The World’s Most Fuel Efficient Car: 285 MPG, Not A Hybrid

VW, 1 liter car, cars, transportation, diesel, concept

[UPDATE 9/15/09]: Volkswagen’s Diesel-Hybrid L1 Concept Gets 170 MPG, Available by 2013

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This is what a team of engineers can do when challenged to push the limits of fuel efficiency and technology. You may have already heard of VW’s 1-liter car, but take a closer look. It’s a sports-economy concept car produced a few years ago by VW engineers, to answer one big question: could they build a car that consumes less than 3 liters of fuel for every 100 km traveled?

It turns out they could, but they didn’t stop there. Instead, VW blew by that goal to create a car that uses only 1 liter of fuel for every 100 km. That’s 285 MPG.

To accomplish such a feat, VW’s engineers had to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. They knew that fuel efficiency depends on aerodynamics and weight, so they created a bullet-shaped, ultra-lightweight (640 lbs) carbon-fiber car powered by a new, completely redesigned diesel engine. To save more weight, they didn’t even paint it:

Proper aerodynamics were key to the low fuel consumption. VW engineers knew they needed a small frontal area. This led to its unusually narrow, bullet-shaped body where the passenger sits behind the driver. As well, the car features an aircraft-like canopy, enclosed rear wheels, special flat carbon-fibre front wheel covers, and an aerodynamic underpan. Even the side cooling air inlets only open when the engine needs cooling, and otherwise stay closed. . .the 1-Litre-Car has an amazingly low coefficient of drag of 0.16 (a typical car has a drag coefficient of approximately 0.30 ).

Everything in the car was made out of lightweight carbon-fiber or magnesium, gears were hollowed, and bolts were made from titanium. Like the electric Aptera Typ1 that I wrote about earlier, the VW 1L was designed without side mirrors (too much drag), instead relying on internal video screens to guide the driver. And also like the Aptera, safety was of particular concern:

Despite its small size and light weight, Volkswagen says the 1-Litre-Car is as safe as a GT sports car registered for racing. With the aid of computer crash simulations, the car was designed with built-in crash tubes, pressure sensors for airbag control, and front crumple zones. Its aluminum fuel tank is located in a protected area behind the passengers. As well, the 1-Litre-Car includes ABS and ESP (electronic stability program).

The existence of the VW 1-Liter car suggests the possibility of drastically reducing our vehicle fuel consumption without any major advances in technology. You probably won’t ever see the VW 1-Liter on the road, but don’t think something like this will never come to the market. You’ll see Aptera’s electric and plug-in hybrids within the next year, and they look like spaceships too.

Addendum: VW’s 1L car will be released in 2010!

More Posts on Green Car Technology:

Affordable Electric Cars Coming to US in 2009

Mercedes 40-MPG Diesel Hybrid: Cleanest SUV on the Planet

Tesla Motors Sues Fisker Automotive Over Electric Car Design

Aptera’s $26,000 Electric Car and 300 MPG Hybrid Coming Soon

Subaru STI: Is Diesel the Intersection of Power and Fuel Economy?

376.59 MPG Car Found In Museum (It Was Built In 1959)


CanadianDriver (Jun. 5, 2002): Feature: VW 1-Litre-Car

Volkswagen UK

Photo Credit: Canadian Driver


In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.