Posts Tagged ‘Volkswagen’

Should we all drive diesels?

December 4, 2008


I think so. Modern turbodiesels are 40% more efficient than an equivalent gasoline powered automobiles and they kick serious butt.  This simple change would go a long way toward our goal of getting rid of imported oil.  And I’m speaking from personal experience.  I have been driving my 1999 Volkswagen TDI for 10 years.  Currently, I have over 150,000 miles on it and I routinely get over 55 MPG when I drive a combination of 25% city and 75% highway.  I have had no major problems with the car and I’ve only had to do routine maintenance and replace the tires.


Diesel engines are available in two stroke or four stroke versions and can be used in anything from a lawn mower to a cruise ship. One of their original uses was as a more efficient replacement for steam engines. Since the early 1900s they have been used in submarines and ships. They are now widely used in locomotives, large trucks and electric generating plants. They have been used in automobiles since the 1930s. Currently in the USA (since the 1970s), diesel engines are mostly used in larger on-road and off-road vehicles. As of 2007, over half of all new car sales in Europe are diesel.



The Future of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

And what about the new Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles?  It looks to me like most of them for sale in the United States are going to be gasoline powered.  The Toyota Prius is currently rated at 45 highway and 48 city (see: This is why I would never consider the Toyota Prius.  What is even more disturbing is that the new Plug-in version of the Toyota Prius is also going to be gas powered. Although the fact that Volkswagen’s new concept is a diesel PHEV is quite encouraging.  See:

 Available NOW

This new breed of clean diesels is clean, quiet, more efficient, more reliable, and has better performance than anything that runs on gas.  Since all our jets, trains, trucks, ships, buses, and many electric generators essentially run on diesel, why do we have gasoline engines at all? And I’m not even counting all the military equipment that runs on diesel.  We even heat many houses with a fuel that is so close to diesel fuel that they have to dye it red so truckers and diesel car drivers don’t cheat to avoid paying road taxes.


The only other issue is price.  It costs more to order a diesel engine than it does to order a gas engine and diesel fuel has been more expensive for some reason after 2004. I paid about $650 more for the diesel version of my 1999 VW New Beetle simply because there are fewer diesels made in the United States.  Obviously this would not be a problem if all automobiles were powered by diesel engines.  That $650 was returned to me in less than a few years because diesel cost less per gallon (at one time over $1.00 per gallon less) and due to the great fuel economy.  Since diesel now costs more than gasoline your return on investment would take longer to recover. 

The price of diesel has increased because than number of refineries have been reduced and the remaining refineries have been optimized for gasoline production (even though diesel is generally simpler to refine from petroleum than gasoline).  So think about it; if there were no gasoline used in the United States, all refineries would be optimized for diesel and diesel would be cheap.

 Here’s a partial list of the advantages that diesel engines have over other internal combustion engines.

·         They burn less fuel than a gasoline engine performing the same work, due to the engine’s high efficiency and diesel fuel’s higher energy density than gasoline.

·         They have no high-tension electrical ignition system to attend to, resulting in high reliability and easy adaptation to damp environments.

·         They can deliver much more of their rated power on a continuous basis than a gasoline engine.

·         The life of a diesel engine is generally about twice as long as that of a gasoline engine due to the increased strength of parts used, also diesel fuel has better lubrication properties than gasoline.

·         Diesel fuel is considered safer than gasoline in many applications. Although diesel fuel will burn in open air using a wick, it will not explode and does not release a large amount of flammable vapor.

·         For any given partial load, the fuel efficiency (Kilograms burned per KWh produced) of a diesel engine remains nearly constant, as opposed to gasoline and turbine engines which vary depending on throttle position.


How about the fun factor?

Take a look at the new 2009 BMW 335D:


Popular mechanics likes it too. Take a look at the incredible things they say in their review of the 2009 BMW 335D


 “Diesel and high performance don’t normally sit in the same sentence, but take a look at the following figures: 155 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 6.0 seconds and 428 lb.-ft. of torque. Compare those numbers with these: 155 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Okay, so which one is the performance car? The first set of figures apply to the 335d, the second to its gasoline alternative. Away from the test track the turbodiesel’s midrange torque and flexibility would absolutely smoke (but not really, this is a “clean diesel”) its gasoline counterpart. And the 335d is not only the faster point-to-point car; it also gives you a 10 mpg (U.S.) boost over the gas one. The 335d returns an NEDC combined economy of 35.1 mpg against the 335i’s 25.6 mpg. In practice, the big diesel gives around 33 mpg in our mixed running, partly because the performance is just so intoxicating and almost impossible to resist.


Make no mistake, this is no pure economy car—it’s real-world fast. The mandatory six-speed automatic gearbox means you can’t be quite the hooligan you imagined, but it is perfectly possible to get the rear wheels of this nearly 2-ton car to break traction. And the iron block mill provides serious grunt all the way to the 5000 rpm redline, which makes passing slower vehicles contemptuously easy. This is an oil-burning hot rod.”


Alternative fuels

Current diesel engines can run on standard diesel, biodiesel (produced from vegetable oils) and synthetic diesel (produced from wood, hemp, straw, corn, garbage, food scraps, and sewage-sludge) or any combination of these fuels. Synthetic diesel can also be produced from natural gas or coal. Even when produced from natural gas or coal, synthetic diesel has 30% less particulate emissions than conventional diesel.


Energy independence

Therefore, if all vehicles were required to have diesel engines this would simplify refining, transportation and distribution processes and result in less oil usage in United States.  The gains in efficiency combined with the production of biodiesel and synthetic diesel could potentially eliminate the need for imported oil altogether. When this strategy is used with the many other great alternative energy sources, this would be a great way to transition the United States to a cleaner and more independent future.


What do you think?


Update to the 2010 VW super efficient diesel that gets over 200 MPG

October 30, 2008

I found some more new pictures of the Volkswagen super diesel production model on Motor Authority:(

 It’s still going to be a two seat tandem and it’s still going to get 235 MPG but now it’s going to be a hybrid diesel. They don’t expect to sell too many so they are only making 1000 of them.

Since they are handmade in the prototype shop they expect the price to be fairly high at $31,400 to $47,100. But I suppose when people are paying $20,000 to $30,000 for a Harley Davidson motorcycle I suppose this isn’t too far out of line. The vehicle is so small that some are concerned that the car may not pass the safety tests required for on-road use. But since the vehicle has tandem seating, a slight redesign could make it into a three wheeler. By putting a single wheel in the rear it would become a motorcycle and not be required to be held to the same safety standards as an automobile.

The future of the diesel car

October 11, 2008


2010 VW super efficient diesel gets over 200 MPG

If you’re wondering why I began with diesels, it was the simple fact that I have a lot of experience with them.  After I had such good experience with my 1999 Volkswagen beetle, my wife and I purchased a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with an automatic and just recently we purchased a 1999 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with a standard transmission for my stepdaughter.

The second reason that I chose to speak about diesels first is because diesel engines are superior to gasoline engines in many ways. They have fewer moving parts and are much more efficient than gasoline engines. Diesel engines are also built with sturdier parts to withstand higher compression pistons that are used in the engine design. These facts enable the average diesel engine to last much longer than an average gasoline engine. Volkswagen’s diesel engine longevity is legendary.  Some members of the TDI club have over 500,000 miles on their engines.

According to Wikipedia “Diesel-powered cars generally have a better fuel economy than equivalent gasoline engines and produce less greenhouse gas emission. Their greater economy is due to the higher energy per-liter content of diesel fuel and the intrinsic efficiency of the diesel engine. While petrodiesel’s 15% higher density results in 15% higher greenhouse gas emissions per liter compared to gasoline,[6] the 20–40% better fuel economy achieved by modern diesel-engine automobiles offsets the higher-per-liter emissions of greenhouse gases, and produces 10-20 percent less GHG emissions than comparable gasoline vehicles. Biodiesel-powered diesel engines offer substantially improved emission reductions compared to petro-diesel or gasoline-powered engines, while retaining most of the fuel economy advantages over conventional gasoline-powered automobiles.”

In addition to greater efficiency, back in 2002, Volkswagen created an experimental car that got over 285 MPG. Volkswagen was shooting for the car to go 100 kilometers on one liter of diesel.   When tested however, it only took .89 liters to go 100 kilometers (or around 285 MPG).  Here’s the math:

3.78541178 liters is equal to one gallon, to go 100 kilometers and one kilometer equals 0.621371192 miles, 100KM would equal 62.1371192 miles (or 235.22 MPG).


VW concept 1 litre concept car exceeds 285 MPG

VW concept 1 litre concept car exceeds 285 MPG




Remember, this concept car was developed in way back in 2002 and it actually got better fuel economy, than anticipated scoring a sweet .89L/100km in VW testing or closer to 285 MPG. The production car due in 2010 is supposed to get more like the 235 MPG number.  I don’t know about you but I’d like to have one of those to go to works or just cruise around.


You can see details at:

and You can see pictures of the production model at: 2002 VW 1 litre concept car


Alternatives in transportation today and the future, Part 2

October 9, 2008
Bright Blue New Beetle TDI

Bright Blue New Beetle TDI

After evaluating what was out there in the late 1990’s, (gas and diesels as hybrids and electrics were not even a choice) what I ended up doing was to buy a brand new Volkswagen New Beetle TDI (diesel) in February of 1999. The car was EPA rated 43/49 MPG and at the time diesel cost less than gas. It was the best choice at the time because it beat anything out there. Since I live in the upper Midwest, I had to read up about “gelling” fuel in winter because the temperature had dropped to below -25 degrees F and that is WITHOUT the “wind-chill” factored in. But this problem seemed to be conquered by the winter fuel additives.

The bug has plenty of power, hauls four passengers comfortably and it was the cheapest car that I could find to operate. There was a cost “penalty” for buying the diesel version car and at the time was about $650 over the equivalent model powered by gas. I don’t know what the cost difference is today but they are cleaner (they even pass the extremely strict California standards), faster and there is a $1300 tax credit available if you buy one today.

As for my own personal experience in my stock New Beetle (no modifications), on the hottest day in summer going 85 MPH down the highway with the air on full the worst I ever got was 43MPG (EPA nailed it for once and then some). On the other end, once I began to stick to the posted speed limits (this is a really hard one for me) started to anticipate and slow down for stoplights, coast down hills in neutral shut, park in parking spots that I can drive straight out of (backing up is a waste of fuel) and turn off the engine at long stoplights railroad crossings, etc. (don’t even think about going through the drive through anywhere), I have consistently gotten over 55 MPG. My best tanks are usually around the 57-62MPG range. Keep a vigilant eye on your tire pressure as well.

After joining the local TDI club (yes there are most certainly local TDI clubs in your area) in Madison, Wisconsin, I learned the many tips out there like the overflow tank tip. There is also a tremendous website called Fred’s TDI Page and the TDI Club.

Here is one of the tips that I learned almost immediately: I you own a classic car or remember the old cars, on a hot day the gas would expand and they would frequently start leaking gas out on the cap. The auto makers came up with an elegant solution; they installed an overflow tank. In my car it is 2.2 gallons. There is a little button is depressed when you put the gas cap on. Diesel doesn’t expand as much as gas so if you hold the little button down with the fuel nozzle, you can get an extra 2.2 gallon in your tank (you fool it into thinking the gas overflowed into it. Using this practice I’ve been able to get around 800 miles to a tank. Think about it, you even save fuel because you don’t go to the gas station as often. I would go two to three times more often with the Subaru that the bug replaced.

I had planned to experiment with alternative fuels but could not do anything until the generous 10 year/ 100,000 mile warranty ran out. I hit the 100K mark in August, 2005 so the warranty was up. After this, I started to use biodiesel and biodiesel blends with no problems whatsoever. And by the way, this car will also burn straight vegetable oil (or SVO). Yes it’s true and any oil will do; you can use straight corn oil, soybean oil or get some right from the fryers of your local fast food giants (McDonalds, Burger King, etc.). I like the concept but I’d have to buy a heater tank kit (Google it on the internet) that would take up most of my baggage compartment but you need it to make sure the oil is liquid before it reaches the fuel filter. These tank conversion kits are readily available and expensive but I think they would pay for themselves fairly fast if the fuel prices stay up there. In any case (or at least in my case), these kits are better suited to a larger vehicle like a diesel truck or SUV because I just can’t sacrifice the space in my Beetle. You just can’t put it in when you want to and take it out when you need the space. I think that a clever engineer could make tons of money creating an easily removable tank unit (I’ll have to start working on it).

Another alternative is to cook your own biodiesel (kind of like your own meth lab) there are plenty of websites out there that will step you through the process or sell you a do it yourself kit. Just Google biodiesel or shoot me an email (or comment).

See ya later

See ya later

Alternatives in transportation today and the future, Part 1

October 9, 2008


Today, since we have all been hurting from the high fuel prices, let’s talk about fuel and the alternatives out there for transportation. I’ll talk about what I think and what I’ve done about it. That being said here are the alternatives that you can choose from (did I miss any?):

  • Gasoline powered vehicles
  • Diesel powered vehicles
  • Hybrid powered vehicles
  • Electric powered vehicles
  • Train
  • Bus
  • Walk
  • Bike (human powered vehicles)

Let’s just begin with the first few and see how far that I can get today.

Gasoline powered vehicles

  • Pros: roads are heavily subsidized, infrastructure already in place, can use alternate fuels, can use hypermiling,
  • Cons: dangerous, costly, inconvenient breakdowns (part failures, flat tires, bad fuel), inefficiency

Diesel powered vehicles

  • Pros: roads are heavily subsidized, infrastructure already in place, more efficiency, can use hypermiling, can use alternate fuels, more efficient that gasoline power, fewer moving parts
  • Cons: dangerous, costly (insurance, fuel parts), inconvenient breakdowns (part failures, flat tires, bad fuel), inefficiency, fewer stations carry diesel, may gel without additives in cold climates.