Guess who will be at the 2008 Los Angeles auto show, November 21-30? A Volkswagen Passat. But it won’t be just any Passat. It will be a Passat produced by Shanghai VW. As if this is not shocking enough: The thing will be powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell. Shanghai Security News humbly reports that this might be the “first China-made new-energy car model of the Volkswagen brand to be displayed at an auto show.” It for sure is the first Made-in-China VeeDub ever to enter a US show. And it runs on hydrogen. How about that. The powertrain was jointly developed between SVW’s SAIC, Tongji University and Shanghai Shen-Li High Tech Co., Ltd. The car, veedubbed “Lingyu,” will reach a top speed of 150 km/h and should be good for more than 300 km at one hydrogen charging, albeit “with further innovation and maximization,” say the Security News via Gasgoo. SVW had built 500 fuel-cell hybrid sedans already for the green Olympic fleet, and wants to mass-produce the hydrogen fuel-cell Lingyu by early 2010. But will it sell?
VeeDub traditionally had projected a green image, but in the darkness of their hearts, they are skeptical about alternative energies. Sure, Wolfsburg does research into fuel cells, but doesn’t truly believe in them, at least not at home in Wolfsburg, The prevailing notion in Wolfsburg is to develop the Bluemotion line further, to make conventional gasoline and diesel engines more efficient, to lower displacement, and to add pep via wicked blowers. VW will also revisit the Stop/Start anti-idling technology. That’s likewise old hat, they had it in their mid 90’s Ecomatic Golf, which scared the dickens out of its owners by shutting off the engine at the red light. A car with 200+ mpg is likewise on the drawing boards and being trotted out to green confabs as a concept. Nobody believes it will see the lights of the showrooms: Too lame with of 75MPH at WOT, too expensive to buy.
VeeDub managers found out the hard way: When faced with a questionnaire, customers obediently claim they want to save fuel and protect the environment. Back on the Autobahn, they don’t want to be left behind, the ozone hole be damned. If the environmentally friendly car is too expensive, it will rot in the showrooms. Hydrogen gas stations are not necessarily around every corner. In the long run, VeeDub stands by its skepticism regarding exotic propulsion: Xu Jian, VW China’s VP – reflecting popular Wolfsburg wisdom – thinks that by 2020, the good ole internal combustion engine will still putter away, holding an 80 percent market share. The rest will be divvied up amongst plug-ins, fuel cells and whatever other exotica an inventive world will come up with.