prius with a BlueMotion version of its new MkVI Golf – or to offer a BlueMotion version of the Passat, which would deliver even greater fuel consumption reductions – unlikely to materialise in the short-term.

“We would like to offer a BlueMotion model in Australia, but without a DSG option it is not going to work,” said VGA spokesman Karl Gehling.

“This is not just specific to Polo BlueMotion. It could be any BlueMotion product and it would depend on the need to find the right product to get the volumes to justify the development costs. It will come down to what the potential is for that sort of vehicle.” Volkswagen says it is actively monitoring the US market with a view to introducing the Polo there, where automatics are also the transmission of choice for most car buyers, but until then it appears the Polo BlueMotion will remain on VGA’s wish list.

Indeed, senior Volkswagen Group executives this week downplayed the need to match any BlueMotion models with a DSG transmission, which weighs 70kg in new seven-speed format and is torque-limited to 250Nm.

“Adding a DSG gearbox doesn’t really fit the nature of BlueMotion technology,” said Volkswagen AG product communications manager Christian Haacke.

“BlueMotion is all about being cost effective. The gain in matching the engine to a (DSG) gearbox would be negligible and not worth the extra €1400 ($A2519).

“It needs to stay accessible. The philosophy behind this is to have an economical product and a high volume and not have a real high-tech car which shows technology to the max which only 100 people are going to buy.” Mr Haacke said matching BlueMotion technology with a DSG transmission was technically possible, but stressed the combination would only reach production if enough customers demanded it.

“It’s not a question of technology engineering. We can build in the VW Group a 1.0-litre car and we can build a 1001-horsepower car. It is a question of what the consumer wants because we want to earn money and if we get the response from the market we are there, we are there to sell it.

“We will carefully watch the market and first see how the BlueMotion package will be accepted by the market and second, the super BlueMotion (concept) will be accepted by the market and third, how the seven-speed (DSG) will be accepted.

“We need to take our time and watch the consumer before we take it even further, for example the DSG, which will mean even more financial engagement with the consumer.” He said Volkswagen’s BlueMotion models were different in concept to the stand-alone Prius, which would sell in lower numbers and command a higher pricetag than an equivalent model such as the Golf BlueMotion.

“Please correct me if I’m wrong but the Prius is a completely different product to BlueMotion, which is financially accessible to a wider range of customers. At least that’s the way it is in Europe and therefore it is not comparable to niche products like the Prius.

“Our experience so far is that in Europe BlueMotion needs to be financially attractive and of course we would start with this experience if we would do so also with the Australian market.

“From our European experience we’ve learned that what the customer wants is not only a fuel-efficient vehicle but also a cost-efficient vehicle and DSG would be contrary to this approach.

“Our goal is to spread out the BlueMotion package to make it accessible to a wide range of consumers in a wide range of products. (But) So far BlueMotion and DSG wouldn’t really be an accepted package from a consumer perspective,” he said.

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