Volkswagen AG is planning to sell compressed natural gas-fueled cars in the U.S. together with Honda Motor Co. But before VW proceeds with this plan, it is lobbying for the U.S. government to help in the putting up of more CNG pumps at fueling stations. VW sells CNG vehicles in Europe. In fact, it is second only to Fiat when it comes to sales in the region.
VW has spent a huge amount of money for the development of a platform that enables plants to make the same car with various powertrains such as gasoline, diesel, CNG, electric, plug-in hybrid and ethanol.
The reason why VW has not released these models in the U.S. is the lack of fueling infrastructure. According to a U.S. Department of Energy database, there are around 600 public CNG fueling stations in the U.S. But then, majority are built close to each other in the East Coast and West Coast as well as in places with a big oil and gas industry presence like Oklahoma.
Germany is a much smaller country but as 900 stations that offer CNG. At the Frankfurt auto show, VW product development head Heinz-Jakob Neusser even said that he struggles in Germany since these stations are not enough.
It was about 10 years ago that VW started to sell CNG-fueled versions of its vehicles, such as the Up minicar, which has a 10% take rate for CNG. This summer, VW presented a CNG-fueled version of its Golf hatchback and scrapped its EcoFuel badge.
VW chose to use the name TGI to these cars in hopes to benefiting from on the TDI badge used on its diesel models. Since it will be built on the same versatile platform, VW's factory in Puebla, Mexico, can produce the Golf with a CNG engine if the automaker determines that there’s sufficient market demand for it.
Earlier this year, the executives at VW had a meeting with regulators from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board to persuade them to support CNG fueling stations. Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, emphasized that since CNG decreases carbon dioxide emissions by about 20% and has lower tailpipe emissions than gasoline and diesel, it should qualify for more credits under U.S. fuel economy standards.
Browning said that VW already has the technology but is only waiting for the support of the U.S. regulators and the availability of infrastructure. [source: automotive news - sub. required]