The Volkswagon 1.4 litre Golf

Here at the office, we’ve been wondering how we can better explain what an energy-efficient office would really feel like, and how would it really perform. So we’ve come up with this. If your office were a car, what sort of car would it be?

You probably think our answer is: if your high-efficiency office were a car, it would be a Toyota Prius, a model famous for its fuel-efficiency and low carbon emissions.Wrong. We’ve decided that if your office were a car, it wouldn’t be a hybrid-powered car. It wouldn’t be a diesel. We’re interested in your view too, let us know what you think, we’ll collate your replies and put them on our website.

We’ve had quite a bit of discussion of this around the office, because, strange as it may seem, while we’re a bunch of energy efficiency experts, we actually do have a surprising number of serious petrol-heads on staff, who take more than passing interest in cars and their performance. They watch Top Gear. They read Wheels magazine. While you’re checking Facebook, a few too many Big Switchers are reading new car reviews on line.

As an energy efficiency and carbon solutions group, of course our choice of car has to be very fuel-efficient. It must have low carbon emissions out of the exhaust pipe. It must be cost-effective. It must be practical. And it must really perform. It has to go like a little rocket, as that’s how you want your office to run.

But it must be more than that. Our selection has to set a new trend. It has to shift the paradigm for cars, fuel A Big Switch Projects Client Note If your energy-efficient office were a car…What kind of car would it be? use and carbon emissions, in the same way that if we helped you deliver a 5 star NABERS Energy rating for your office tenancy, that would shift the paradigm just a little from business-as-usual.

Our selection has done just that. When have you ever heard of a car manufacturer bringing out a new model where the engine has been downsized, not upsized? When did you last go to McDonald’s and get asked: “Would you like to downsize your fries?” Yet downsizing everything – energy use, carbon emissions, water use, waste production – is what humanity now has to do if the world as we know it is to survive. That’s what the climate scientists have been telling us for more than a decade.

We all know it’s the norm for manufacturers to release new models that have bigger engines. The engine in the first Holden, in 1948, was 2.1 litres. Now the standard Commodore engine is a 3.6 litre V6. And that’s just the smaller one. The big engine in a Commodore is 6.0 litres. Our choice of “If your office were a car” manufacturer has flipped all this. The new model has a smaller engine than the previous version.

So our selection (drumroll…), after an intensive review process, is the new VW 1.4 litre Golf, the twin-charged one, which means it has a supercharger and a turbocharger too. This is a mid-sized car with an engine that’s smaller than the previous model, which had engines of 1.6L and 2.0L, but goes faster, uses less fuel, and emits fewer carbon emissions. Exactly what you want in your office – more performance, lower energy costs, fewer carbon emissions.

By contrast, in the same category of new car, Mazda’s new midrange 3 model (SP251[1]), has upped the engine capacity from the previous 2.3 litres to 2.5 litres. This makes the new Mazda engine 78 percent larger than the twin-charged VW Golf, but delivering hardly any advantage in performance or fuel economy.

So the VW engine has been downsized, considerably, but does that mean the car goes slow? No – in fact the car goes incredibly fast – faster than a standard Mercedes C-class[2], – and is more fuel efficient too. We’d be surprised if you didn’t want your office to run just like it!

Now, a bit of detail for the petrol-heads. The new twin- charger Golf packs 118kilowatts of power, which takes the car to 100kmh in 8.0 seconds. That’s pretty impressive. But as Big Switch Projects is a green office company, we’re less impressed by that sort of statistic. We’re into environmental performance. So we’re pleased to report the Golf’s carbon emissions are an average 144 grams per kilometre, an improvement of 26 percent on the outgoing Golf. In comparison, emissions from a six-cylinder petrol Holden Commodore are 246 g per km and a six-cylinder Falcon are 236 g per km. So that means shifting to cars with this kind of engine technology could cut vehicle carbon emissions by almost 100 g per km (on average), while still using petrol engines.

Given that the current national plan to cut emissions is for a target of 5 to 15 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, cutting your driving emissions by that much just by shifting to this kind of car demonstrates what can be done. And you’ll probably buy at least one new car between now and 2020.

But wouldn’t diesels be even greener? While Big Switch Projects staff keep their eyes on environmental outcomes, it’s not all we’re interested in. We’re also interested in the financial bottom line. Diesels are expensive. The newest and most efficient diesel car recently launched in Australia, the 1.6 turbo-diesel BMW Mini, delivers a remarkable combined fuel mileage of just 3.9 litres per 100 km (or 104 g per km of carbon emissions).

The car also manages to deliver a reasonably pleasurable performance, but is by no means a little rocket. BMW on the other hand has also launched its 1 Series small family car in an efficient diesel form, model 120d, which delivers a staggering performance, but still manages an incredible combined fuel mileage of just 4.8 litres per 100 km (or 128 g per km of carbon emissions).

There is a diesel Golf, too, which delivers good performance and a combined fuel mileage of 5.3 litres per 100 km (or 138 g per km). However diesel cars are expensive. The diesel Golf costs almost 9 percent, or $2700 more than the petrol Golf we’re here to praise.

The super efficient Mini Diesel starts at $34,000 but only comes with basic features, with all the rest of the features options. The high performance BMW 120d, starts at around $46,700. On top of the initial additional expense of the diesel engine, diesel fuel itself is quite expensive in Australia. We feel that diesels are just not worth it unless you’re driving many tens of thousands of kilometres a year.

Then there’s the hybrid car, such as the Toyota Prius or the Honda Civic hybrid. They’re even more expensive than comparable petrol and diesels and certainly nowhere near as much fun to drive.

The Australian Government recently changed the methodology by which its fuel consumption guide (ADR81/02 Fuel Consumption Labeling for LightVehicles) is calculated, increasing the assumed percentage of time a vehicle is driving in the city rather than in the country, making mileage for which fuel consumption is calculated more closely reflective of where most of us drive most of the time: in metropolitan areas, not in the bush.

This means the benefits of hybrid vehicles are more due to the increased urban driving. Sure, the latest generation Prius still remains one of the most fuel- efficient car, doing, according to the guide, around 3.9 litres per 100 km (89 g per km of carbon emissions), or 38 percent better than the twin-charged Golf we are praising here. But the Prius costs more; $37,400 for the basic version (or $46,900 for luxury edition) against $30,490 for the new Golf. Hybrids, we think, remain gimmicky and overpriced. The KISS principle remains valid for your car and your energy-efficient office: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

There’s one other reason why if your office were a car, it would be a twin-charged VW Golf. They’re cool. They don’t have the Prius’ weird looks. (The BBC’s Top Gear said the Prius was only considered cool “…among a know-nothing section of the metropolitan chattering class”.)

So that’s why we suggest if your office were a car, it would be a new double-charged 1.4L Golf. Its engine is smaller than the previous model’s. It’s more powerful and more efficient. Its carbon emissions are lower. It is cost effective when compared against diesels and hybrids and it has broken the tradition of upsizing engines. And maybe this is why the car has won the 2009 World Car of the Year award[3].

If the VW Golf were an office, it would rate 5 stars on the NABERS Energy rating scheme, without the need for any carbon offsets. If your office were a car, we would hope that this was it. We think the 1.4L twin- charged Golf sets a new benchmark in greener cars that really perform. But there are a few things it’s got that you won’t need, like rain-sensing wipers, adaptive chassis control, parallel parking assistance and cruise control.

Come to think of it, though, cruise control around the office could be handy…

Vikram Kenjle is the state manager for South Australia for Big Switch Projects

Since this article was written, this VW Golf won the 2009 Car of the Year award from Australia’s newspaper motoring sections, such as Drive in the SMH and run by News Ltd.


1Wheels Magazine

VW Golf Mk VI – 118 TSI: 0 – 100 km/h = 8.0sec (manual and DSG auto) – combined fuel efficiency L/100km = 6.2 for manual and (6.5 for auto) – taken from VW Australia website Mercedes C Class – C200 Kompressor: 0 – 100 km/h = 8.6 sec manual (or8.8 sec auto) – combined fuel efficiency L/100km = 7.7 for manual and (8.0 for auto) – taken from Mercedes Australia website


Note: All the above mentioned prices are manufactured recommended
RRP, and do not include any additional charges such as dealer
delivery, Government registration charges, stamp duty etc.