Jetta TDI Throws Down with the Prius

I was in Miami recently and had the opportunity to rent a Toyota Prius. I’ve never driven a Prius before and once I actualy figured out how to drive it, it was quite fun. But as gas prices continue to climb in the wake of Memorial Day, I was most impressed with the gas mileage. So when I saw the new Jetta TDI commerical this weekend where the car is compared to a Prius I found it quite amusing.

The Jetta TDI claims that it gets 58 miles per gallon (mpg), breaking the record for all current “gasoline” fueled cars, even beating the Toyota Prius – a hybrid. I might have grown skeptical in my old age, but I’m having a hard time swallowing this claim to fuel economy. What, were they driving 20 mph on the highway and never stopping? It is interesting to note that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists the vehicle as getting an estimated 30 mpg city/41mpg highway – and that’s running the air conditioner (a claim of the commercial). Do you want to take bets on a “false advertising” campaign circulating in the blogosphere?

I know this car appeals to a lot of people. According to the commercial it’s fun to drive and makes a great “vroom, vroom” sound that is “missing” in the Prius. For those who are concerned about fuel economy this car, comparably speaking, gets good gas mileage. It could also be argued that it’s ahead of the curve of the new fuel economy standards that were passed last week. This new policy will go into effect in 2012 and ramp up through 2016 and will require passenger cars and light trucks to get an overall average of 35.5 mpg by 2016 (it is currently 23.1) while cars are expected to average 39 mpg (currently 27.5) and trucks will be required to get 30 mpg.

Interesting policy considering hybrids like the Prius already exceed these new standards. I’m not going to debate the new fuel economy standards but I will say that it doesn’t go far enough on reducing our use of fossil fuels. America needs to support technologies that have a greater impact on reducing our dependence of oil like flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in, flex-fuel hybrids, hydrogen, and others.

I wonder what car company will go after hybrids next….

Joanna Schroeder

Joanna is a writer and consultant specializing in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture issues.