VW introduces a car that gets around 235 miles per gallon (1 liter per 100km).
April 17, 2002 6:18 AM   Subscribe

VW introduces a car that gets around 235 miles per gallon (1 liter per 100km).
When should we expect Ford to release a commercial in which the newest heir to the auto dynasty relates how his father shot bears with Einstein and was told by him, in confidence, that he thought small cars were for whiny little babies?
posted by internetgeniuses (45 comments total)
Those new Ford commercials are great:

"My two great-grandfathers, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, used to take these camping trips every year with Thomas Edison (and whoever the president at the time was)."

I love the way the president is almost an afterthought. It wasn't even a permanent position. As soon as you're out of office no more rich-industrialist-camping for you!

Screw mileage. I was much more impressed by this new VW.
posted by pjdoland at 6:36 AM on April 17, 2002

Can someone please translate all of those goddamned metric statistics into good old regular American units of measurement? Liters and kilometers mean nothing to me.
posted by elvissinatra at 6:46 AM on April 17, 2002

Sure. It means the guy drove it at an average speed of 46 miles per hour. It's top speed is 75 miles per hour. And, it's got two seats in tandem. Prolly not gonna work in the land of SUVs...
posted by Irontom at 6:59 AM on April 17, 2002

An enclosed motorcycle that gets great milage doesn't impress me. And it's a diesel, and the EPA rightly keeps out European diesels due to carcinogenic emissions.

Don't hold your breath, unless you're standing next to one.
posted by NortonDC at 7:11 AM on April 17, 2002

Fuck it. I want one. It's still fast enough for the highway, and even if/when gas gets up to $2.00 per gallon, I can still drive up to Atlanta and back on four bucks or so.
posted by tpoh.org at 7:12 AM on April 17, 2002

It'll be such a headache scraping these out of my SUV's radiator after long trips. No thanks!
posted by gojomo at 7:27 AM on April 17, 2002

For crying out loud. They develop a car as beneficial as that but they make it look like it was designed by a five year old. People wont buy a toy shaped car, no matter how much some ponsy designer exercises their artistic license - duh!!!
posted by monkeyJuice at 7:31 AM on April 17, 2002

Did you look at the gallery? It looks like a cross between a bobsled and an electric shaver. But I would actually drive one, except I am sure that all the carbon-fiber and magnesium in it would put it out of my price range, and out of the price range of anyone who cares about the price of gas.
posted by donkeymon at 7:47 AM on April 17, 2002

235 miles per gallon? How about 5581 miles per gallon.
posted by normy at 7:49 AM on April 17, 2002

"provides sufficient space for the driver and one passenger"...bullspit!
I guarantee you I won't fit. At 6 feet and 4 inches tall(not sure what that is in metric), 90% of foreign cars are out of the question. Including 100% of the super fuel-efficient models available. I'd like to get 60 miles a gallon but driving while reaching around one's knees is definitely a hazard.
posted by srw12 at 7:52 AM on April 17, 2002

NortonDC: VW offers a diesel-powered engine on a number of their current sold-in-the-US models. They get remarkably good mileage, don't... errr... stink like diesel, and manage to engineer around the emissions. At least enough to get them sold here. I have no delusions about this new 235mpg beast being sold in the US. We still don't have (and probably never will) the Lupo (which is right around 100mpg), which is, I hear, quite popular in Germany.

monkeyJuice: I think this is one instance where design bows to functionality. Engineers concerned with drag and efficiency probably had more input than the industrial designers. For once.
posted by internetgeniuses at 8:04 AM on April 17, 2002

Omigod, PJ, that Bugatti is so cool! It even has diamonds at the center of two of the dashboard gauges. I want I want I want.
posted by Holden at 8:06 AM on April 17, 2002

MonkeyJuice: Haven't you seen the Toyota Echo? I used to agree with you, but some people seem to like cars that look like toys.
posted by jaden at 8:51 AM on April 17, 2002

Well! At least no one's cynical about it!

Seriously, I think it's great. Anything that get's us closer to less-pollutioning, less-reasource comsuming vehicles is a step forward, style be dammed. And personally, if I had the cash, I'd buy something smaller and more efficient for living in the city as I do, it's pretty silly to drive anything else here. It just makes sense.
posted by Hackworth at 8:56 AM on April 17, 2002

Haven't you seen the Toyota Echo? I used to agree with you, but some people seem to like cars that look like toys. Yup. ;-)
posted by thunder at 9:05 AM on April 17, 2002

speaking of cars that look like toys...

and this one's even okay for the gas guzzling set to like! it burns gasoline! in copious amounts! and it's really big! and it looks like a toy! but at least it's not one of those sucky unsafe echos!
posted by chrisege at 9:07 AM on April 17, 2002

I personally love the Ford commercial where William Clay Ford Jr. says something like, "If I could drive just one car for the rest of my life, it would be a red Mustangs ..."

What exactly is stopping the current Chairman of Ford from being able to drive any Ford he wants? And what is he actually driving these days anyway?
posted by quirked at 9:07 AM on April 17, 2002

well... he did say just one...
posted by techgnollogic at 9:25 AM on April 17, 2002

If we're going the three-wheeled motorcycle route, I've always been a fan of the Mercedes F 300 Life-Jet.

And people don't buy cars that look like toys? There are a *lot* of happy VW Bug drivers out there, both the old butg and the new one. Also, if you ask me, the Miata, the MBW Z3, Audi TT, and Porche Boxter all look like squashed toys to me...
posted by kfury at 10:51 AM on April 17, 2002

Not to mention PT Cruisers and Prowlers.
posted by kindall at 11:12 AM on April 17, 2002

Ferrari FX's first photo was released yesterday. I love it! It looks very different from normal Ferrari supercars, but if you think about the similarities with a Formula 1 car, you'll see why it's so good.
posted by riffola at 11:20 AM on April 17, 2002

RE: srw12's complaint about not fitting in foreign cars, we're talking GERMAN cars here, not Japanese. The Germans aren't known for being short, which is why you probably fit just fine in a BMW or a Mercedes.

And re: the cynicism over fuel efficient cars. GET OVER IT, or get to work rebuilding the ecosystem yourself.
posted by arielmeadow at 11:25 AM on April 17, 2002

Or get a motorcycle.
posted by NortonDC at 11:41 AM on April 17, 2002

There are motorcycles with six-cylinder engines. And a reverse gear. And antilock brakes. Factory installed. From Honda, no less.
posted by NortonDC at 12:02 PM on April 17, 2002

The bloody thing looks like some kind of space age Batmobile, except the Batmobile never blew away in the wind.
posted by tomorama at 12:23 PM on April 17, 2002

skallas - Where did you get six-cylinder from, anyway? It's got one cylinder, and it produdes a whopping 8.5 horsepower.

The ultimate trouble sign: it has Aeron-style steats. Run!
posted by NortonDC at 12:35 PM on April 17, 2002

A light and small car, but still a car more-so than a bike.

You could always put a sidecar on a motorcycle, going to three wheels and a possible enclosure, but that would be an unfair comparison since it would accomodate more people than that VW.
posted by NortonDC at 12:42 PM on April 17, 2002

At 6 feet and 4 inches tall(not sure what that is in metric), 90% of foreign cars are out of the question

I'm 6'3" and fit in a Honda Insight just fine...
posted by andnbsp at 1:13 PM on April 17, 2002

A composite monster like this even in mass production is going to be for the luxury/sports car demographic.

Wouldn't be at all surprised if the price could be comparable to a "modern" steel, aluminum and plastic car in true mass quantity.

Carbon-fibre panels can be vacuum-formed and the magnesium frame would be cheaper than steel, since magnesium is cast and bolted - no heat, no big machines, no welding, just pouring stuff into molds. of course magnesium is flamable...
posted by jonnyp at 1:25 PM on April 17, 2002

Regarding the mockery of the Echo. I actually saw one today where someone had debadged the "TOYOTA" on the back so that it just read "TOY". I couldn't help but laugh.
posted by jammer at 1:48 PM on April 17, 2002

skallas: where are motorcycles not legally allowed?
posted by jaek at 1:57 PM on April 17, 2002

Oh god a flaming magnesium car...that's pretty damned scary.

Anyway as Mr. Kamen says, cars are wholly inappropriate for urban transportation. Anything with 2 seats and a smaller footprint is a step in the right direction.
posted by Settle at 2:33 PM on April 17, 2002

Unlike the Sinclair C5 or the ghastly new BMW half-motorcycle half-somethingelse contraption, this is actually a car. It's fully enclosed, the front looks like a car, and even though the interior is teeny, it is actually a car.

This is the ideal car for someone like me. My car can hold five people, but its rare for anyone other than me to be in it! I could do with that kinda economy.. although there are cars in the British market that get 80mpg out of regular designs anyway. This kinda looks like something Batman would design.

Imagine the 'sports' version of one of these.. seeing one of those shoot down the autobahn at 150mph doing 150mpg would be some serious stuff.

I like it. It has enough loading room for my simple needs and is cheap to run.. as long as it had a CD player, I'd be a very happy bunny with that car.
posted by wackybrit at 2:50 PM on April 17, 2002

Well, if Metafilter is any indication about how America is going to deal with dependance on foreign oil in the future, we're going to be slaves in 25 years.

Nearly all of you just spit and sneer at any new vehicle that comes down the pike. "Boohoo! It'll get crunched on by an SUV," or "Wah-wah! I'm not impressed!"

For supposedly forward thinking, technology oriented people, you're mostly all just a bunch of curmudgeony old fogeys. 100 years ago, you'd all be yelling "get a horse!"

Well, get this, sparky: unless we start accepting high efficiency vehicles pretty soon, we'll all be sending our paychecks right to the Shieks in Saudi.

So kiss and slobber all you want on that Suburban you have in the driveway now, but know that you'll be buying something more like this VW tomorrow, or else.
posted by crunchland at 2:57 PM on April 17, 2002

Yeah, crunchland: Suburban, motorcycle--same diff!
posted by NortonDC at 3:07 PM on April 17, 2002

NortonDC: "And it's a diesel, and the EPA rightly keeps out European diesels due to carcinogenic emissions."

-- Adding diesel vehicles to the passenger fleet would increase our options in event of serious oil price hikes / gas shortage. Running these diesel passenger vehicles on an 80% biodiesel / 20% petroleum fuel mixture would give government initiatives like the Alternative Fuels Data Center and INEL a chance to get us converted over without shutting everyone down. As I understand it, biodiesel burns cleaner, but may smell like french fries ... (I've noticed new smells on some stretches of interstate out here in the heartland, so there may be more biodiesel happening than meets the eye.)

Further info: Alternative Fuel Vehicles Directory.
posted by sheauga at 6:30 PM on April 17, 2002

Okay, and what part of your comment addresses cancer? Or leads me to think any of your links will?
posted by NortonDC at 7:13 PM on April 17, 2002

"What exactly is stopping the current Chairman of Ford from being able to drive any Ford he wants?" nothing. "And what is he actually driving these days anyway?" anything he wants.
posted by clavdivs at 7:41 PM on April 17, 2002

the only reason most people even drive an SUV these days is to have room to fit their ego. i can't remember the last time i saw an SUV with anything in it other than the driver.

it's really sad to hear the same lame ass comment every time someone links to an article about a new fuel efficient vehicle... "that'll never survive an impact with an SUV," well, fuck SUVs... they don't stand a chance against a city bus or an 18 wheeler but that's not stopping people from driving them. besides, i get everywhere in town i need to on a scooter and while i don't particularly care for the idea of being hit by anything, it doesn't stop me from being a responsible citizen of planet earth. people are just so wrapped up in the image of big vehicles they don't need or use. you could probably drive a toyota echo around for a 1/4 the price of an expedition (not to mention the lower initial cost of the car) and just rent a truck when you need one and still save tons of money.

damn. it's getting late and i've drifted off into blabberland. sorry.
posted by ggggarret at 10:39 PM on April 17, 2002

It's all well and good if you value your own life so little that you're willing to ride around town in a flimsy deathtrap, but surely you don't expect everyone else to be so disinterested in their own mortality. Most of us are much more interested in ourselves than in an abstraction like "the environment." That is a fact of life; it is not going to change no matter how much you preach about it.

However, oil consumption is a problem that clearly must be addressed. Not for the environment (nobody will get their ass in gear for a bunch of trees and snails) but to end our dependence on the Middle East. Diesel is obviously the way forward, at least in the near term; it can be, as noted, made largely from biological sources. Further, even if you're making it from oil, diesel doesn't need to be refined as much as gasoline, which means you get more usable fuel from a given unit of crude than you do with gas. Diesel engines also need less maintenance (an oil change once a year if you use a synthetic, and no tune-ups ever -- you only need tune-ups on cars that have ignition systems, and diesels don't), and the engines last longer too, reducing consumption further.

And asserting that a vehicle that gets 235 MPG generates more carcinogens per mile than one that gets a tenth of that, just because one's diesel and the other is gas-powered, is just unsupportable. Especially with VW already selling diesels in the US.
posted by kindall at 8:37 PM on April 18, 2002

You know, kindall, I'm not just pulling this out of my ass:
Direct Particulates. Recent data indicates that
diesels emit at least 10 and perhaps as much as 300
times more PM mass than properly operating modern
gasoline vehicles (Table 5). Many factors—such as
vehicle age, condition, temperature, and driving cycle
—can impact these vehicle-to-vehicle comparisons.
For example, gasoline cars that are malfunctioning
can increase PM emissions by a factor of 100.
But even emissions from malfunctioning gasoline
cars appear to be several times lower than from diesel


Carcinogenesis. In addition to its contribution to
mainstream air pollution problems, major public
health agencies also consider diesel exhaust a potential
human carcinogen (Table 3). While diesel exhaust
contains over 40 compounds thought to cause
cancer (CalEPA 1998a), most public health studies of
diesel exhaust have focused on the aggregate emissions
rather than on specific compounds. In its recent
ruling, however, the California Air Resources Board
voted to list only diesel exhaust particulates as a
toxic, rather than whole diesel exhaust, which contains
both particulates and vapor-phase emissions
(CARB 1998b).

Studies of humans routinely exposed to diesel
exhaust indicate a greater risk of lung cancer. For example,
occupational health studies of railroad, dock,
trucking, and bus garage workers exposed to high
levels of diesel exhaust over many years consistently
demonstrate a 20–50 percent increase in the risk of
lung cancer or mortality (HEI 1995; Bhatia et al.

Even at the average rates of exposure experienced
by most people, diesel exhaust poses a potential cancer
risk. Extrapolating from epidemiological studies,
at current exposure levels it is estimated that up to
450 of every million Californians are at risk of contracting
lung cancer as a result of lifetime exposure to
diesel exhaust, or over 14,000 residents.


Emissions modeling suggests that lifetime average
NOx emissions from diesel vehicles are roughly
twice that of gasoline cars being sold in some states
by 1999 and the rest of the country by 2001 (Table 4).
These results must be viewed with caution, however,
because the EPA model used to construct these estimates
is based on relatively little diesel vehicle emissions


Toxics. Comprehensive and detailed comparisons
of the carcinogenic properties of diesel exhaust
versus gasoline exhaust have not been made, but early
evaluations suggest that important differences may
exist. For example, the International Agency for Research
on Cancer has classified diesel engine exhaust
as “probably carcinogenic” but assigned gasoline exhaust
a lower risk of “possibly carcinogenic” (IARC

More detailed and recent research into gasoline
has focused on specific toxic compounds, such as
benzene or 1,3 butadiene, rather than whole gasoline
exhaust.17 Current evidence suggests that diesel exhaust
is more potent than these individual toxic constituents
(as measured by its unit risk); however, a
complete risk assessment would need to compare
public exposure to these compounds as well as their
potency relative to diesel (Table 6).


Emission Regulations. Today’s diesel passenger
vehicles are allowed to emit more of two key pollutants,
nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter
(PM), than their gasoline counterparts under existing
regulations, the Federal “Tier 1” standards (Table 7).
This loophole is largest for diesel automobiles and
some small pickups and sport-utility vehicles, for
which NOx standards are over two times higher than
for gasoline cars. Although gasoline vehicles are not
required to meet a PM standard, their emissions are
typically 16 times lower than the PM standards for
diesel cars.
Note that this does include direct injection diesels, the same engine technology as in the vehicle that sparked the discussion.
posted by NortonDC at 7:17 AM on April 19, 2002

I remember stepping off the plane in Munich, and noticing a distinctly different smell in the air - like strong truck exhaust... then again, maybe it was that I was at an airport.

And if deisel causes 10 times the cancer, but uses 1/10th the gas of a regular gas guzzling SUV, does that all make it a wash?

As for the dangerousness of this car over any other, including an SUV... if you get hit by a bus or a semi in this car or in your Suburban, you'll be just as dead. The Suburban won't make you any less dead. You'll just be more broke because of all the times you spent $60 to fill up your humongous gas tank.
posted by crunchland at 8:01 AM on April 19, 2002

Cool. Good to see facts on that. Still, maybe that can be fixed if we want to badly enough. They fixed many of the other problems with diesels, I'm sure this issue is solvable as well.
posted by kindall at 8:22 AM on April 19, 2002

There's a Canadian company named Westport Innovations that is making super-efficient (or is it super-low-emmisions?) diesel engines. They're getting tossed into buses all over the place. Stock is a recommended buy.

Anyone else heard of 'em? Seen their product in action? Understand what all the hoopla is about?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:11 AM on April 19, 2002

They reduce emissions by running on natural gas instead of normal diesel fuel.
posted by NortonDC at 11:07 AM on April 19, 2002

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