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Diesel Better Than Hybrid? So Says Volkswagen Chairman

January 11, 2005

LOS ANGELES — Speaking in front of a crowd in a state where his company's diesel products cannot be sold, the chairman of Volkswagen argued that diesel technology remains the most practical means of increasing fuel economy for the automotive industry, according to the Web site on January 6. Opening the LA Auto Show on January 5, Bernd Pischetsrieder, VW CEO, said what is needed in the immediate future "are practical solutions using infrastructure that already exists," and, "the available solution is diesel technology." Volkswagen's cars, which command a large portion of Europe's diesel-powered market-share, are not eligible to be sold in five American states due to environmental regulations. California, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont restrict the sale of new diesel engine vehicles. Pischetsrieder detailed VW's plans to continue reducing emissions from diesels with a dual effort – developing high-percentage biodiesel fuel as well as synthetic fuel — which both simultaneously reduce dependency on diminishing petroleum reserves. Biodiesel, in particular, he said, reduces emissions in direct proportion to the amount of biomass used to produce the fuel. So a 20-percent biodiesel blend, which VW is developing with a major food producer, will reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent. While admitting hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are technologically fascinating, "they are not a real solution or a viable one," Pischetsrieder said. "In the end, [it's] not what works in the laboratory but what the consumer accepts," he added. He also called gasoline-electric hybrid powertrains something of a fad, noting that the fuel savings comes from stop-and-go city traffic, and that "in long-distance travel on the highway the hybrid car has no advantage." VW is developing a diesel-electric hybrid, and while they are excited about it, the immediate, "best solution is a diesel engine and not a hybrid," Pischetsrieder said. "This means we at Volkswagen think we are very well positioned."
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