Meet The Volkswagen XL1 Plug-in Hybrid Car. Who says a halo car has to be a supercar? Like the original Honda Insight, Volkswagen’s new XL1 has been designed to make a statement about the company’s green technology. This new plug-in diesel electric hybrid has been designed from the ground up to achieve record fuel economy. This VW does get super mpg results at almost 270 mpg.
A Long Time Coming
For over a decade, Volkswagen has been working to build a car that could travel 100 km on one liter of fuel (235 mpg.) The first attempt was 2002’s “1-Litre Concept.” This odd car has passenger seat behind the driver for a smaller frontal area to decrease drag. The construction techniques used in its creation would have been far too expensive for production; the project wouldn’t resurface for another seven years. Called the “L1,” this new car kept the passenger-behind-driver design, but aluminum construction and traditional windows had replaced the 1-Litre’s titanium parts and aircraft-style canopy. Production was said to be in the works, but it still seemed too impractical to make a viable business case.
At the 2011 Geneva Auto Show, VW released the third concept car in the project, the XL1. The passenger and driver’s seats were now side by side, and VW execs had no problem mentioning that once expensive parts like the concept’s lithium ion batteries were quickly becoming affordable. Chairman Ferdinand Piech’s promised a production version in two years, and it looks like the company’s on schedule: A road-ready XL1 has been shown at this year’s Geneva Auto Show with plans to get the first cars to buyers by the end of 2013.
What Makes It So Efficient?
Power will be provided by an 800 cc 48 hp twin cylinder diesel engine, essentially half of a 1.6 liter TDI motor. Both it and a 27 hp electric motor send power to the rear wheels via a seven speed DSG transmission.
Much of the car’s efficiency owes to its aerodynamic design. The two seat XL1 is long as a Toyota Yaris and slightly narrower at the front, yet it’s over a foot shorter. Much of this length is due to a long Kammback rear end, reducing air turbulence. The concept’s gullwing doors will make it into production as they’re all but required to get into this tiny vehicle. Like Tesla’s Model X prototype, the XL1 will use cameras in place of side mirrors, further reducing drag while giving the driver a view of adjacent traffic via screens mounted in the doors. The end result is a 0.189 coefficient of drag, far and away the most aerodynamic production car ever built. A combination of an aluminum structure with carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body keeps the curb weight down to about 1,750 lbs.
0 to 100 kph (62 mph) should take 12.7 seconds with an electronically-governed top speed of 99 mph. The tiny 2.6 gallon fuel tank can let the car go as long as 700 miles between fill-ups, while the front-mounted battery provides an all-electric range of 22 miles. Final fuel economy figures are expected to be around 270 mpg, well past the 1 liter / 100 km goal.
Pricing and Availability
50 cars will be built for the first production run, with further sales dependent on response. No one’s sure what this car will cost, with estimates ranging from $50,000 to $70,000. There’s no word on whether or not this car will be sold in America.