How does around 260 miles per gallon sound to you? That’s the jaw-dropping fuel economy Volkswagen is claiming for its hybrid XL1, which combines edgy materials and design with small diesel and electric motors.
Actually, the company is saying “0.9 liters per 100 kilometers (km),” which we converted to mpg. Volkswagen’s formulation is significant because it shows the company has achieved a longstanding goal of making a vehicle that uses less than 1.0 liter of fuel per 100 km. The interesting twist here is that in showing the XL1 at the Qatar Motor Show, Volkswagen wasn’t offering it as a pie-in-the-sky concept vehicle; they called it a prototype and said they will bring it to market, reportedly by 2013.
The XL1 uses lightweight carbon fiber, radical aerodynamic concepts, a 48-hp twin cylinder diesel engine and a 27-hp electric motor to achieve its great mileage. Sleek as it looks, this has none of the muscle of, say, a Tesla. The Roadster zips from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds, the XL1 takes a whopping 11.9 seconds, which should make for some interesting freeway-merging adventures.
But while the two-seat XL1 lacks vroom, it does reach extraordinary heights of efficiency. At 1,752 pounds – 1,000 less than the Roadster – Volkswagen said it can travel a kilometer (0.62) using just a tenth of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity, although overall VW puts its range of the 5 kWh battery pack alone at 22 miles. For comparison, the Chevy Volt has a battery that’s more than three times as big (16 kWh) but its official all-electric range isn’t even twice what the XL1 claims.
Weight is a key factor in the vehicle’s efficiency, VW said, but so too is the “dolphin body form that narrows towards the rear with very precise trailing edges for perfect aerodynamics.”