From Argentina to Alaska in a Volkswagen TDI

By Ben Rossi on 23 June 2011
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Known for his long-distance drives in Volkswagen alternative-fuel cars, German off-road driver Rainer Zietlow, along with his team, plan to take a Volkswagen Touareg TDI on a two week, 16,000 mile (25,750 km) drive from the southern tip of Argentina to Alaska.

Timed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Pan-American Highway, Zietlow’s expedition will follow the highway through 14 countries and miles of punishing terrain, including the Atacama Desert, a  4,145 m (13,600 foot) Andean pass, and frigid Arctic tundra. Setting off on June 29, three drivers will take five-hour shifts, driving non-stop, expecting to reach Deadhorse, Alaska by July 13.

Fans can follow the expedition’s progress on the TDI Panamericana Web site, which will feature an interactive map, live streaming video and blog posts from members of the team. As with his previous expeditions, for every kilometer his team travels, Zietlow will donate 10 cents to two Latin American villages (the funds are managed by international charity organization Plan International).

“We want to celebrate the important role the Pan-American Highway has played in bringing commerce and unity to countries along the route, while demonstrating the power and durability of a clean diesel vehicle,” said Zietlow.

The Volkswagen Touareg TDI’s turbocharged, 3.0-liter V-6 engine is designed for rough terrain and mixed road surfaces, delivering 225 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. The four-wheel drive TDI gets 19 mpg (12.38 l/100 km) city and 25 mpg (9.4 mpg) highway. The car uses an AdBlue system to reduce its emissions, injecting a solution that removes nitrogen oxide from the exhaust. The solution in the 4.5-liter tank needs to be replaced roughly every 10,000 miles (16,000 km) , so Zietlow’s team will have to refill the tank at least once during the trip.

Zietlow’s expeditions have taken him and his team around the globe in a variety of Volkswagen vehicles. Last year he followed a somewhat similar route in a Volkswagen Caddy EcoFuel, which is powered by compressed natural gas, from Rio Grande, Argentina to Barrow, Alaska. In 2006, he circumnavigated the globe in a natural gas car , and he set a Guinness World Record for highest altitude achieved by a stock vehicle when a took a gas powered Volkswagen Touareg to a height of 19,947 feet (6,080 m).