The Car That Almost Was - EPautos - By eric (And how our benevolent government eats our lunch - EVERY TIME! Also, if this does not anger you - maybe you should check your pulse!)
In the department of What Might Have Been, we find a car almost no
one who isn’t a car industry insider has ever heard of – but which very
You haven’t heard of it for good reason.
Well, good reason . . . from the point of view of other insiders.
The ones inside the government.
It is a car VW briefly brought out to show what could be done –
and just as quickly withdrew. Probably because it showed what could be done.
This car was powered by a
1 liter diesel engine and achieved a verified 170 miles-per-gallon. With its
hybrid drive engaged, the mileage rose to an incredible 235 MPG. Put another
way, on about two gallons of diesel, this VW could go almost 500 miles before
it needed more diesel. And it would only need two more gallons to travel
another almost 500 miles.
How long does it take to pump 2 gallons of diesel? Not much
longer than it took you to read this article so far.
How long does it take to recharge an electric car? At least as
long as it takes to read a couple of chapters of Moby Dick.
How much does two gallons of diesel cost? About six bucks at
current prices – to go about 500 miles. Free transportation, almost
– and with almost no emissions produced, including the new “emission” (carbon
dioxide). When you burn almost no fuel, you emit almost no emissions.
Fewer emissions than electric
cars – which require a lot more energy to go 500 miles than that contained in
two gallons of diesel.
It is probably beginning to
occur to you why you never heard about the L1 – the name VW gave to its
diesel-hybrid prototype, which has gone the way of the 100 MPG carburetor.
Except the VW was real.
VW had publicly stated its intention to get a production car
based on the L1 to market by 2013. This was the apogee of VW’s diesel engine
juggernaut, which had expanded to include compression-ignition offerings of
almost every car it made. These were not expensive cars; they were cars
almost anyone who could afford a new car could afford.
You could buy TDI-powered
Golfs and Beetles and Jettas for about $22K that could peg 50-plus on the
highway, which was (and still is) nearly as good as the hyper-miling plug-in
Prius but much less expensive and without the battery pack and motors.
These cars were also
about half the price of the least expensive electric cars then (and still)
available and came without the range limitations or the recharge hassles.
Something had to be done.
VW found itself the focus of a curiously severe inquisition over
picayune – almost unmeasurable – variances in exhaust emissions. Nothing that
made any measurable difference in terms of air quality, at any rate.
Such variances happen often – federal regulatory rigmarole being
recondite rigmarole – but these discrepancies are usually – actually, always –
sorted out between the government regulators and the car companies without the
Except this time.
In a historically
unprecedented action, VW executives were criminally charged –
and frog-marched in irons before judges, who bore down on them with the threat
of hard time harder than that given to murderers – over
angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin regulatory infractions which have caused no
demonstrable harm to anyone.
But the L1 – and VW’s diesel engine program – threatened a great
deal of harm to the then-nascent electrification putsch which was just getting
under way in 2013 and which – six years later – is now ready to seize power,
VW’s diesel program had to be stopped. And was.
The L1 and production car derivates were aborted;the L1 itself
has been memory holed; it is so unknown it might as well never have existed.
This memory immolation was absolutely necessary in order to
avoid the problem of unhappy comparisons between what was possible – what was
on the verge of becoming available . . . and what is being forced down
While the L1 was a very small car intended as a commuter car,
one can extrapolate from the capability of a 1 liter diesel to the likely
capabilities of a 1.4 or so liter diesel in a subcompact car one notch smaller
than the current Golf – which, recall, could get 50 on the highway with a 2.0
Maybe not 170 MPG. But probably at least 70 MPG – and for a lot
less than the cost of an electric-powered mobility-reducer such as VW’s eGolf –
which costs time as well as money.
It goes about 120 miles on a charge – and costs $31,000 to
It doesn’t take less time than it took you to
read this article to recharge. It makes you sweat – literally – whether to use
the AC on a hot day. And shiver as you ponder whether to turn on the heat on a
The L1 and VW’s now-defunct line of diesel-powered cars let you
run the AC full blast all the time with no appreciable effect on the range. You
stayed cozy on cold days – because it costs nothing, energy-wise,
to run the heat as high as you liked.
Most ironically of all, VW’s
ultra-efficient diesels were environmentally sounder than the electric cars
being foisted upon us, if only because almost everyone could afford to
drive one while most people cannot afford to drive an electric
What is the benefit of a “zero emissions” electric car if it’s
too expensive for all but a small handful of people with the means to buy one?
Wouldn’t it be more
“environmentally sound” to reduce the emissions of the cars driven by average
people by whole numbers via double-digit gains in MPGs as opposed to
curb-stomping VW over fractions of whole numbers differences on some arcane
Such questions don’t bear
asking – because of the answers which might be forthcoming.
They must be
Along with the L1.
Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything
else? Click on the “ask
Eric”link and send ’em in!
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