Automotive

Volkswagen prepares to build the world's most fuel efficient production car

Volkswagen prepares to build t...
The "world's most efficient production car"
The "world's most efficient production car"
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The "world's most efficient production car"
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The "world's most efficient production car"
The double hinged doors swing up and forward
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The double hinged doors swing up and forward
The two-person cockpit has slightly offset seating
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The two-person cockpit has slightly offset seating
Optimized aerodynamics include rear wheel covers to prevent air turbulence
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Optimized aerodynamics include rear wheel covers to prevent air turbulence
The XL1 uses a dual-clutch DSG seven-speed transmission
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The XL1 uses a dual-clutch DSG seven-speed transmission
The upswinging doors provide for easy entry and exit
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The upswinging doors provide for easy entry and exit
The XL1 has a drag coefficient of .19
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The XL1 has a drag coefficient of .19
The XL1 weighs less than 2,000 pounds
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The XL1 weighs less than 2,000 pounds
The "world's most efficient production car"
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The "world's most efficient production car"
The XL uses a CFRP monocoque
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The XL uses a CFRP monocoque
The "most aerodynamic production car ever"
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The "most aerodynamic production car ever"
Volkswagen combines lightweight components to keep weight to a minimum
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Volkswagen combines lightweight components to keep weight to a minimum
A TDI engine, motor and lithium-ion battery combine to power the car
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A TDI engine, motor and lithium-ion battery combine to power the car
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The "most aerodynamic production car ever"
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The "most aerodynamic production car ever"
A TDI engine, motor and lithium-ion battery combine to power the car
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A TDI engine, motor and lithium-ion battery combine to power the car
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Back in 2009, before the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt were ready for market, the world heard loud, overinflated claims of "367" and "230" mpg ratings. Talk is cheap, and actual EPA testing sent those ratings rocketing right back down to earth at 99 mpg-e and 60 mpg, respectively. Volkswagen is the latest to get in on the 200+ mpg game, claiming its XL1 will be capable of 261 mpg (European cycle). Thanks to a radical approach that slashes weight, optimizes aerodynamics and wrings every last drop of fuel, Volkswagen may actually make good on its claims – or at least get close.

Volkswagen first showed the XL1, an evolution of the 2009 L1 and original 2002 1-liter bubble, in 2011. While it looked like a fanciful green concept designed to make headlines and then disappear into the archives, Volkswagen was clear that it planned to eventually build it and set a date of 2013. Now, the time is here, and Volkswagen is readying the production version for next month's Geneva Motor Show.

Volkswagen calls the XL1 the most aerodynamic production car ever and uses a 0.19 drag coefficient to prove it. For comparison, the carefully aero-optimized, cost-is-not-an-issue McLaren P1's drag coefficient is 0.34. Aerodynamic measures include a narrowed rear-end, wheel covers over the rear wheels, and rear-view side cameras in place of mirrors. It doesn't exude conventional auto aesthetics, but if you're the type that appreciates function over form, it's an absolutely gorgeous design.

The second pillar of the XL1's lofty fuel economy is weight savings. Thanks to a build that's more than 20 percent carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), including the monocoque structure and body panels, along with a thin-glass windshield, polycarbonate side windows, and other measures, the XL1 barely twitches the scale needle to 1,753 pounds (795 kg). It measures 153.1 inches long, 65.6 inches wide, and 45.4 inches high (3,888 x 1,665 x 1,153 mm), which is comparable to the Polo's width and length, but more than 10 inches (254 mm) shorter.

A TDI engine, motor and lithium-ion battery combine to power the car
A TDI engine, motor and lithium-ion battery combine to power the car

With support from that gaunt build and slippery aerodynamics, Volkswagen gets away with powering the XL1 with a meek 47-hp 800cc two-cylinder TDI engine, 27-hp electric motor and lithium-ion battery. That small, rear-wheel-drive powertrain, in turn, contributes to the low weight. The entire drive unit, including the battery, weighs 500 pounds (227 kg), less than the Nissan Leaf's 660-pound (300-kg) battery and only 100 pounds (45 kg) more than the Chevy Volt's battery.

Armed with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (DSG), the plug-in hybrid powertrain provides up to 32 miles (50 km) of all-electric driving. In electric mode, the engine is decoupled from the drivetrain, allowing the electric motor to act alone. Volkswagen says that the restarting of the engine is a smooth, joltless process, whereby the e-motor's rotor speeds up, couples with the engine's clutch and brings it up to speed. Unlike in other plug-in hybrids, where a comparatively large four-cylinder is tasked with taking over, the XL1's tiny two-cylinder turbodiesel continues to provide ultra-frugal commuting when handed the reigns.

The XL1 is cushioned by double wishbone suspension in the front and a semi-trailing link suspension in the rear. Lightweight running gear materials include aluminum suspension components, magnesium wheels and ceramic brake discs. The XL1 also rolls on Michelin low rolling resistance tires.

Along with the impressive 0.9 liter/100 km (261 mpg) fuel efficiency figures – which make it the "1 liter car" it was aiming for – Volkswagen says the car can maintain a constant cruising speed of 62 mph (100 km/h) using just 8.4 hp/6.2 kW and, in all-electric mode, can travel 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) on just 0.1 kWh of electricity. The company says the vehicle can accelerate from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 12.7 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 99 mph (160 km/h). When needed for acceleration, the electric motor can kick in to assist the diesel engine.

The XL1 puffs out just 21 g/km of C02 with exhaust gas recirculation, an oxidation catalytic converter and a diesel particulate filter used to keep exhaust emissions down. VW has also worked to optimize the efficiency of the cooling system.

The double hinged doors swing up and forward
The double hinged doors swing up and forward

The driver takes the wheel of the XL1 by entering through one of two winged, double-hinged doors that swing up and slightly forward. Inside, Volkswagen replaced the 1+1 layout of the L1 prototype with slightly offset side-by-side seating.

Volkswagen plans to build each XL1 with a new "handcrafting-like" process at its Osnabrück, Germany, facility. Many of the major components will be sourced from other VW plants and external manufacturers and put together using a very specific nine-stage process. With that in mind, not to mention the composites and technologically advanced design, we expect that the XL1 will be the toy of trendy celebrities and business executives for the foreseeable future. Volkswagen has yet to confirm pricing but more details should be forthcoming from Geneva.

Source: Volkswagen

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47 comments
Mark A
I'm your volunteer in SOCAL for beta testing... just let me know.
bogdan
I would really love to cruise in one of these cars. It looks amazing, doesn't have that stupid geek look that all eco cars have. I wonder what the price tag will look like.
DaveBG
This will be slow as hell.
Matthew Polaine
Been following the PR on this from the late 1990s when it was chopped in favour of Bluemotion R&D. I am saddened by VW - the people's car - that this is going down the route of a 'toy of trendy celebrities and business executives for the foreseeable future' even though these are the author's words, it will be true. Bog off rich trendy people. You'll still have your 5 litre 4x4 in your purpose built garage. VW should have the balls the manufacture this for the masses instead of the 'elite'. It is after all, how the greatest impact will be felt, not with a few celebs turning up at VIP events in it. This vehicle needs to appeal and be mandatory to reps covering 100,000s miles. There should be massive corporate tax incentives for 100mpg+ vehicles, not the pitiful VED and BIK rates. I hope VW is looking at the longevity and Circular Economy of this vehicle, and a degree of DIY servicing. Will the body shell be written off in a slight prang? This would then load the insurance beyond most, and certainly the under 25s. A great opportunity, potentially hobbled by poor market research which merely follows market evolution than having the balls to move the automotive market on to where it should have been years ago.
Riaanh
I hope it sells really well and shows other brands how to do it. Perhaps wake a few of them up.
Mel Tisdale
What a great little car, and thank goodness it will be "as slow as hell" as DaveBG so elegantly puts it, though in fact with that specification, it is not going to be too slow. Anyway, I imagine it will be the forerunner to a range of vehicles designed to suit the needs of larger families. We live in an age where this type of vehicle is going to be essential. We are now clearly at 'peak oil' in as much as supply is struggling to keep up with demand and the recent increases in America will do little to counter the decline of so many of today's oil fields. Even the massive Ghawar oil field is in rapid decline according to some sources. (See Oil, Smoke and Mirrors on Youtube.) I take my hat off to VW for having the courage to proceed with such and admirable project. All we need now is for the rest of the industry to wake up to reality. Let's face it, it isn't how quickly you can reach a speed where you can kill yourself that matters to most people, it is how far you can travel on the money you can afford to spend while doing so, which is clearly miles per gallon (or litres per 100 kilometers). While hidden in the background is the fact that this type of vehicle, assuming larger family friendly versions follow, will do wonders for tackling climate change. Let's just hope that it is not too late.
Max Kennedy
Volkswagon, the name means car for regular people. Can the limited edition and trendy rich pricing and get this thing out to regular people. Though it might increase the weight a bit they should also have an option for larger battery packs giving a bit more all electric range.
harrysmatical
We don't need an economical shoebox. We need an economical full size all-purpose car.. A Tesla at $50 K...
Charles Hart
but the price is $107,000.
Clay Jones
Right, Charles Hart. That's the deal-breaker. I couldn't be less interested. I'd rather continue to feed my truck all it can eat that have to get another mortgage to drive this POS.