Executives at Volkswagen began the search for the one-liter car back in 2002. The automaker started research into a production car that could operate for about 60 miles or 100 kilometers on a single liter of fuel. Industry experts and car enthusiasts alike were intrigued by concept vehicles based on this model presented in 2002 and 2009. These concepts boasted impressive fuel economy but also an unusual seating arrangement that placed the driver’s seat in front of a passenger seat. Volkswagen is unveiling a third-generation XL1 plug-in hybrid during the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. The automaker has also announced that this model will be produced in limited supplies at a facility in Osnabrück, Germany.
The XL1 plug-in hybrid uses a more conventional two-seat arrangement with the driver slightly offset from the passenger. A 0.8-liter diesel engine produces 35 kW while an electric motor provides a maximum output of 20 kW. These drive components are located on the rear axle and the 5.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is stationed on the front axle. Volkswagen adds a seven-speed transmission to the XL1 drive system for a more dynamic driving experience. The XL1 uses all of these components while using less than 0.1 kWh per mile.
Volkswagen focused as much on a lightweight vehicle frame as a fuel-efficient drive system when constructing the XL1. Exterior panels, roll bars and seating are created entirely from carbon-fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP) that reduce curb weight. An Austrian manufacturer will supply CFRP panels that are only 1.2 millimeters thick with only 20% of the density of steel panels. The automaker estimates that only 23% of the vehicle was built from traditional iron and steel parts. The XL1 only weighs 1,752 pounds while meeting international safety standards due to this commitment to lighter components.
Attendees at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show should be impressed by early performance estimates for the XL1. Volkswagen has actively touted an estimated fuel economy of 261 miles per gallon due to low curb weight, engine efficiency and electrical drive at low speeds. The XL1 can travel up to 31 miles on all-electric power and only uses 6.2 kW when traveling at highway speeds. A top speed of 99 miles per hour allows the XL1 to keep up with traffic while maintaining necessary range. The vehicle can hit 60 MPH from a full stop in 12.7 seconds according to Volkswagen’s track testing.
Volkswagen is using a very methodical production process to create the first wave of XL1 plug-in hybrids. The engineering team at Osnabrück will follow a nine-step process to build each vehicle that takes great care to ensure optimum performance. These steps range from the deliberate assembly of the lightweight body to calibration of electronics and onboard camera by hand. Each vehicle will be tested on the road until the drive system has exceeded high standards for performance. Volkswagen would be unable to replicate this timetable for a mass-produced vehicle but the XL1 is merely another step toward the one-liter car.