Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can Clean Diesel Compete in an Electric-Drive World?

2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI offers high-mpg at a compelling cost.

Hybrid gas-electric cars dominate Kelley Blue Book�"s latest list of the most fuel-efficient vehicles. It�"s no surprise that six cars in the top 10 list, released this week, are hybrids and two are small cars�the Mini Cooper and Honda Fit. But the two clean diesel offerings�one from Volkswagen and one from BMW�almost escape notice.

With dozens of new hybrids expected in the next couple of years, and the buzz (and government support) going to cars that can plug into the grid, will clean diesel vehicles be left in the zero-emissions dust?

Not exactly, if you consider that the 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI packs a powerful punch of low-end torque and delivers an estimated 42 miles to the gallon. The base MSRP is $22,000, making the Golf TDI one of the most compelling mpg-per-dollar options. The hard line economics of the 2010 BMW 335d are not quite as compelling, but plunk down twice the dollars on the 6-cylinder diesel Bimmer to get almost twice the horsepower, and a lot more luxury. The BMW 335d is officially rated at 36 mpg on the highway and 27 in the city.

While Nissan, General Motors and other car companies are heavily betting on an electricity-powered automotive future, Volkswagen is banking on clean diesel. According to the Boston Herald, VW is projecting that up to 30 percent of its new sedan�"s sales will be clean diesel vehicles, and that mainstream consumers, not necessarily willing to go hybrid or electric, will turn to diesel. In March, almost 7,000 of VW�"s 22,000 sales in the US were diesels, said VW spokesman Christian Buhlmann. "One month, it�"s a quarter. One month, its a third."

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