Volkswagen XL1 Diesel Plug-In Hybrid: Live Photos From Geneva

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Will this be the car that finally makes the ultra-aerodynamic and futuristic GM EV1 electric car look old-fashioned?

Today, VW Group took the wraps off the production version of the Volkswagen XL1, a turbodiesel plug-in hybrid two-seater that will be its most fuel-efficient model ever offered.

The ultra-streamlined XL1 was first shown as a concept car in January 2011.

Efficiency starts with an extremely lightweight 12-foot-long body made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, with an astoundingly low drag coefficient of just 0.186 and total weight of only 1,750 pounds.

That's partially due to its staggered, seating, which reduces the car's overall width--and thereby its frontal area--to reduce the amount of air it displaces moving down the road at speed, all in the name of saving fuel.

You'll also notice the rear wheels are inset, and there are no door mirrors--with the XL1 using rear-view video cameras instead.

The Volkswagen XL1 production car is powered by a tiny 0.8-liter two-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine producing 47 horsepower and a 20-kilowatt (27-hp) electric motor paired with a 7-speed automated dual-clutch transmission.

Fuel efficiency is quoted as 261 miles per gallon on the European test cycle, though as always that doesn't translate directly to what the U.S. EPA might put on a window sticker--if the XL1 were ever to go on sale in the U.S.

And achieving that fuel economy does require a few recharges of the car's lithium-ion battery pack, which is mounted up front, with the engine, motor, and transmission in the tail behind the passengers.

If you don't plug it in, it gets a mere 120 miles per gallon--again on the European test cycle. But steady-state cruising at 62 mph requires just 6.2 horsepower, so once you get it up to highway speeds, the XL1 is insanely fuel-efficient.

The car's fuel tank holds merely 10 liters, or about 2.6 gallons, of diesel fuel.

Volkswagen XL1 plug-in diesel hybrid

Volkswagen XL1 plug-in diesel hybrid

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Sadly, the XL1 is unlikely to make it to the U.S. Among other things, it's likely to be quite expensive. With two powertrains and a pricey battery pack, Volkswagen has said it will be far, far more expensive than a mass-produced Volkswagen Golf.

Volkswagen will initially build about 50 copies of the XL1 to gauge demand, with more possible if sales take off.

The production version of the XL1 follows a decade of Volkswagen concept cars with the goal of producing a "1-liter car," or a vehicle that could travel 100 kilometers (62 miles) on 1 liter of gasoline (or about 1 quart).

For more pictures, launches and details from the Geneva floor, head over to our special Geneva Motor Show page.


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Comments (15)
  1. Au contraire. Because the XL1 looks like the 24-year-old GM Impact, it is already old.

    Transmission? Diesel?? 31 miles AER???

    Not just old, obsolete too.

  2. Ok, I sound like a hater with this post.

    The XL1 is very impressive and VWs effort is truly commendable. However I just expected a lot more from one of the largest, most creative, and most influential car companies in the world. I expected practical and affordable plug-in electrics. I expected the Blue eMotions and the e-Trons at the local dealerships. I expected inspiration and leadership.

    Let's hope the XL1 is just the start and that VAG has a lot more in store for the electric vehicle aficionados.

  3. It reminds me of the Mercedes CLS... Both are outrageously expensive German cars. And, sadly, both look like a suppository. A trip to the car dealership usually involves bending over and coughing, but this is ridiculous!

  4. Well, like it or not, that's what good aero looks like. There's also a reason that suppositories don't have a profile like a Hummer! To each his own...

  5. I never realized that one of my favorite vehicle designs apparently looks like a suppository. I guess automotive journalists also missed the memo since the CLS is one of the better reviewed designs out there. From

    "The 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is one of the most attractive luxury sedans you can purchase, but its high price tag should give potential buyers some pause."

    A design so bad it almost immediately inspired similar designs like the A7, CC, & Jaguar XF. Yeah, that must be terrible...

  6. And the fins sported by Cadillac were all the rage in the 1950s and 1960s, but in hindsight they were ugly as sin and a bit cheesy. To each his own.

  7. And it is projected to cost $100k.

    Its so called 261mpg is including the electricity portion so it is NOT true 261 mpg. And its performance is terrible for the cost...

  8. They did all that work to make it light weight and super aerodynamic they should have ditched the diesel and gone full electric. Also I don't like that they stacked the powertrain so high that there's no rear window. It's a neat car but it just seems like they built it so they could say "look how good our plug-in hybrids are going to be". It just doesn't seem like a serious effort.

  9. If they took this design and built the vehicle out of standard materials (or at least aluminum where possible), with an EV drive train it would be awesome.

  10. It would be awesome as an EV, the design and the McLaren style doors look fantastic. Being that this was designed from the ground up they could have put a flat battery pack under the floor.

  11. On that last point, I'm not so sure. The XL1 is a very low vehicle, and I suspect the seats are pretty much on the car's floor as it is - put a battery pack along the base of the chassis and you make the car taller (and then you'd have to make it wider for the same stability), harming its CdA.

    This is one of the few cases where a block of batteries probably makes more sense.

  12. I thank Voelcker for clearly explaining that the 261 mpg is not real. But one unrelated nitpick.

    "...That's partially due to its staggered, seating, which reduces the car's overall width--and thereby its frontal area--"

    In context with the previous paragraph, it sounds like he is implying that a smaller frontal area decreases Cd (drag coefficient). It does not. Smaller frontal area does reduce drag which depends on both Cd and A.

    I am sure Voelcker already knows this, but the way it is worded, I am not sure the reader will get the right impression.

    Even though this will just be an exercise for the well-heeled, still like it better then them getting a Ferrari.

  13. Chris and I impressed to the board that the VW 1L was a real threat and that we needed to put the vehicle in production! After all, the 1L(XL1) was the impetus for me to start Aptera! The *professional* ceo that we hired convinced the board otherwise, and it became an enabler to delay the vehicle and re-design into the fat travesty that failed so publicly at the xprize. VW is bringing the vehicle to production, they changed from a tandem to a side-by-side architecture like us and they used the scarab style door hinge layout like us and even has the half roll down windows that the *professional* ceo and his hack team rejected in favor of a full roll down...with all of the inevitable delays and costly redesign. Washed-up B-team saleen hacks.

  14. Steve, good to hear from you. I am still sad that the original Aptera didn't make it into production. However, I am not sure if the State of Massachusetts would have let me put it on the road in any case.

  15. Can I buy a Volkswagon XL1 today or can I volunteer to test drive the car for the year?

    Do you have a contact at VW that I can forward this question to them directly?

    Dr. John McLuckie

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