There won't be a replacement for the current 1.6 TDI.
Volkswagen’s efforts towards greener and more efficient mobility are shifting into a higher gear, as the company has decided to halt the development of a new 1.5-liter diesel engine in favor of a petrol-electric hybrid system. According to the German automaker’s head of research and development, Frank Welsch, the ever stricter CO2 and NOx emissions, combined with the high engineering costs, have forced the company to focus on mild hybrid powertrains and abandon its small diesel engine strategy.
Welsch spoke to Autocar at the international media launch of the facelifted Golf in Spain and confirmed the key factor for the decision was the extremely high costs of developing. The German manufacturer wanted to launch a replacement for the current 1.6 TDI engine, originally scheduled to arrive in 2018 with the new generation Volkswagen Polo with lower CO2 and NOx emissions.
“The added cost is anything from €600 to €800 in material costs just for the after-treatment system,” he told Autocar. “The after-treatment system is as expensive as the engine itself. To add a diesel in the Polo, it is 25 percent of the car itself.”
Welsch believes the future belongs to hybridization and this is the only technology that could offer an answer to the more strict emission and fuel efficiency regulations. “In a time not so far away, people will go for petrol engines in combination with a mild hybrid. A mild hybrid, in the end, is cheaper and has the same CO2 (as a small capacity diesel) with a lot less NOx,” he said.
In the coming years, Volkswagen will invest in new electric systems that will be used in the future hybrid powertrain. “In most cases, it will be a 48-volt system for recuperation. Our latest system develops four times as much energy in recuperation.”
Given the decision to axe the 1.5 diesel, Volkswagen will have to update and continue to sell the 1.6 TDI, but the engine’s days are numbered. It will remain on sale for the next “three to four years, maybe five,” as Welsch explained. Meanwhile, VW will also cease production of its smaller 1.4-liter, three-cylinder diesel unit, still available for the current Polo. On the other hand, the 2.0 TDI, one of the company's most popular engines in Europe, definitely has "a great future" with a new generation coming "in one or one and half years."