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VW’s commercials 'ready' for alternate powertrains

Plug in the plug-in: Volkswagen already has a pair of hybrid and EV products – including the Golf GTE (left) and Passat GTE – that can feasibly donate tech to the commercial side of the business.

Diesel still rules, but looming Euro 6 Step 2 regs may force VW’s hybrid hand

Volkswagen logo6 Jul 2015

By TIM ROBSON in STOCKHOLM

AS VOLKSWAGEN rolls out its Euro 6-compliant small diesel engine in time for a mandated September 2015 deadline, a senior engine program manager has reacted cautiously to the notion that hybrid technology would be the best way forward for the next phase of Europe's emissions compliance.

The company has premiered its new Euro 6 engine – known as the EA288 ‘Nutz’ – with the launch of its sixth-generation T6 commercial van range.

Offered in four states of tune - 62kW, 75kW, 110kW and 150kW – the EA288 has a maximum torque rating of 450Nm, with engines up to 110kW using a single variable-vane turbocharger, while the 150kW unit runs two turbos.

However, Volkswagen is already looking ahead to the next two sets of standards, known as Euro 6 Step 2 and Euro 7 respectively.

Euro 6 compliance for commercial applications comes into force in September this year, while passenger cars must comply by September 2017. The second step comes into force in 2018 and 2019 respectively, before a wholesale change is made to European emissions testing standards for Euro 7.

Speaking at the international launch of the T6 in Sweden last week, Volkswagen Commercial engine development program manager Gisela Golling said a new driving cycle is under discussion that would emulate the American test cycle.

“The big step that will come, and has been discussed at present with the European community, is a new driving cycle,” she said. “We use a very easy driving cycle and people say there has to be a new era of the driving cycle.

“It’s similar to the American testing cycle, and we expect it in 2020 or 2021.

We don’t know when it will come, but there has been many discussions what the rules will be.”

The primary goal of the emissions regulations is a lowering in the output of nitrogen oxide levels, as well as a reduction of the amount of particulates (or soot) from diesels.

Ms Golling acknowledged that, as a group, Volkswagen already had a selection of non-fossil fuel alternatives on the shelf, but she also believes electric and hybrid/plug-in commercial vehicles aren’t necessarily the answer to the questions posed by the new standards.

In 2016, VW will launch its long-awaited electric e-Golf based on the MQB-platformed Golf VII five-door hatch, while the Passat GTE petrol-electric plug-in hybrid – based on the new-generation mid-sized car – will launch in Europe later this year.

Volkswagen also showed off a fuel-cell version of the Golf wagon, called the HyMotion, at last year’s Los Angeles motor show.

The German car-maker previewed an all-electric, autonomously operated delivery van – known as the eT – in late 2011. It was widely tipped as a precursor to similar technologies being adopted for the T6 range.

“Hybrid is a thing that depends on the customer,” said Ms Golling. “We have to have a big market for hybrids, then we can offer hybrids (more easily). We have something that we can put in if we want to do it, but it depends on the customer and when he wants to have it.”

She pointed out the price sensitivity of the commercial vehicle market as one factor in rolling out the relatively expensive hardware in vehicles such as the T6.

“The price tag is the main decision for our customers, especially in Europe. If they don’t see that there is a commercial use (advantage) in the total cost of ownership, then it’s very hard to do this.”

The issue of government subsidies also plays a role.

“At the end, someone has to pay the price difference, and there’s no subsidy from the state at the moment,” she pointed out.

However, Ms Golling acknowledged that the hard work on developing the green technology had been done, and that the commercial division would be able to take advantage of the technology being rolled out in the brand’s passenger cars.

“If we have to do it, we’re able to do it,” she said. “We have everything to do it, with e-Golf and Passat GTE. If we have the need, we can put it out there.

The systems are there, they are already tested, and now we have to see what is the (customer) request.”

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