China To Drop Hydrogen Bomb On LA

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
china to drop hydrogen bomb on la

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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  • Qfrog Qfrog on Nov 16, 2008

    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.

  • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on Nov 16, 2008

    @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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  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.