Marc Stern's picture

As If Diesegate Wasn’t Enough, Now Some VWs Are Exploding

It's not exactly what anyone would order, but it's here nonetheless, a new VW issue. At least this time, though, it's not a major scandal -- it's just exploding vehicles.

As if it doesn’t have enough trouble on its plate – Dieselgate, lawsuits, criminal investigations and the like – Volkswagen has another problem to deal with, exploding vehicles. A week ago, at a fueling station in Duderstadt a Touran exploded as it gassed up.

The Touran uses compressed natural gas (CNG) as its fuel source. Unlike the U.S., where most vehicles on the road use some form of liquefied hydrocarbon (gasoline or diesel) for fuel, Europe uses a wider variety. In Europe, there are a variety of fuel sources including CNG, some LNG (liquefied natural gas), which is reconstituted to form natural gas, a lot of automotive diesel, as well as gasoline.

As many as 100,000 cars, primarily CNG-powered Volkswagens, are on the roadways of Germany.

Part Of An Ongoing Recall

It turns out that the Touran that exploded was part of the second wave of a major CNG-powered vehicle recall. The recall was for fuel tank corrosion. The first recall occurred four years ago, while the second happened relatively recently.

And, as VW’s current luck would have it, the explosion had implications that spread well beyond the community in which it happened. Once it occurred, Aral, the fuel company that owns the station where the blast happened, ordered its stations to halt all CNG fueling throughout Germany. Aral’s action was quickly followed by the other major chains -- Esso, Shell, Jet and Total -- which also clamped down on CNG at their stations.

This proved to be an added burden to CNG vehicle owners because they had nowhere to refuel their vehicles. They were forced to rely on the little auxiliary gasoline tanks with which their vehicles are equipped.

Within a day, the CNG ban was lifted on most vehicles. However, Volkswagen’s CNG fleet which includes the Touran, Passat, and the Caddy brand were still barred from all refueling because of the ongoing recall.

One might have thought that this would have been the limit of the problems that faced VW owners, but it wasn’t. Almost on the heels of the blast in Duderstadt, VW told operators of its CNG-powered cars to park them and not drive the until the free repairs to the fuel tank were completed.

Owners Can’t Park Them?

The issue for most CNG owners, said Kanban.com is that the vehicles that are supposed to remain parked are usually the sole vehicles of their owners, who must use them daily. It’s not as if they had the luxury of leaving heir cars parked.

The Duderstadt blast was just the latest in a series of explosions that have occurred. Besides this explosion, another happened in Sweden two months ago where a motorist and a dog were injured. There were no injuries in Duderstadt, though the car’s debris rained down for hundreds of feet around the service station.

The Touran is rated as an MPV or multi-purpose vehicle. It is something that, if it were possible, would result if a minivan and a crossover were crossed.


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