How dangerous are natural gas cars?

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Natural gas cars are rolling time bombs?

Aral filling stations stop selling natural gas for the time being

After the explosion of a VW natural gas car, Aral temporarily stops the sale of natural gas at its filling stations. The cause of the accident is unclear; The driver was seriously injured. Source: The World

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Since an explosion, VW drivers have not received any natural gas from Aral – unless they have a certificate. Is the environmentally friendly fuel a safety risk? What guilt does the VW group bear?

Ob in Gothenburg, Wolfratshausen or recently in Duderstadt: The pictures of tattered VW Tourans are always the same. And they are reminiscent of car bomb attacks. In reality, however, the natural gas tanks made porous by rust caused the devastation.

Because the steel tanks filled with 200 bar high pressure cracked at the weakest point when refueling and triggered a huge pressure wave. "The tank then bursts open like a sausage that has been left on the grill for too long." That’s how VW spokesman Christian Buhlmann describes it.

As has now become known, in the Duderstadt case, the owner of the Touran EcoFuel followed a recall by Volkswagen, but without having the clearly ailing tanks replaced free of charge.

According to "world" information, the inspection revealed that he had worn off the plastic cover over the front of the four tanks. He would have had to pay this himself, but he did not want to pay the deductible of 400 euros. So he left the workshop without having achieved anything. An accident occurred a month later.

The first, small recall from Volkswagen

The Touran owner seems to be partly to blame in this case, but the problem of "porous natural gas tanks" has been known since at least 2012. On August 3 of that year in Wolfratshausen, Bavaria, the driver of a Touran EcoFuel was so badly injured in an explosion that he had to be flown to the hospital by rescue helicopter. Even then, a porous gas tank in the car with a total of four bottles (two in front of, two behind the rear axle) was considered the likely cause.

The pressure wave was so great that parts of the petrol tank installed as an emergency reserve in a natural gas car broke through a nearby garage door. The car was five years old at the time and had driven 80,000 kilometers.

As a result, Wolfsburg launched its first, albeit small, recall campaign in October 2012. The reason given was: "Possible corrosion damage due to insufficient iron / phosphating protection." The owners of Touran Ecofuel with a production date of September 2005 to May 2009 were written to. Around 6800 addresses in Germany. But only the rear tanks were exchanged, the front ones only if they were already visibly rusted.

The general inspection is best carried out with the tank uncovered

The case in Wolfratshausen was followed by at least two more in Sweden, in 2015 and 2016, and now the refueling accident in Duderstadt added. The black series damages the reputation of a fuel that is considered to be significantly more environmentally friendly than diesel, gasoline or LPG.

The nitrogen oxides, which are particularly harmful to health, are around 89 for CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), and fine dust particles even almost 100 percent below the values ​​of a diesel. Hydrocarbons (-87 percent) and CO2 (-15 percent) are also lower. The natural gas supplied by local energy companies from the public network to independent and branded filling stations is offered at more than 900 locations in Germany – with Aral (189) as the market leader.

How dangerous are natural gas cars?-dangerous

A natural gas vehicle. Free filling stations supply Aral with natural gas

Source: pa / JOKER

As a result of the first recall, the testing organizations also became aware of the problem: For example, Dekra advised, In future, the main inspection of natural gas cars will only be carried out in connection with exposed tanks. Because especially under the plastic covers, the rust likes to eat away and is hidden.

Especially when road salt is still used intensively in winter. That had bad consequences at least twice: At a petrol station in Linkoping, at the beginning of May 2015, nothing more happened because nobody was in the car at the moment of the explosion. On July 4, 2016, a guide dog sitting in the trunk was killed in a suburb of Gothenburg, also in an explosion.

Sorry disputes over goodwill requests

Parallel to the incidents in Sweden, letters from frustrated owners of VW natural gas cars were increasing in the trade magazine “Auto Bild”. Including serviced, only three-year-old models. And for the first time also those of the Passat EcoFuel type.

VW wanted a cost share of up to 2000 euros when replacing the rotten tanks, there were annoying disputes over goodwill applications, it said in these letters. The last-mentioned point in particular is astonishing: While various product recalls in Sweden were always free of charge for those affected, the manufacturer seemed to be financially squeezing its German customers. "Where’s a big recall?", Wrote "Auto Bild".

It came, even in a double pack – but not until 2016. First on June 2, again for Touran models produced from 2005 to 2009. This time the front tanks were also checked and replaced free of charge. At the beginning of September, VW even expanded the campaign – to include Tourans produced up to May 2010, plus Caddys (2005 to 2010) and Passats (2008 to 2010).

VW owners can only get natural gas with a certificate

All first-generation natural gas models that went out of production by May 2010 are affected. In figures that means for Germany: 3900 Touran, 16.260 Caddy and 2250 Passat. According to Buhlmann, the VW man, around 3,000 Tourans have now been upgraded with thicker coated tanks. “The swap takes five hours; if you haven’t done that yet, you have to drive on petrol for so long. "

How dangerous are natural gas cars?-Source Volkswagen Source Volkswagen Source

Safety first: At Aral, VW owners can only fill up with natural gas if they can present a certificate

Source: pa / dpa Themendie / dpa Themendienst

So while VW is tackling the problem consistently late, but at last, the Duderstadt case led to an unprecedented level of uncertainty among customers and petrol station operators. Aral, but also Jet, Esso and Total temporarily completely stopped selling natural gas. In the meantime, the situation had relaxed again, but not for VW owners. They don’t get any natural gas – unless they present a certificate.

Aral spokesman Detlef Brandenburg sees VW in the debt. He makes it clear: “Owners of a converted natural gas model must now quickly receive an official certificate, otherwise they will not have access to the petrol pumps blocked via the cash register system. If there are any doubts, the staff should not compromise on safety and, in coordination with the respective gas supplier, not allow refueling. "

VW sat out the problem for too long

The interest group Zukunft Erdgas agrees and regrets the uncertainty caused by the recent incident. "There is no known case in which refueling accidents with petrol or diesel led to a nationwide closure of petrol stations," says spokesman Michael Oppermann. "BP / Aral in particular has damaged the development of an alternative fuel by overreacting."

Which is also generally considered to be very safe, as the ADAC confirms: “The tanks are designed for an operating pressure of 200 bar, the safety test by the TuV even stipulates a burst pressure of 600 bar. In the event of extreme damage, safety valves ensure targeted blowing or – for example in the event of a fire – controlled burning of the gas filling. In the open air, there is no risk of explosion, even if large amounts of gas escape, since natural gas is lighter than air and immediately evaporates into the atmosphere, ”says Arnulf Thiemel, an expert at the ADAC technology center in Landsberg. However, this only applies if the test intervals and guidelines are strictly adhered to.

VW obviously did not adhere to this. Only with cars with production data from June 2010 and the small car Up, which is also offered with natural gas drive, can customers be sure that half the car won’t fly around their ears when they refuel.

The VW Group sat out the problem for too long, did not fix it consistently, gave affected customers no goodwill, discredited relatively clean drive technology and, to top it off, risked human lives.

We have known since Duderstadt at the latest: Cars with leaky natural gas tanks are rolling time bombs.

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4 thoughts on “How dangerous are natural gas cars?”

  1. Why is it not surprising to me that VW is affected again? And it was just as expected that German drivers would be asked to pay. The "Volks" in Volkswagen one should cancel as soon as possible. Bring a VW for inspection and compare the costs with those of a Mercedes A-Class. You will be amazed.

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  2. "According to Buhlmann, the VW man … “The exchange takes five hours; if you haven’t done that yet, you have to drive on petrol for so long. ""

    Mr. Buhlmann shouldn’t be so lax with his statements … I am a natural gas driver of a VW Caddy Ecofuel BJ 05/2010 in the first ownership and so far I still have no information from VW about this recall campaign. No writing, no call, no email, nothing! And so it is for many of my friends who also drive natural gas paddles. So VW is finally doing something that is a bit far-fetched. I only knew through my own research that my vehicle was affected. Then I made an appointment for a test at my VW dealer.

    The statement must drive with petrol for as long as it is easier said than done with an effective range of 90-100 km in petrol mode.

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  3. "The VW Group sat out the problem for too long, did not fix it consistently, gave affected customers no goodwill, discredited relatively clean drive technology and, to top it off, risked human lives."
    Who would have expected anything else from this manufacturer. Reactions are only made under massive pressure or if there are injured people or something worse. Advantage through customer deception.

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  4. VW-Audi has a massive problem in private customer care. Once bought, you will be treated as an annoying time thief, it is best not to come back at all. I know what I’m talking about. As a former Audi and VW Golf driver, I went through a lot. Even if there is goodwill, and Audi has simply screwed up, you should always pay extra. I only say wishbones. Things went better with the Golf, but only because I repaired everything myself at the time. The extremely low prices for used natural gas cars on the Internet made me wonder years ago and decided not to buy one.

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