by Sterling D. Allan
Pure Energy Systems News
I got an email from Dale Pond telling me about an allegedly atrocious situation in which the US Government is barring high-efficiency vehicles by (at least) VW and Ford from being sold in the US. Though made in the US, the European version of the same car allegedly gets nearly 2x the mileage of its US counterpart.
It really got my blood boiling.
At first, I was going to just link to the video, but in seeing that no stories had been done on it yet anywhere, I thought it deserved some additional attention, so I started phoning around. I called and left messages with VW US, VW UK, the Whitehouse, US Department of Energy, my congressmen. I was on a rampage to find out why such a travesty of policy could occur.
Then I got a call back from Mark Gillies of VW. He had watched the video I had told him about; and it turns out that there is a reasonable explanation; and no, there is no conspiracy on this one. It's just a matter of markets and how mileage numbers are run in the two countries.
Since I put so much into writing and digging on this, I'm going to go ahead and provide this report for our news. Also, I think I owe it to those who heard about that video to now have "the other side of the story," to put their minds at ease.
There certainly are a lot of things that are backwards, corrupt, or even conspiratorial about the US Government, but this isn't one of them.
Seemed Like a Conspiracy
Here is what I had written before talking to Mark Gillies.
The case is presented in a YouTube video by user fldallyb, or Bryan.
He was in the UK recently, driving a VW station wagon he rented, and was astonished at what great gas mileage it got. With four large adults and luggage, driving 2100 miles, they got 62 mpg. The dealer there said the car is rated for 72 mpg on the highway. Another person he talked to said that a related Ford model sold over there gets 71 mpg.
When he returned to the US, he went to a local VW dealer to see if he could get one of these. The dealer confirmed that they had the model, and that it gets 44 mpg.
"No, I want the 1.6, BlueMotion TDI", Bryan replied.
"Oh, no, you can't get that model here," replied the dealer.
"The US Government won't allow it."
That sounded liked B.S., so he started doing some research.
He went to VW.com (US) and compared to http://www.volkswagen.co.uk and found that the Passat UK version is listed as having mileage of 65 MPG, while the US version is listed at 44 MPG.
Furthermore, the VW dealer informed him that those cars are MADE IN THE US but
are not allowed to be sold here. The dealer also told him that Ford makes models
that are in the 70 mpg range, but they aren't allowed to sell them here either.
When he asked why, the Administration's response was that the cars put out too much pollution. The reason was because they calculate pollution per gallon of fuel burned, not per miles driven. A fuel efficient car will drive much further, polluting much less per mile driven, but the US government formula biases against that. So while the pollution is 10% more per gallon burned, the mileage is double. Do the math.
But its worse than that. When the discrepancy of that math was pointed out to the Administration, they retorted, "It's for economic reasons," without elaborating. But here's the situation. The taxes from fuel are what finance the maintenance of the road infrastructure, and if cars got better mileage, that would mean the tax revenue would drop.
Here's the video:
Explanation from VW
Here is what Mark explained about the situation. His title is: Manager, Product and Technology Communications, Volkswagen of America Inc.
There are at least five things that factor in here.
First, VW used to sell the same (or similar?) Passat as is sold in Europe here in the US. But it didn't sell very well. It was too expensive and too small in the mid-size sedan segment. So they came up with a larger version with a better price point; and of course the size effects the mileage. [Americans are not nearly so concerned with mileage as Europeans are.]
Second, the way the US' EPA calculates mileage is different than the way the European equivalent does it. "The cycle is different," he said. The driving course and rigor set in the dynamometer is different. The fuel types used are different. The EPA estimates for diesel mileage tend to be lower than reality. For example, while the EPA says the Passat is 44 mpg, the Consumer Reports number comes in at 51 mpg.
"The number for the combined US cycle for the US Passat is 35 mpg, whereas the same powertrain in a European Passat gets 61.2 mpg on the Euro cycle."
Third, a US gallon (3.79 L) is less than an Imperial gallon (4.546 L).
Fourth, the US government doesn't stipulate to an automobile company what vehicles they can and cannot sell, other than setting the regulations for things like emissions, with which the manufacturers are required to comply.
Fifth, dealers are independent from VW and are not always aware of certain aspects of the auto business.
This explanation seems rational to me, and accounts for the seeming discrepancy in mileage between the US Passat and the European Passat.
Passat is a World Record Holder
While we're on the subject, I should bring to your attention that in March, 2011, European spec Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion TDI set a new Guinness World Record for the greatest distance traveled by a production passenger car on a single tank of fuel. (Story) It went 1,531 miles on a single tank of diesel. Its overall fuel economy calculates to about 75 US miles per gallon. That's impressive for a car the size of the Passat. According to Vehix.com:
"The Europenan Passat BlueMotion is powered by a 1.6-liter common rail four cylinder TDI rather than the 2.0-liter TDI we see here in the States. Like the Polo and Golf BlueMotion models, the Passat BlueMotion offers improved aerodynamics thanks to a slightly lower ride height and aero body modifications. To enhance fuel economy it also has auto stop-start, low rolling resistance tires, and a programmed charging system so the alternator only runs when necessary."
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Last updated June 29, 2012 14:33:36 -0400