07 June 2011 by Parkers Team

  • VW's first test vehicle - a Caddy van - due later this year
  • Compressed natural gas power not practical says VW
  • VW wants Government to clarify EV subsidies for fleets

Volkwagen is to begin looking at electric fleet vehicles as it builds on the success of its BlueMotion technology.

The project has already started, and the first test vehicle - a Caddy van - should arrive in the UK later this year.

The main advantages of electric vehicles - or EVs - are that tailpipe CO2 emissions are zero and they're significantly cheaper to run day-to-day than most other solutions.

'Filling up' your typical EV currently costs a couple of pounds in electricity, and with the sharp hikes in fuel costs seen over recent years more and more people are looking at switching to electric power. Renault, Citroen, Peugeot, Mitsubishi and Nissan all have electric cars available to buy now, and it seems the Germans want in on the action too. 

What's wrong with other solutions? Compressed Natural Gas seems a popular alternative.

"Big fleet customers such as British Gas and Eon aren't interested in solutions such as CNG," explained a VW spokesperson. "The infrastructure just isn't there for it, and big investment is required to set it up in the first place.

"You can't refill your CNG car at home as a large unit is required to compress the gas, meaning vehicles will need to return to work to fill up, thus reducing flexibility. When firms like British Gas, who have all the natural gas they need, decide CNG isn't going to work then you have to think it isn't the best solution."

However, it's not clear when the first Volkswagen-badged EV will hit showrooms.

The spokesman added: "Before we decide whether it's a good idea or not we need to be able to demonstrate the total cost of EV ownership, and whether that cost is less than the equivalent BlueMotion vehicle. We also need clarification on what the Government is doing to encourage fleet EVs. There's the £5,000 subsidy for personal cars, but what about an incentive for fleets? There's no clear policy."

With so many EVs already available from other manufacturers, aren't VW a bit late to the party?

"Yes, added the spokesman, "but part of what makes VW such a successful brand is that we don't launch products that don't work. Before launching an EV we need to make sure both that it works and that it's bulletproof. Reliability is very important."