VW Debuts Tiguan HyMotion Fuel-Cell Vehicle and 2009 Clean Diesel Jetta

VW Tiguan HyMotion Fuel-Cell Vehicle

Tiguan HyMotion Fuel Cell Concept Car

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to attend a VW press event showing off the new hydrogen fuel cell powered Tiguan. The vehicle (above) is one of only two concept prototypes in the world, and this one was flown in from Germany for its US debut.

The event was originally intended to be a test-drive of the HyMotion Tiguan, but the vehicle was having “electrical problems” that kept it out for display only. A VW spokesperson assured us that it had nothing to do with the fuel cell, but whatever the problem was they didn’t want it to happen to us in mid-day San Francisco traffic.

But it was a good opportunity to get under the hood of a fuel cell powered vehicle. The Tiguan HyMotion has an onboard carbon-fiber tank capable of storing 3.2 kg of compressed hydrogen, which gives it a range of about 160 miles. It has a lithium-ion battery that serves as auxiliary energy storage and is re-powered by braking energy or the fuel cell. (In case you aren’t familiar with fuel cells, they can power an electric drivetrain by using electricity generated from splitting hydrogen molecules. More on how fuel cells work.)

Tiguan HyMotion Fuel Cell Vehicle

Where does the hydrogen come from? Well, noone really knows yet. Unlike GM, who backed a new hydrogen refueling station near LA the other day, VW does not have any plans to invest in infrastructure. The Tiguan HyMotion is just a prototype that allows them to play around with the technology, and they said it was at least 7 years away from any kind of commercial production.

On the other hand, VW did let us test drive the new 2009 2.0L Jetta “clean” TDI Sedan (which will be released in the US in August) and the gas-powered 2.0L Tiguan TSI. I took the wheel of the Tiguan first, which felt like just about any other new car but was noticeably sluggish in responding to the gas pedal. I wasn’t particularly impressed by its 18 mpg city / 25 mpg highway rating either.

But the Jetta sedan was worth waiting around for. Having zero experience with newer diesels (I own a 1987 Toyota Truck, which is a heartless 2L diesel), I was surprised to find out just about everything they’ve been saying is true: the new diesels are so quiet you can hardly tell it’s a diesel, except at idle, and it handles like any other comparable sedan on the road.

It also has power. Close your ears/eyes VW, but during the downtown SF test drive I was somehow able to hit a clear straightaway onto a freeway onramp that left my passenger and I deeply imprinted in our seats. If you’re worried about acceleration and horsepower in these new diesels, well, don’t be.

It’s been several years since VW introduced a new model diesel in the US, due to the implementation of strict new emissions standards. I’ve written before (see Clean Diesel Cars Coming to US This Fall: 2008-2010 Timeline) about how the new clean diesel Jetta has cleaner emissions than your average car. My only gripe is that the EPA mileage estimate is listed as 29 mpg city / 40 mpg highway. Older Jetta’s seem relatively well-known for getting up to 55 mpg, and I’m not sure if the difference has to do with the new emissions technology or changes in horsepower.

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Tiguan HyMotion Fuel Cell Vehicle

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2009 Clean Diesel Jetta TDI

 

Clayton

In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.