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LOW CO2 TECH: Forward Bluemotion

Date: 06 March 2009

Volkswagen is gearing up for a new generation of green vehicles, starting with low-CO2 Passat models and the company's first hybrid, writes Jon Challen

It's common knowledge that Volkswagen's Bluemotion brand covers its low-CO2 petrol and diesel developments, but were you aware hybrid, battery and eventually fuel cell technologies will also come under that umbrella?

Of the 'alternatives', hybrid is VW's current focus with the launch of the Touareg parallel hybrid set for mid-2010 in the UK. This powertrain, fitted into the successor to the current model, will use Audi's 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, together with a Bosch electric motor and Sanyo-supplied battery. Further hybrids are planned, the most likely, according to VW, being a petrol-electric Golf-sized vehicle.

Not wishing to miss out the electric vehicle market, VW has announced it will be working with Toshiba on the development of electric motors and accompanying power electronics for future vehicles. Chairman Martin Winterkorn wants the company to be "the first manufacturer to provide an emissions-free, affordable and safe large-scale production electric vehicle".

While such a vehicle may be many years away, the models below - including the forthcoming CNG-powered 1.4-litre TSI Ecofuel Passat not planned for North America but that will be a key seller elsewhere - are just around the corner.

Touareg V6 TSI Hybrid

Price: £40,000-£50,000

On sale: Mid 2010

CO2: Under 210g/km

Fuel consumption: 31.0mpg

Engine: 3.0-litre V6 petrol combined with 51kW electric motor. In boost mode (engine and motor both active) 374PS is temporarily available.

Verdict: Petrol hybrids might not have been popular 12 to 18 months ago, but if diesel prices rise, the Touareg Hybrid could become an attractive option. The car features a limited 'electric-only' mode for up to 2km, traveling below 30mph, and the car will be the first hybrid 4x4 with a 3.5-tonne towing capacity.

Passat BlueMotion 2

Price: £17,327 (£18,438 for the estate)?

On sale: Now

CO2: 128g/km

Fuel consumption: 57.6mpg

Engine: 110PS 2.0-litre TDI.

Verdict: Volkswagen's Passat BlueMotion 2 is the only car from the four on these pages immediately available in the UK. Compared with the standard model, it offers advantages including better fuel economy, improved by 2.6mpg to 57.6mpg, and CO2 emissions, down 8g to 128g/km, as well as stop-start. These, plus a range of 870 miles, will be well worth the extra £465 to many.

Passat Blue TDI

Price: £17,000 (est)

On sale: tbc

CO2: 137g/km

Fuel consumption: 54.3mpg

Engine: Euro6 emissions-compliant 143PS 2.0-litre TDI. In short, VW's cleanest diesel ever.

Verdict: This technology-laden engine meets emissions targets set in place for 2014 and features a combination of a clever catalytic converter and an engine additive called AdBlue to help reduce levels of nitrogen oxides NOx in the fuel. Unfortunately it also increases CO2 and with current emphasis in the UK being on CO2, any decision to bring the Blue TDI here will probably depend on Government policy.

Passat TSI Ecofuel

Price: tbc (£18,000 for equivalent standard car)

On sale: tbc (on sale now in Europe)

CO2: 120g/km

Fuel consumption: 4.4kg/100km (compressed natural gas)

Engine: 150PS 1.4-litre TSI plus three CNG tanks (capacity: 21kg).

Verdict: Infrastructure is the main sticking point for launching this particular Passat in the UK. Combined, the petrol and natural gas onboard provide a range of 560 miles, half of which is from the CNG. VW says fleets with regular access to CNG refueling facilities will be the main group to benefit from the TSI Ecofuel.