By on November 16, 2008

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.

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8 Comments on “China To Drop Hydrogen Bomb On LA...”

  • avatar

    “SVW…wants to mass-produce the hydrogen fuel-cell Lingyu by early 2010”.

    Does this mean they solved all the problems with hydrogen 20 years ahead of the pack? That would be something because they include little details like the limited lifespan of fuel-cells the extreme cost of fuel-cells, storage problems of hydrogen and the production and distribution of hydrogen.

    And even if they solved all these problems there would still be the small matter of explaining to the public how a technology that wastes 65% of invested energy in it’s hydrogen cycle is actually green.

  • avatar

    @Dutchchris: The VeeDub engineers back home think you are right on

  • avatar

    Bertel Schmitt: “@Dutchchris: The VeeDub engineers back home think you are right on”

    I know (of course only based on common sense) that VW engineers from the Heimat don’t believe in hydrogen, question is how do you know they think that way. Hydrogen is traditionally advocated by car makers that are not interested in promoting alternative drivetrain technology because they are competitive in ICE technology like BMW and Honda. To keep up a green front they promote hydrogen because they know it’s rainbow technology: you can run towards it but you’ll never get to the pot with gold. What they don’t do is tell the world that they’re only promoting hydrogen to stall change (and pocket huge amounts of subsidy money in the process). So unless you have some inside source…

  • avatar

    Given the state of the world economies at present, it’s a solution looking for a problem. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, will back this tech either on the manufacturing or the infrastructure side. The money simply isn’t there.

    Try by 2015, maybe. No promises.

  • avatar

    The Chinese themselves know very well that electric vehicle is the near term future. That is why autobloggreen reported that in August,China started to build national electric grid for charging stations instead of fuel cell infrastructure.

  • avatar

    Building a national electric grid for changing stations is incredible cheap compared with hydrogen infrastructure as most of the cost will be in adding an electric charger at a gasstation and you’re done.

  • avatar

    I’m not an expert on Chinese market VW/Audi products but if I’m not mistaken those are not the 3C Passat sold in North America at this time. I suspect those are a re-facelifted 3B Passat which we got here in 1998 and had some more of in 2002 with updated appearances. This is only relevant in the sense that it means none of that Hydrogen driveline is directly transferable to the US market as we no longer get that particular Passat or it’s sibling Audi A4 & A6.

    Have a look.

  • avatar

    @gfrog: Good catch! The Passat sold in the US and elsewhere is based on the B6 platform. which has brought VW many accolades and sales. SVW’s Passat is based on the previous B5. When VW wanted to sell the B6 to Shanghai, SVW said “bu hao” – no good, no change. They thought the B5 was good enough. And they wouldn’t change their minds nor platforms. So VW sold the B6 to their other Chinese JV, FAW-VW. The Passat nameplate is owned by SVW, so FAW-VW had to come up with a new name, “Magotan.”
    Now, there are two Passats in the Chinese market. The B5-Passat-Passat, and the B6-Passat-Magotan. Brand cachet (and lower price) prevail over advanced technology: The B5 from SVW totally outsells FAW’s B6. TIC – This is China.

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