Bringing new meaning to the phrase 'running on the smell of an oily rag', Volkswagen's '1-litre' vehicle is capable of covering 100 km on less than one litre of fuel. The top secret project was first demonstrated during April 2002 when Volkswagen's Chairman of the Board of Management, Dr Ferdinand Piech, drove the prototype 230 km from Wolfsburg to Hamburg at an average speed of 75 km/h using only 2.1 litres of diesel fuel - that's 0.89 litre per 100 km.
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Volkswagen engineers designed the '1 litre' car to be ultra-lightweight, even forgoing a coat of paint in constructing the 1.25 x 3.65m frame from magnesium and composite carbon-fibre material encased in a reinforced plastic outer skin. Developed using a wind tunnel, the low-profile 'teardrop' shaped concept vehicle stands just over 1 metre high with its two seats arranged one behind the other - thus reducing the area at the front to minimise wind-resistance - and employs a mid-engine configuration, single cylinder diesel engine with a capacity of only 0.3 litre that develops maximum power of 6.3 kW at 4000 rpm. To further optimise fuel efficiency, aluminium is used for the construction of the crankcase and cylinder head and the suspension is made from lightweight alloy components, and incredibly, the '1 litre' car can still achieve speeds of up to 120 km/h. In addition to the unparalleled fuel efficiency, Volkswagen have also emphasised safety, incorporating an anti-lock braking system and a drivers' airbag into the design.
To put this achievement in perspective, you could jump in the '1 litre' concept vehicle and make it from Melbourne to Sydney with less than $10 worth of fuel in the tank - add this to the rapid developments in hybrid engines and alternative energy sources such as fuel cells, and you have a formula for a cheaper, cleaner and far more efficient future for automotive transport.View gallery - 3 images