Less than six years after promising the world a car capable of returning a fuel economy of 1.0 litre of fuel burned per 100 kilometres driven, Volkswagen has done even better, revealing today, in production trim, a car capable of returning a fuel economy of about 0.9 litres per 100 kilometres.
That car is the 2014 Volkswagen XL1, which makes its official world debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show on March 5. Already previewed in concept form, and spotted during testing by our own spy photographers, the production XL1 looks every bit as futuristic as you’d expect of a car that could potentially make a return trip across the country on a single tank of fuel.
But as impressive as it looks, the lines of the XL1 are all functional. They contribute to the vehicle’s super-slippery 0.186 coefficient of drag, which is aided by a lack of side mirrors (the XL1 uses reverse-looking cameras) and inset rear wheels.
Other key details include the angular LED headlights, scissor doors and wheel covers. The XL1 also benefits from a low curb weight (795 kg) and a low centre of gravity, which coupled with its low coefficient of drag means it needs just 6.1 kilowatts to cruise at a constant speed of 100km/h.
Power comes from an advanced diesel-electric plug-in hybrid system, which matches a 0.8-litre two-cylinder diesel engine with an electric motor and seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. The diesel engine offers a peak output of 35 kilowatts on its own, while the electric motor adds an additional 20 kilowatts for a combined output of about 55 kilowatts.
Volkswagen says its XL1 is good for a 100km/h time of about 12.7 seconds and a top speed of 160km/h. These figures aren’t stellar but what do you expect from the world’s most fuel efficient car.
The drivetrain allows multiple driving modes, including electric or diesel only modes, plus a combination of the two. In electric mode, the XL1 has a range of about 50km from energy stored in its lithium-ion battery. That’s better that the original 35km range the concept version promised.
Note, the 0.9 L/100km rating is only when the batteries are constantly topped up. On a single charge of the batteries, plus a fill of the car’s 10-litre fuel tank, you’re looking at a driving range of just over 483km. Without constantly topping up the batteries, you're looking at fuel economy of around 1.96 L/100km.
The XL1 stretches 3.9 metres in length, 1.6 metres in width and 1.1 metres in height. Inside, there’s seating for two plus most of the usual mod cons found in a modern car. The structure of the car is a carbon fibre monocoque, with aluminium front and rear crash structures bolted to this.
The body panels are also made from carbon fibre and to further save weight the windscreen is just over 0.3cm thick. Volkswagen hasn’t given us details about how long the battery takes to charge or how much one can expect to pay for an XL1, though we should know more following the car’s launch in Geneva next month.
We also don’t know what markets the XL1 will be offered in, though the U.S. is unlikely to be on that list. Production of the 2014 Volkswagen XL1 is scheduled to commence later this year at the automaker’s plant in Osnabrück, Germany. Only around 50 examples will be built for the initial run, with Volkswagen planning to lift this figure should demand be sufficient.