Yesterday we reported that Volkswagen hopes to be the global electric vehicle leader by 2018. Electricity is not the only alternative power source in which VW hopes to expand its offering, though, as Automotive News reports that Volkswagen hopes to soon sell compressed natural gas-powered (CNG) cars in the U.S. in the near future. Compressed natural gas vehicles have cleaner tailpipe emissions than gasoline and diesel vehicles and also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 20 percent.
VW already sells CNG vehicles in Europe, where it trails only Fiat in sales of natural gas vehicles. However, one major obstacle remains before VW can bring the cars stateside: fueling infrastructure. The U.S. only has around 600 public CNG fuel stations, compared to 900 stations in the much smaller nation of Germany, according to head of product development for Volkswagen Heinz-Jakob Neusser.
Before bringing CNG cars to the U.S., Volkswagen reportedly wants the U.S. government to support more CNG fueling stations. Last year, we took a Honda Civic Natural Gas around Michigan to try to find all of the public CNG pumps available in our own state and found that a few of the supposed pumps either kept limited hours or did not work entirely, demonstrating the types of problems CNG owners can face. Beyond the 600 public pumps, around 400 other CNG pumps exist in the U.S. but are privately owned and can be used only by fleet operators.
In Europe, Volkswagen CNG cars are sold under the TGI label and include models such as the Up! minicar and the Golf compact hatchback. The only CNG car currently sold in the U.S. from the factory is the 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas. Ram also offers a CNG version of its 2500 pickup truck. Ford and General Motors offer CNG prep packages on some of their pickup truck models, but these vehicles must be then independently outfitted in order to run on CNG.
Volkswagen's newest platforms are designed to work with a variety of propulsion systems, such as diesel, gasoline, electric, plug-in hybrid, ethanol, and CNG. For now, it remains to be seen whether Volkswagen can execute a big enough push for CNG infrastructure expansion to bring future natural gas models to our shores.
Source: Automotive News