In parallel with the advancing electrification of its fleet, Volkswagen Group and its brands continue to rely on CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) as an alternative drive technology for decarbonizing road transport, and the product range has been revised and expanded again with this in mind. Volkswagen Group currently offers the widest selection of CNG vehicles of any manufacturer, by a substantial margin. At the annual general meeting in mid-May 2019, Herbert Diess, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, announced that CNG will continue to play an important role for the Group in the future: “We are the global market leader for gas drive systems, and better positioned than our competitors. We also plan to continue further expanding and improving this technology.”
Using CNG as an energy source for automobiles meaningfully contributes to reducing emissions, as well as representing a cost-efficient customer alternative to petrol and diesel. “Volkswagen is committed to the Paris Climate Agreement. CNG has an important role to play in the alternative drive systems strategy that runs alongside the Group’s electrification offensive. It is sufficiently proven, immediately available, efficient and cost-effective. Furthermore, CNG cars are not affected by driving bans in city centres,” explains Stephen Neumann, Volkswagen Group Representative for CNG Mobility. He adds: “Refuelling with biomethane or e-gas results in an even better CO2 balance. Biomethane is obtained from organic residues, while e-gas is produced from excess green electricity (power-to-gas). Both can easily be fed into the gas network and mixed with any amount of fossil natural gas.” Volkswagen Group brands and their industry partners have been working in this field for some time; Audi has been operating the world’s first industrial power-to-gas plant in Werlte (Emsland) since 2013, for example, with the Audi e-gas produced from wind power being fed into the natural gas grid – making Audi both a participant and a catalyst in the energy revolution. Green energy is made available to vehicle customers, while at the same time the storage of fluctuating eco-power and its research in practice enables the rapid expansion of wind and solar energy, which is also important to the success of e-mobility.
The CNG model range becomes ever-more attractive
Volkswagen Group currently offers 17 models in various vehicle segments. Two more models will soon be added, in the form of the ŠKODA Scala, which will celebrate its world première as a CNG variant at the CNG Mobility Days, and the ŠKODA Kamiq. The range encompasses everything from the small car segment through the compact class at Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT and ŠKODA, to Audi premium vehicles in the business segment and light commercial vehicles. Thanks to the ever-expanding CNG model range, sales figures in 2018 almost doubled compared to the previous year.
In the new CNG models such as the Polo TGI (66 kW/90 PS) and Golf TGI (96 kW/130 PS), the fuel tank has been significantly reduced in size, an additional CNG cylinder has been installed in the vehicles, and a quasi-monovalent CNG drive system has been developed. This combination of factors represents Volkswagen’s response to many customers’ preference for increased range in natural gas operation – a fully established concept as seen in the long-range Caddy from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. In addition, the VW Golf TGI and Golf Variant TGI (96 kW/130 PS) have been equipped with an engine optimised for CNG use, featuring particularly low fuel consumption, higher power output and improved engine output even at low engine speeds.
In the latest ADAC Ecotest, the Polo TGI proved that CNG models can be economical, clean and at the same time very attractive. It was one of seven models with the highest rating of five stars, and the only vehicle with a combustion engine in this group. With 95 points, it achieved the best result so far in 2019. With the SEAT Arona 1.0 TGI, the Spanish company is the first manufacturer worldwide to offer CNG technology as a model in SUV format, the fastest-growing vehicle segment. The new 2.0 TFSI engine from Audi, as used in the A5 Sportback g-tron for example, emphasises that a CNG model can also be very sporty and dynamic. The power unit, which recently won the International Engine of the Year award in the 150 to 250 PS category, can also be used as a CNG engine.
CNG is of huge importance for trucks and buses too
For the first time, the MAN and SCANIA brands will also be reporting on the latest developments for trucks and buses, as part of the CNG Mobility Days. According to the new emissions standards in the European Union, by 2030 CO2 emissions must fall 30% from 2019 levels – a goal that is virtually unattainable using conventional drive types. CNG, which already has 15% lower fuel consumption than diesel vehicles, is an immediately available and usable alternative for trucks and buses. At present, a particularly persuasive argument in favour of using CNG – especially for haulage companies – is the exemption from tolls for natural gas-powered trucks.
Circle of CNG industry partners expanded
The action alliance of Volkswagen Group with industry partners gained further momentum recently, with the accession to the CNG industry group of natural gas filling station operator OrangeGas and Italian natural gas transmission system operator Snam S.p.A. (Società Nazionale Metanodotti). The objective of the CNG Mobility industry group is to proportionately expand the vehicle range, infrastructure and filling station network together.
The subject area of sustainability is also reflected in the design of the CNG Mobility Days, in which great importance has been attached to climate-friendly implementation to reduce the event’s own CO2 footprint. This has affected choices in relation to furniture, conference seating and materials, the selection of local contractors, and the regional sourcing of catering services to avoid unnecessary transport and excess waste.