One of the more notable cars that made a splash and garnered much attention at the Geneva Auto Show this month was the Volkswagen diesel electric plug-in XL 1. More importantly VW has stated they will bring this long nurtured concept to market although in a rather limited run of 250 to be available exclusively in Europe. The XL1 has sometimes been referred to as a supercar in that it makes aggressive use of lightweight materials such as carbon fiber, aluminum. and wood composites and is extremely aerodynamic in the interest of fuel efficiency as opposed to speed and performance. It is refreshing to see these kinds of cutting edge technologies put in the service of creating a ultra efficient high mpg car as opposed to another limited run super-car geared for a limited market segment of the uber rich.
The origins of the XL1 go back over a decade to the I liter concept car that pulled all the stops in terms of styling and comfort to achieve an unprecedented 100 km on 1 liter of fuel. The car is the brainchild of Professor Ferdinand Piech who has been nurturing this concept since it’s inception over a decade ago and is presently chairman of the supervisory board at VW AG. The present incarnation of the XL1 now boasts 261 mpg the result of it’s ultra light weight of 1750 pounds and ultra aerodynamic shape which gives it a drag co-efficient of 0.19. In this sense it ranks with the iconic EV1 and like the EV 1 is also a two seater. The drive trains 0.8 liter two cylinder 47 hp TDI engine is paired with a 20kw electric motor rated at 27 hp will derive it power from a 5.5 kWh lithium ion battery pack. The 0.8 liter engine is based on a modified 1.6 liter engine and is joined to a 7 speed dual clutch gearbox with the electric motor finessed in between. The two cylinder diesel engine is engineered with recesses in it’s TDI pistons allowing for multiple diesel injection enhancing both efficiency and reducing emissions. The electric motor doubles as a starter generator. The car will have a top speed of 99 miles per hour and will do 0 to 60 mph in a modest 12.7 seconds. It has an all electric range of 32 miles and by virtue of it’s fuel efficiency will have a total 310 mile range in spite of a slightly under 2 gallon gas tank.
In addition to the shell, carbon fiber is used in the seats and the anti-roll bars. VW says it has a proprietary technology for making the carbon fiber at a significantly lower cost which is referred to as resin transfer molding. Also, in the interest of reducing weight the car makes use of magnesium wheels, aluminum front and rear structures and an aluminum suspension. The car has been aggressively engineered with a strong emphasis of weight reduction. In this way it will pre-date the cars of the future where all classes of cars will in the decades ahead shed several hundred pounds, even while maintaining comparable dimensions to today’s cars. Assuring greater efficiency hence better gas mileage or longer ranges in the case of pure electric vehicles.
We can also expect in the years ahead, a broad based adoption of many of the design and engineering ideas that emphasize weight reduction and aerodynamics in the name of greater efficiency and anticipate many of these innovations making their way into other VW cars very soon. As a result of the drivetrain being placed directly behind the passenger compartment the car lacks a rear window. To enhance the aerodynamics the car dispenses with conventional rear view mirrors and uses e-mirrors mounted in the wing doors which display images from outside mounted digital video cameras. The styling of the car can almost be described as retro future with 80’s like design elements inclusive of gullwing doors being melded into a post modern aerodynamic shell making for some very aesthetic eye candy. Some elements seem to harken back to both the first generation Honda Insight and the EV 1, both of which melded aerodynamics with a futurist sensibility. Other notable engineering aspects of the car include the use of aluminum impact beams in the gullwing doors which would provide added safety in the case of collisions and the steering gear housing and engine crankcase also being made of aluminum. The front tires of the car are strikingly thin 125mm wide with the rear tires being only slightly wider at 155mm. Breaks are made of a carbon ceramic and the transmission is a magnesium alloy. VW has not given a price point and has also been vague about the start of production which was simply given as later this year.
While VW should be applauded for bringing all of this innovative technology to market the anemic planned production of 250 units should be questioned. With cars such as the Volt selling a respectable 2000 plus units a month and Tesla having successfully ramped up to over 500 units of it’s Model S per week the market seems more than ready for 10 or even 100 times the planned limited production run. This would seem all the more true with the resources available to a company the size of VW who just over the past few years have sold many in the North America on the viability of clean diesel cars simply by making people aware of their availability. We look forward these cars going into production but will continue to hope for an expanded production run and availability outside of Europe.
Vehicle type: Rear Wheel Drive 2 Seater 2 Door Coupe
Engine type: Two-cylinder turbodiesel
Fuel type: Diesel
Hybrid type: Series-parallel plug-in
Electric motor: 27kW
Combined horsepower: 68
Combined torque: 103
Battery type: Lithium-ion
Battery capacity: 5.5kW
Plug-in type: 110 Volt
Plug-in driving range: 32 miles/ 51 km
Fuel Economy: 261 mpg/ 111 kmpl
Range: 310 miles/499 km
Transmission type: Seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual
Suspension, front: Independent, double wishbone, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rear: Independent, semi-trailing arm, coil springs
Curb weight: 1,752 lbs/ 795 kg
Length: 153.1 in/ 3,888 mm
Width: 65.6 in/ 1,665 mm
Height: 45.3 in/ 1,153 mm
Wheelbase: 87.6 in/ 2,225 mm
Aticle Written by: David Mazovick