New Yorkers got a glimpse of the future this week, as the Volkswagen XL1 arrived in the City as part of a month-long American tour that took in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and the Big Apple.
The XL1, which looks like it could have driven off the set of a sci-fi movie, is the most fuel-efficient production car in the world, with a European combined fuel consumption rating of 261 mpg and CO2 emissions of 21 g/km. Thanks to its plug-in hybrid system, this two-seater can also cover up to 31 miles as a zero-emissions electric vehicle.
To achieve this incredible fuel economy, Volkswagen engineers married an incredibly efficient, diesel-electric plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain with a lightweight carbonfiber structure and the best aerodynamics of any production car in the world. The XL1 weighs just 1753 pounds, has a coefficient of drag of just 0.189, and uses a 48-horsepower two-cylinder turbocharged and direct-injection TDI® Clean Diesel engine that is mated to a 27-horsepower electric motor, a seven-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission, and a 5.5 kWh lithium-ion battery. Thanks to this formula, this super-efficient Volkswagen can cruise at a constant 62 mph while using just 8.3 horsepower. In all-electric mode, the XL1 requires less than 0.1 kWh to cover more than 0.6 miles (one kilometer).
The 261 mpg fuel consumption figure is a record for a production car, showing that Volkswagen is in the automotive industry’s technical vanguard. The XL1 also has a top speed of 99 mph and can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 12.7 seconds.
Conceptually, the XL1 represents the third evolutionary stage of Volkswagen’s 1-liter car strategy. At the start of this current millennium, Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Piëch—currently Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG—formulated the visionary goal of producing a practical car that had a combined fuel consumption of one liter per 100 km (235 mpg). In the two-seat XL1, this vision has become reality.
Despite the tremendous efficiency of the XL1, the engineers and designers successfully came up with a body design that delivers more everyday utility than the two previous prototypes. In the L1, the 1-liter car that was shown in 2002 and 2009, the driver and passenger sat behind each other for optimal aerodynamics; in the XL1, the two occupants sit slightly offset, side by side, almost like a conventional vehicle.
The XL1 is 153.1 inches long, 65.6 inches wide, and just 45.4 inches tall. By comparison, a Volkswagen Polo is slightly longer (156.3 in) and wider (66.2 in), but is significantly taller (57.6 in). Even a purebred sports car like today’s Porsche Boxster is 5.1 inches taller. Just 250 XL1s will be produced at the Volkswagen factory in Osnabrück, Germany, priced at approximately $145,000.
Body Carbonfiber reinforced polymer monocoque and panels
Length x width x height 153.1 in x 65.6 in x 45.4 in
Wheelbase 87.6 in
Drive system Plug-in diesel hybrid, rear-wheel drive
Engine TDI Clean Diesel, two cylinder
Capacity 830 cc
Output 48 hp, 89 lb-ft
Electric motor 27 hp, 103 lb-ft
System output 68 hp, 103 lb-ft
Transmission Seven-speed DSG automatic
Battery type 5.5 kWh lithium-ion
Weight 1753 lb
Max speed 99 mph (electronically limited)
European fuel consumption 261 mpg
C02 emissions 21 g/km
EV range 31 miles
EV/TDI range More than 310 miles (10 liter fuel tank)