The Volkswagen Passat. More Interesting Than You Think
A friend of mine once tried to break the world record for the longest time standing on one foot. The record (at the time) was held by Arulanantham Suresh Joachim of Sri Lanka for standing on one foot for 76 hours and 40 minutes. My friend lasted 2 minutes, then collapsed in heap and wondered if he’d maybe broken a bone in his leg. Silly boy. If he wanted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, all he had to do was buy a Volkswagen Passat.
Favstocks reports that the Volkswagen Passat Bluemotion has set the Guinness World Record for the longest distance travelled by a standard production passenger car on a single tank of fuel. The stunt started in Maidstone, Kent, UK. They attempted to drive to the South of France and back again. Unfortunately, on the way back to the UK, the Passat ran dry near Calais, France. In total, the Passat travelled 1,526.63 miles (or 2,456 kilometers, for all you imperial measurement haters) on 77.25 liters of regular diesel. Or 20.4 US gallons. That equates to 74.8 miles per US Gallon or 89.83mpImpG. What makes this particularly impressive is that the Passat Bluemotion’s official fuel consumption figures are (combined) 64.2 mpImpg (53.45mpUSg). The car mainly stuck to the French autoroutes, but did do some town driving. However, what made this test slightly unrealistic for real world users is that the average speed for the trip was 45mph. 45mph?! No wonder the whole trip took 3 days!
The irony is that cars like the Passat Bluemotion are well suited to American driving styles. You have long drives between towns (possibly, states) and your cars are used much more frequently than in Europe. If Volkswagen can federalize it, would it tickle your fancy…?
I'm not quite sure you can still blame California, CARB regs now do allow Diesel engine cars in the state. Though, we did have to go without TDIs from VW for a few years while they were sold in other parts of the country. The holdup was heavy lobbying by the heavy truck industry that delayed the change to low-sulfer Diesel fuel, which in turn allowed us to have some the latest "cleaner" Diesel engine technology from Europe. I do see the joke in having CARB regulate away Diesel passenger cars for a while while heavy trucks (which contribute a lot more to total emissions than the few thousand Diesel cars that might have been sold) were completely unregulated... but I digress. In terms of demand, if it's any indication, a lot of independent dealers were making strong profits importing TDI cars and SUVs from VW from other states. As long as the cars had more than 7,500 miles on them they could be registered by a CA resident regardless of their original emissions compliance.
I'm surprised no one has mentioned the market differences between the U.S. and Europe for diesel fuel. In Europe, diesel gets preferential tax treatment that it doesn't get here. Here, diesel is more expensive than gasoline. During the wintertime, when oil that's much closer to being diesel than being gasoline is being used for home heating in northern climes, diesel can get WAY more expensive than gasoline. I keep a cost per mile spreadsheet for all my cars and for possible purchases, and update it for changing market prices for fuel, and when you factor in that diesel costs more per gallon, the payoff for the extra mpg isn't as good as it sounds when just looking at mpg numbers. Diesel may look good in the short term, but general market conditions do not favor diesel. You can't just reconfigure refineries to change the percentage of diesel that comes from a barrel of oil, this is intrinsic to their design so there isn't much room to increase the supply of diesel without building a bunch of new refineries at $1 billion+ a pop, not to mention overcoming NIMBY opposition. In fact a lot of the gasoline burned in the U.S. is imported from Europe where it's in relative surplus because of this fixed mix compared to Europe's relatively high demand for diesel vs. gasoline. Because it's used all over the world in so many applications and the mix you get out of a barrel of oil is relatively inflexible, the diesel market is actually tighter worldwide than gasoline and if it caught on in the U.S., there would quickly be a severe supply crunch and diesel would get even more expensive than it already is here, and probably also worldwide. In short we as a country benefit significantly from being a mainly gasoline market for auto fuels. Because of this, it's also actually better for diesel enthusiasts worldwide that diesel automobiles are a relatively niche market here.
Great timing. I just rented a Golf Blue-E-Motion for a month (Europe). The first drive was after we got off the plane and it was highway all the way. 41 mpg. The rest of the trip was about 70% highway and 30% suburban. 31 mpg. For this "economy" we were saddled with one of the slowest cars I have ever driven, awful brakes, lousy clutch, insensitive steering, noisy and typical VW handling where the front end reacts first in a turn only to be followed later by the rear-end setting. I get 27 mpg on our 530 on the highway and about 23 mpg with mixed. I get a fantastic car, infinitely more reliable than a VW product, enough resale value to compensate for the price disparity and a car I can bring to my mechanic and have him work on it (as opposed to Audi/VW which many good shops simply won't work on as they cost more to fix than they're worth).
"The irony is that cars like the Passat Bluemotion are well suited to American driving styles." Yes and no. Diesel cars are best suited for long highway runs. In the US, people who do that most often live in areas with low populations and low median wages, where a diesel Passat costs about a year's salary and VW dealers are far away. People who live near VW dealers and can more easily afford a diesel Passat are in urban and suburban areas with higher populations and little opportunity for long highway runs, and these are most often in states that follow CARB emission standards. The diesel car that would be best-suited to the US would be a Malibu or Fusion that sold for $18k. GM and Ford aren't even selling the gas models for that little, so this will not happen.