Volkswagen, Europe’s largest automaker, recently revealed that they will begin offering 14 new alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) to consumers by 2014. The announcement was made at the 64th International Motor Show, held in Frankfurt, Germany.

The 2014 models will serve as a kind of test run for the company, which stresses that the vehicles must be viable from a consumer’s standpoint.

“The electric car cannot be a compromise on wheels. It must convince customers in every respect,” said Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen.

If the demand for their new AFVs proves strong enough, Volkswagen will consider offering alternative fuel versions for its entire fuel line as early as 2018. That would add up to about 40 new alternative fuel vehicles in just a five year span—signaling a promising future for economically-friendly cars.

Volkswagen’s decision to focus on alternative fuel vehicles comes at a fortuitous time: more and more automakers are shifting their attention to electric and hybrid vehicles in order to meet more stringent emissions standards and to positively impact the environment. In order to compete on a market with increasingly high-efficiency cars, Volkswagen and other major automakers will have to continue developing new technologies and driving forward environmental change.

This shift in the auto industry was evident at the most recent International Motor Shows themselves. Although the world-famous auto show has been hosted biennially since its inception in 1897, it wasn’t until 2011 that the show featured a whole hall dedicated to electric mobility. And it wasn’t until this year that every major automaker at the show displayed electric or hybrid models.

Volkswagen’s plans for expanding their AFV line are part of this broader shift in the industry, as well. The German-based automaker will offer new alternative fuel versions of its cars in both Europe and the U.S. in order to capture a wider market and to compete with other automakers that offer highly-efficient vehicles to consumers.

For instance, Volkswagen has plans to bring its first electric car—an electrified version of its popular subcompact car, the Golf—to the U.S. market in two years. If American consumers embrace the “eGolf,” Volkswagen could introduce additional electrified models to the U.S. market, said Marc Trahan, an executive vice president for Volkswagen’s American unit, in an interview with The New York Times.

VW eGolf

An electrified version of Volkswagen’s popular subcompact car, the Golf, was recently introduced at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany. The European automaker has dubbed the electrified version of their car the “eGolf,” and plans to introduce it on the American market by 2015. Credit: Volkswagen.

There is also a possibility that Volkswagen could introduce a compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle in the United States, as long as the nation’s CNG infrastructure is developed more fully. Volkswagen has been offering natural gas vehicles in Europe for almost ten years now, which has a fairly well-developed fueling infrastructure. There are 900 natural gas fueling stations in Germany, a country smaller than the State of Montana, for instance, whereas there are only about 600 in the United States, mostly concentrated in the coastal areas. Volkswagen is currently working with major environmental groups in the U.S., including regulators from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, in order to encourage stronger support for the nation’s natural gas fueling infrastructure.

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