Volkswagen has announced that its new Golf Plus BiFuel model is now available for order…in Europe. Running on LPG (liquified petroleum gas, or propane as we call it), the Golf Plus BiFuel reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about ten percent while—in Germany, where fuel costs are much higher—saving 6.10 euros per 100 kilometers (nearly 14 cents per mile) compared to gasoline.
As in most bi-fuel vehicles, the system employs two different tanks, with the ability to switch back and forth between LPG and gasoline with a toggle switch. It comes with a 55-liter (14.5-gallon) gasoline tank and a 43-liter (11.4-gallon) LPG tank built into the spare-tire well. Range has been an issue with some previous propane and natural-gas vehicles, but the Golf Plus BiFuel can go more than 270 miles, and together the two tanks have a range of about 680 miles.
The 97-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine in the Golf Plus BiFuel likely won't move this hatchback quickly, but it gets about 31 mpg on gasoline, or 24 mpg on natural gas. The Golf Plus BiFuel isn't cheap; it starts at 22,460 euros—the current equivalent of about $31,500 U.S. dollars.
But to budget-conscious European drivers, the economics of it make more sense. Gasoline currently costs about $5.12 per gallon in Germany, according to gasoline-germany.com, while LPG costs about $3.29. In the U.S., gas prices averaged $2.62 for the week ending June 8, while LPG sells in the $1.50 to $2.00 range.
2009 Volkswagen Golf Plus BiFuel (Europe)Enlarge Photo
While aftermarket conversions for LPG have been popular in some regions of the U.S. for fleets of full-size pickups in particular, they've never caught on as a new-vehicle option. Just over the past year, T. Boone Pickens' so-called Pickens Plan for energy independence has thrown propane back into the spotlight.
Honda has offered a CNG (compressed natural gas) option for its Civic now for several years, available in the 2009 Honda Civic GX.
A BiFuel variant of the regular Golf is already available in Europe. The Golf Plus body style brings a taller roofline for more interior space. Although there are still no plans to bring the Plus to the U.S. in the next two years, a Volkswagen of America spokesman said that the company might reevaluate this decision in light of the new 2016 fuel-economy standards.