Saturday 3 December 2016

Eddie Cunningham drives Volkswagen’s new plug-in hybrid, the Passat GTE

Published 20/07/2015 | 19:55

Volkswagen’s new plug-in hybrid, the Passat GTE
Volkswagen’s new plug-in hybrid, the Passat GTE

I’ve just got 74MPG (3.8litre/100km) from a Volkswagen Passat.

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I wasn’t driving slowly or trying to build up eco-brownie points.

I drove it normally here in Amsterdam, around city streets, byroads and highways.

And I floored it on the motorway.

Explaining that significant fuel sipping figure is the fact that this is a Passat GTE – that’s plug-in hybrid (PHEV) to you and me.

The Passat is the latest PHEV in the VW stable to go the plug-in route. Essentially it combines a 1.4-litre TSi petrol engine (156bhp) and an electric motor (a total of 218bhp) as all hybrids do, but it has an additional battery charging capacity which gives you 50km electric-only driving as well. And that’s what contributes to the low fuel consumption because not alone does the engine charge the batteries on the run, you can charge them up overnight too. And if you’re commuting you might not need the engine at all.

Frankly, you don’t notice much of the interchange between one mode and the other - except when you press the GTE button. Then this fuel-sipping motor transforms into a performance beast that roars into life.

So you have one or all of the following: an electric car, a hybrid or a performance motor. Overall emissions are a mere 37g/100km (€180 road tax).

For that you will have to pay somewhere in the region of €45,000. Ouch! And that’s after €5,000 SEAI grant and €2,500 VRT rebate. Ouch! again.

It is due here next year and we can only hope that maybe it might come down in price by then.

More people deserve to get a chance to drive something like this and one sure way of doing that is price.

With a range of 1,100km it would suit families at weekends and, with 50km electric power, it would accommodate a large number of commuters.

At the moment PHEVs are in their infancy but are increasingly seen as one of the key answers to a future of low emissions and tougher regulations. Sales are expected to expand exponentially over the coming years. And more governments are likely to bestow tax incentives on them due to their lower emissions.

It is estimated that purchases will go from around 200,000 a year globally to more than three million by 2022.

Here’s hoping the economies of scale will apply and prices will come down as sales go up.

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