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Volkswagen XL1 :A 261-MPG Shuttle to the Future

By Ulrich Hackenberg, guest blogger . May 11, 2011  | 7:00 am  | Categories: Cool Cars, EVs and Hybrids, repost from Wired  by The Chicago Toy Store.

Volkswagen kicked off 2011 with the debut of the most fuel-efficient car ever, the XL1, a groundbreaking vehicle that showcases the future of individual mobility.

Powered by an 800cc TDI (common rail injection turbodiesel) engine and a small electric motor, the two-seat Volkswagen XL1 consumes just 0.9 liters diesel per 100 kilometers. That’s the equivalent of 261 mpg. The XL1 is a prototype, so of course you can’t buy one today.

But it is an important shuttle to the future.

We need cars like this, and you will be able to buy them in the future. Today they are platforms for new ideas and testbeds for new technologies. They show what is possible.

The world of mobility is experiencing the most intensive upheaval since the first automobile was invented 125 years ago. Around the globe, there is a growing desire to finally free ourselves from the capricious price fluctuations of crude oil — a finite resource whose days are numbered. The desire to move beyond fossil fuels is intensified by a growing environmental awareness. Environmental awareness is not just a catchphrase or a passing trend. It is an integral part of today’s lifestyle.

People are looking for solutions, whether they live in Boston, Berlin or Beijing. They want cars that are sustainable, fuel-efficient and affordable.

The auto industry is responding. We are relying on a strategy of downsizing gasoline and diesel engines, applying hybrid technologies and implementing pure electric drives in automobiles. Volkswagen will introduce its first electric vehicle in 2013. Initially, however, these electric cars will not be going it alone.

So far, they have not proven to be practical for all driving needs.

Let’s take a look at the future: By 2020, we anticipate a global market share of 2-3 percent for battery electric cars. That’s roughly the market share hybrids have achieved in their first decade.

Porsche 918 Electric Cars

That leaves at least 97 percent of the market for other power options. To put it another way, between 55 million and 70 million of all cars sold annually between now and 2020 will have engines of various types. Internal combustion engines will remain dominant well into the next decade.

That is why automakers are studying — in cars like the XL1 — what is feasible in terms of maximum fuel economy within the realm of conventional engines and hybrid drives. While we continue to examine other options, we are already planning an initial limited production run of the XL1 for the near future.

The XL1 shows what is feasible. It has a range of more than 1,000 km on just one 10-liter tank of fuel — the equivalent of 621 miles on 2.6 gallons. Extensive use of carbon fiber and other lightweight materials means it is extremely light, weighing just 1,749 lbs.

Yet that same material — carbon fiber — ensures the safety cell is remarkably strong, creating a safe vehicle. The lithium-ion battery provides a range of up to 35 kilometers, about 22 miles, in pure electric mode – that is, with zero tailpipe emissions. Yet despite its efficiency and sustainability, the XL1 is fun to drive.

This remarkable prototype proves that we can have efficiency and sustainability without sacrificing the fun of driving that must be part of the future.

Top photo: VW executives with Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the board of Volkswagen AG, and the XL1 at its unveiling at the Qatar auto show. Winterkorn is fourth from the right, next to the car. (Volkswagen)

Ulrich Hackenberg is a mechanical engineer who oversees development for Volkswagen AG as a member of its board of management.

Porsche 918 Electric Cars
Porsche 918 Electric Cars
Porsche 918 Electric Cars
Porsche 918 Electric Cars

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