Research, Development, Research, Development
The super fuel-efficient vehicle has been in development for the last decade, as board member (at the time) Ferdinand Piech drove a one liter car to the VW meeting in Hamburg. The second step showed up at IAA in 2009, and VW presented the prototype to the Qatar Motor Show in 2010. Now it’s time for the XL1 to prove that it can actually perform as a daily driver.
The super efficient car has become sleeker and more aerodynamic over the years of development, currently standing at 153” long, 65.5” wide, and just 45.5” tall. It’s significantly smaller than Volkswagen’s Beetle in every dimension; in fact, it’s around the same height as a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. It doesn’t look much like the Spyder, though – Volkswagen appears to be returning to more conventional thoughts. No gullwing doors (it definitely loses points from me for that oversight), and no expensive cameras acting in place of the rearview mirrors – although it could have used some cameras in the rear to make up for the ridiculously tiny rear windows, which restrict the field of vision behind the car to practically nothing.
The technical data Volkswagen released only allowed for speculation – catching the car during its road tests allows for a more concrete idea of what’s going on. The car has high-tech construction to remain super light, excellent aerodynamics, and a plug-in hybrid system. It’s got a two-cylinder TDI engine, an electric motor, a 7-gear clutch, and a lithium ion battery pack. All of this brings its fuel consumption down to 0.99 liters per 100km – a whopping 237 mpg – and its CO2 output is only 24 g/km (remember the EU guidelines for the next few years – 124 g/km for all new cars is the goal). Even though its fuel tank holds barely over a gallon of gas, it’ll still go 340 miles on a full tank.
There are a few drawbacks, mostly in the area of performance. Despite its sexy sports car look, the prototype takes an agonizing 11.9 seconds to go from 0 to 60 (compare to say, my ’98 Ford Escort, which does that in 9 seconds and is slow enough to make me scream in frustration). The prototype’s top speed is “electronically limited” to a slow 99mph – so in theory it could go faster (not that mucking around with the ECU wouldn’t void the warranty, but still).
On the up side, the prototype is supposed to be able to go a good 20 miles on battery power alone, which is pretty good news for those of you who have short commutes. VW has yet to set a price for its super efficient and somewhat slow prototype, so the question Gas2 asked last October still stands: How much would you pay for a 237 mpg car?