Dr. Christian Malorny of Berlin, Germany has purchased and taken delivery of the first 261 MPG Volkswagen XL1 production car. As he picked up his keys he said, “The XL1 has inspired me from the beginning and I am very pleased to now be driving my own. With its visionary design and high-tech appearance, Volkswagen has dared something new and innovative.”
In 2002, Volkswagen created an experimental car – the 1L– to explore how to make a passenger vehicle that would use less than 1 liter of fuel per 100 kilometers. Now Volkswagen has taken what it learned from the 1l and subsequent projects and created the XL1, a plug-in diesel hybrid featuring an 800 cc two cylinder TDI engine and a small electric motor. It is rated at 261 mpg in the European fuel economy cycle, and in keeping with its fuel sipping nature, the car has only a 2.5 gallon fuel tank.
Years of research have gone into making the XL1 as efficient as possible. For instance, the passenger sits slightly behind the driver to minimize the width of the car for aerodynamic reasons. Weight has been kept to under 2,000 lbs by extensive use of carbon fiber for the structure and exterior of the car.
In a world gone mad for fuel efficiency, the XL1 represents that extreme that is possible for a production car today, though it is unlikely many people will be clamoring to buy one. At a suggested price of $145,000, the owner would have to drive for decades for the fuel savings to pay for the car. Also, according to recent test drives, the XL1 has only about two-inches of suspension travel, and rides like a buckboard traversing the prairie. Handling on its skinny ultra high pressure tires is modest, and that’s being kind. Carrying capacity is limited to just over 4 cubic feet.
So what good is the XL1? It may not be practical or sensible, but it points the way forward in a world where fossil fuels will no longer be plentiful and cheap. And despite all the drawbacks, there are plenty of orders for the low-production hybrid. Give Volkswagen credit. It took courage and vision to be an industry leader rather than a follower. No doubt they have learned valuable lessons from first imagining and then actually building the XL1. Good for them!
Is the XL1 the future of cars? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.