VW XL1: Towards 261 miles a gallon

Volkswagen would like to introduce you to what it believes will be a car you are tripping over others to get at if your checkbook is big enough.

Why? Because it very well likely is the most fuel-efficient production vehicle in the world (mythical vehicles like the Silex Power Cheros aside). Known as the XL1, it is an extreme fuel sipper at 0.9 l/100 km, or roughly 261 miles per gallon.

Picked your jaw up off the floor? Good. Now you are probably wondering how VW can pull off making a vehicle this efficient. According to them, it is the third iteration of a long standing 1-liter car strategy.

When the new millennium was ushered in, Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, who is today Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG, formulated the visionary goal of bringing to market a production car that was practical in everyday use with fuel consumption of one litre per 100 km.

In the two-seat XL1, this vision has become reality. Despite the tremendous efficiency of the XL1, developers successfully came up with a body concept, which delivers more everyday utility than in the two previous prototypes.

While the driver and passenger sat in a tandem arrangement for optimal aerodynamics in the L1, the 1-litre car presented in 2002 and in 2009, in the XL1 two occupants sit slightly offset, side by side, nearly as in a conventional vehicle.

Digging more specifically into what’s evolved from this process, one finds the XL1, cased in its lightweight carbon fiber frame, gets by with a low weight (795 kg – 1753 pounds), strict aerodynamics (Cd 0.189) and a low center of gravity (1,153 mm high – 3.7 feet). These touches allow this plug-in hybrid to achieve what VW says is a constant speed of 100 km/h (60 MPH) using only 6.2 kW / 8.4 PS. When one switches to electric mode only, the XL1 needs less than 0.1 kWh to go 1 km (0.6 mile) while being capable of a maximum non-gas range of 50 km (32 miles).

Technical specifications of the XL1 under the hood include a two-cylinder TDI engine (35 kW / 48 PS), electric motor (20 kW / 27 PS), 7-speed dual clutch gearbox (DSG) and lithium-ion battery. All of this is said to combine to keep the car emitting just 21 g/km of CO2. It isn’t much of a slouch though when needed be, being rated with a top speed of 160 km/h (100 MPH) acceleration to 100 km/h (60 MPH) in 12.7 seconds.

The XL1, which is being built by VW by “handcrafting-like production methods at its Osnabrück plant in Germany,” will be making an appearance at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

As for when you actually might see in in showrooms, a limited run will probably debut later this year, likely in Europe only, with as yet no mentioned price point (though many believe it will be six figures).

* Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling