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What is VW BlueMotion & Will it Save me Money

What is VW BlueMotion & Will it Save me Money

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What is Volkswagen BlueMotion, how does it work and will it save you money at the fuel pump?

VW BlueMotion Technology     

Volkswagen BlueMotion is a combination of technologies, designed to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions, which together are known as BlueMotion:

  • Start/stop technology – the engine is automatically turned off when the car’s not moving.
  • Brake energy recuperation – the energy lost when you brake is recycled and used for acceleration.
  • Low rolling resistance tyres –reduced the friction between the tyre and the road means less energy is used.
  • Aerodynamic styling – tweaks are made to the styling, which improve the car’s aerodynamics.
  • Turbocharged engines – more power, but only when needed; ordinarily less power and lower fuel consumption.

When it comes to buying cars there are so many different trim levels and variants that you could become totally bamboozled. Some trim names refer to extra spec on the car, some refer to the ride and some, like BlueMotion, refer to the serious matter of increasing fuel economy.

BlueMotion is not one single thing, but is a combination of four or five different technologies, which together make a Volkswagen BlueMotion vehicle more fuel efficient.

Close-up of VOlkswagen BlueMotion badge on the rear of a VW Polo


What Is VW BlueMotion?

BlueMotion Technologies

Is BlueMotion Worth The Extra Expense?

Models With BlueMotion Technology

Will BlueMotion save me money?

True BlueMotion Models


In 2008, Volkswagen unveiled a menu of technologies that promised to make its vehicles more fuel-efficient and better for the environment. Innovations included things like nitrogen oxide reduction, hybrid electric drive and regenerative braking systems. Individually, each of these concepts promised to move the needle towards more sustainable transport, but, together, they seemed game-changing. 

VW, however, faced a branding issue. Customers didn’t have time to read through all of the incremental efficiency increases that its innovations brought to the automotive sector. Thus, what the automaker needed was something simpler that could capture everything it was doing. So it invented Bluemotion as an umbrella for its entire range of new efficiency technologies. 

VW introduced the BlueMotion concept in 2006, and new cars with BlueMotion badges started rolling off the production line soon after. VW said that the improvements would make its vehicles more eco-friendly and fuel-efficient, promising a win-win for everyone in the market. Consumers would be getting something that was both cost-effective and less harmful to the environment. And VW could use the concept to differentiate it from other automakers, rebranding itself as a sustainable automaker. 

Eventually, VW dropped the BlueMotion label from its new vehicles and now simply refers to its innovations as “technology.” Even so, if you’re shopping for second-hand Volkswagens, you’ll often come across the label. And, because of this, it helps to know a little more about what it means. 


What Is VW BlueMotion?

Because VW BlueMotion is an umbrella term capturing a range of different innovations, the precise mix of technologies you get varies from vehicle to vehicle. The majority of cars carrying the badge have some efficiency-improving features, but they do differ slightly. 

VW initially positioned BlueMotion as an optional package for consumers looking for fuel-efficient vehicles. It was something they could add when buying new cars if they wanted it - something they could get if fuel-efficiency and environmental concerns were important to them. 

In the following years, VW launched a range of standalone BlueMotion models, easily identified by their enhanced body kits and flat-faced wheels. Thus, the term “BlueMotion” can either refer to the name of a particular model (such as the Polo BlueMotion) - usually the most fuel-efficient in its class. Or it can relate to BlueMotion Technologies (BMT), indicating that it has some BMT features. 

Martin Winterkorn, VW’s chairman of the board during the launch of BlueMotion, commented on the concept. “BlueMotion shows just how to make conventional - and therefore affordable - cars extremely economical by applying sophisticated drive technologies and special aerodynamic modifications.” Even today, the technologies that VW implemented remain impressive and generate real-world efficiency improvements that drivers care about. It’s not just a gimmick - this stuff works. And it is one of the reasons why BlueMotion VWs are such sought-after second-hand vehicles.


BlueMotion Technologies

As discussed, the actual underlying technologies you get in a BlueMotion vehicle vary by model and year of manufacture. Generally, though, they slot into the following categories: 

Stop/Start Engine Systems

  • Engine stop/start is a technology many of us are familiar with today, but it wasn’t always so ubiquitous. Before the BlueMotion era, when vehicles came to a halt, the engine would continue running. This feature meant that they continued to burn fuel even when they weren’t moving, decreasing efficiency and creating exhaust pollution. VW’s stop/start technology sought to put an end to this, stopping the engine from ticking over when motorists came to a halt and reactivating it quickly once they needed to move again. Implementing the technology turned out to be much more challenging than the theory suggested. VW had to keep the engine primed to receive fuel so that the driver could begin driving again quickly. If engine temperature dropped too low, stop/start wouldn’t work. 

Brake Energy Recuperation

  • No matter how carefully you drive to try and conserve fuel, you still need to brake, when you’re stopping at a junction or traffic lights for example. VW wanted to figure out a way of rescuing the kinetic energy of their vehicles as drivers braked, feeding it back into the engine somehow. Before BlueMotion, vehicles dissipated the energy of motion in the form of heat in the brake pads. But VW couldn’t reuse this to make their cars more efficient, it was lost to the environment. Instead, they used the concept of “engine braking” to turn the forward kinetic energy of the vehicle into an output that would power the alternator - the part of the car that charges the battery from the engine. They would then use the extra electricity from the battery to reduce the load on the engine, improving overall mileage. The technology doesn’t sound particularly impressive. However, in 2010, researchers released data showing that the company’s new BlueMotion Passat was substantially more efficient than the hybrid Toyota Prius II. Later, virtually all of the company’s range, including the Passat, Golf and Polo, obtained World Green Car acceptance over other finalists, including the Prius and Honda’s Insight. 

Low Rolling Resistance Tyres

  • Low rolling resistance tyres are those that lose less energy in the form of friction as they roll over the ground. It is an innovation that is by no means unique to VW. However, the automaker has sought to adopt this technology and, where possible, improve on it. Low rolling resistance tyres work by using a combination of unique compounds and treads to reduce the rolling resistance coefficient - the rolling resistance force divided by the load on the wheel. When the rubber makes contact with the ground, it generates less friction, decreasing energy loss. In 2014, VW announced that it was able to reduce the rolling resistance on 205/55 R16 91 Q tyres by 10 per cent. This improvement dropped the rolling resistance coefficient on the Golf BlueMotion to 7.2 per 1000. 

Aerodynamic styling

  • BlueMotion technology sought to improve the dynamics on VW vehicles too by changing the shape of their chassis to slip through the air with less drag. Air-resistance is the leading consumer of fuel once cars get beyond 30 mph because it increases with the square of the speed. 
  • BlueMotion made a series of aerodynamic improvements to standard VW car chassis to reduce the amount of drag that they generated. Improvements included lowering the suspension, improving grills and bumpers, and adding spoilers. Upgrades also focused on improving the situation under the car - an area where airflow patterns can increase resistance. Engineers tightened panel gaps and even added skirts. 
  • Interestingly, most BlueMotion modifications were barely visible on the final design. Yet, engineers discovered that they could have a profound impact on the ability of vehicles to zip through the air unimpeded. 

SMoke tube illustrating aerodynamic design

Turbocharging

  • This is a, in a way, an optional extra when it comes to BlueMotion, but there are good reasons why, if you want to maximise your fuel consumption, you might want to consider a turbocharged engine. Some of us may think that if an engine is turbocharged, that equals a gas-guzzler, but, you’d be wrong. The use of turbocharged engines as part of the Volkswagen BlueMotion technologies package is designed to do the exact opposite by delivering increased power only when you need it and a less powerful, less fuel intensive engine when you don’t.

Engine Improvements

  • VW also sought to make improvements that would reduce the production of nitrogen oxides (NOx) - particles that are bad for human health and the environment. To do this, it made significant revisions to BlueMotion vehicle engines. One strategy was to improve its diesel particulate filters. Diesel particulate filters work by using fine filtration methods to capture large exhaust particles that would otherwise escape from the engine, protecting other road users’ lungs. 
  • Another strategy was to start using better oxidising catalytic converters. Again, the goal was to improve the way the company’s vehicles turned toxic byproducts of internal combustion engines into less-toxic pollutants by catalysing a redox reaction. 

Enhanced Gearbox Ratios

  • The amount of fuel a vehicle consumes relates to gearbox ratios. In situations where efficiency doesn’t matter - like in race cars - gears tend to sit near each other, providing maximal acceleration. VW, however, noticed that it could improve on the efficiency of its standard TDI engine gearboxes by making the last two ratios longer. It was a slight trade-off: better energy consumption in exchange for slightly decreased performance at higher speeds. But VW reasoned that once drivers got past around 50 mph, they would mainly be cruising anyway, so it wouldn’t make much real-world difference. 

Is BlueMotion Worth The Extra Expense?

In an attempt to market BlueMotion to the public, VW set out to break the world record for the longest distance driven by a regular production vehicle on a single tank of fuel. In 2011, the automaker shipped a Passat 1.6 TDI BlueMotion to an event in Croatia organised by Auto Motor i Sport to see whether it could break the world record. Incredibly, the combination of new technologies succeeded. The vehicle, driven by Croatians Marko Tomac and Ivan Cvetkovic went 1581.88 miles. It averaged 91.71 miles per gallon, before finally running out of fuel, earning itself a place in the Guinness World Records

The technology was impressive. VW proved that. Cars with the BlueMotion badge got much better mileage than those without. The Golf BlueMotion, for instance, could achieve an incredible 88.3 mpg under the right driving conditions, doubling the efficiency of the standard model. But whether it was worth it to consumers remained unclear. The savings you could make on fuel seemed dwarfed by extra you paid for the vehicles upfront. 

By contrast, the BlueMotion Technologies (BMT) package appeared to be a much better deal. Customers buying VWs could expect to pay just a few hundred pounds extra and get a much more fuel-efficient vehicle in return. The upgrade might pay for itself in as little as a couple of years, offering drivers substantial savings from that point forward. 

There were also ramifications for road tax. VW claimed that the BMT package on the Up reduced CO2 emissions from 105 g/km on the standard model to 98 g/km on the upgraded version, helping customers duck below the threshold. 

In their internal marketing memos, VW was also excited about the economic advantages of BlueMotion. The company planned to advertise the fuel efficiency of the BMT Passat by talking about how few times customers would have to visit the petrol station to keep the car topped up. A full 70-litre Passat tank would go 1,350 km, meaning that the average driver travelling 15,000 miles per year would only need to refuel eleven times per year. 

BlueMotion no longer exists as a package you can buy on new cars. But for second-hand buyers, it represents excellent value. Vehicles with this moniker carry a small premium over standard versions. Still, they come with a host of impressive benefits that both improve the quality of the environment and cut the cost of motoring. Depreciation on most used vehicles means that the actual extra money you pay for BMT is minimal in absolute terms, and yet you can get all the benefits.


Models With BlueMotion Technology

Cars with BlueMotion Technology first hit the scene in 2006 with the introduction of the Polo Mark IV. At first, the company was dabbling in what was possible, and what its customers would want and marketed BMT as an extra-cost option. 

Most VW models built after 2010 featured some elements of BMT technology. At the factory level, it didn’t make sense for VW to have one line producing conventional vehicles, and another churning out BlueMotion parts. The sensible strategy was to transition all compatible cars over to the technology. There were a few exceptions, but these were rare. 

VW still wanted to market technological improvements to consumers. It didn’t want a situation in which all its R&D money was going into improvements people didn’t notice. Thus, most vehicles with BMT packs came with a badge on the back.

If you’re in the market for a VW with BMT and aren’t sure whether the model you want has it, you can always contact the dealer to get the car’s exact specification. This information will tell you whether the vehicle has BlueMotion technology or not - and precisely the efficiency improvements that it offers. 


Will BlueMotion save me money?

As with many things fuel related, the answer is in the number of miles you cover annually. If you’re a low mileage driver or even an average mileage driver, the sums may not add up to you saving money, though you will be using less fuel and helping the planet.

This changes if you’re a high mileage driver, when the chances are BlueMotion will save you money. However many miles you cover, BlueMotion will mean you spend less time standing on a garage forecourt filling your car up, which with our usual weather, means less time standing in the wind and rain!

Mixture of different UK coins


True BlueMotion Models

True BlueMotion Models first emerged at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2009 and launched in the UK in the following year. VW continued the branding over several generations of Passat, Polo and Golf

The BlueMotion models all had efficient diesel engines with stop-start technology, low rolling-resistance tires and unique exterior styling. In terms of the rest of their components, they were similarly specced to VW’s regular entry-level S models. 

At the time, VW described its BlueMotion vehicles as the “pinnacle of what is currently feasible.” The automaker believed that it had come up with a compelling set of measures to reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels and reduce CO2 emissions. 

These new vehicles were in addition to the 44 or so BlueMotion Technology models VW offered for sale by the end of 2020. 

Polo BlueMotion

VW’s testing claimed that the Polo BlueMotion was the cleanest fossil-fuel car on the sale in the world. But because it had to reroute the exhaust system for right-hand drive in the UK, the British version lost efficiency. 

Even so, the 1.2-litre engine delivered 83.1 mpg and 90g/km CO2 - an awe-inspiring statistics for the time. The performance took a bit of a hit because of the changes to the engine and gear ratios, hampering driveability, but VW was targeting the efficiency market, not performance. 

Golf BlueMotion

The Golf BlueMotion had a 1.6-litre engine that it shared with the Passat. It was capable of delivering an official fuel economy of 74.3 mpg, producing just 99g/km CO2. Just like the Polo, the vehicle suffered some of the driveability compromises, but they weren’t as severe. What’s more, drivers could look forward to much cheaper motoring. 

The car produced 104 bhp, which wasn’t bad. And it also featured VW’s long gearing, designed to reduce fuel consumption while accelerating and maintaining cruising speed. 

Passat BlueMotion

The Passat BlueMotion was able to achieve 64.2 mpg, allowing it to outperform practically all saloon cars of the era. The estate version offered almost identical performance characteristics. 


VW no longer sells cars with the BlueMotion label. Ultimately, while vehicles delivered impressive efficiency gains, they didn’t make a tremendous financial sense to buyers, especially in an era of cheap oil. BlueMotion was very much a reaction to the prospect of fossil fuel scarcity. VW expected that consumers would want frugal vehicles. That never really materialised.  

These days, VW lists the technologies that it offers without the unique and somewhat confusing BlueMotion brand category. And the reasons for this make sense. In 2020 and beyond, most consumers expect car companies to provide fuel-efficiency technologies. There is no longer anything special or novel about them - they’re standard. So branding them as something separate would seem a little contrived.

That shouldn’t discourage anyone from investigating used BlueMotion vehicles, though. In many ways, they were dramatically ahead of their time - especially on a mileage basis. When you purchase one of these vehicles, you’re essentially getting modern fuel efficiency on old cars - a testament to how far ahead of the market VW was. 

Today, the focus is less on improving the efficiency of the internal combustion engine and more towards electrification and autonomous driving features. The model e-Golf, for instance, is very much the spiritual successor of the Golf BlueMotion. But this time, VW is building their vehicles on an entirely new energy-generation paradigm. 


Search VW Cars with BlueMotion

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