World’s Most Efficient Car: Volkswagen XL1 Set For Production

Impressive though the Chevrolet Volt and Vauxhall Ampera are, they don’t really represent the pinnacle of what you can achieve with an engine and electric motor.

Volkswagen’s latest production car might get close, however.

It’s known as the XL1, and it seems we were a little premature in declaring the Honda CR-Z a car from science fiction – the XL1 could well have been transported in from half a century in the future.

The looks may not appeal to all, but every inch of the car represents what is possible when you dedicate a vehicle to efficiency.

VW XL1 doors

It’s small, for a start. Driver and offset passenger sit low in a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) tub, sitting only 1,153 mm tall. That, as VW points out, is lower than a pure-bred sports car like the 1,282 mm-tall Porsche Boxster. Access to the cabin is via supercar-like gull-wing doors.

Length is similar to a more conventional car like the VW Polo, and at 1,665 mm it’s similarly wide. It’s optimised for aerodynamics, though, so takes on an almost cigar-like shape.

Where the typical car has a drag coefficient (Cd) of around 0.3 (a boxy van is nearer 0.4, for comparison), the XL1 slips through the air with a Cd of only 0.189.

Special attention has been paid to the car’s bodywork, with smooth surfaces, rear wheel spats to send air around as cleanly as possible, and side mirrors ditched in favour of cameras.

VW XL1 interior

The carbon tub means light weight too, at only 795 kg – not far off 100 kg lighter than a Lotus Elise.

The combined benefits of light weight and streamlined aerodynamics mean VW hasn’t needed to fit a large, heavy engine to the XL1. Instead, it gets half of your typical VW Golf’s diesel engine – a 0.8-litre, twin-cylinder turbodiesel.

This only puts out 47 horsepower, but a 27 bhp electric motor helps it along, for a supermini-beating 0-62 mph run of 12.7 seconds. Top speed is just shy of 100 mph.

VW XL1 side

Performance isn’t the XL1’s raison d’tre, however – economy is. To that end, the XL1 is capable of a staggering 313 mpg.

Some of that is courtesy of the electric motor, whose battery, recharged by plugging it in to a standard wall socket, provides enough juice for 31 miles of all-electric range. This should be more than enough for regular city runs, while the diesel engine requires only minimal power to fire it along the motorway.

Priced from: Not yet announced

Available from: Not yet announced

VW XL1 rear


The most amazing thing about the XL1 isn’t its economy or looks, but the fact that VW is actually going to build. It’s likely to be available in limited numbers only, and we’re not expecting it to come cheap – this thing is as thoroughly-engineered as most supercars.
Instead, we’re more likely to see the fruits of VW’s labour more accessible in future variants of cars like the Volkswagen Up. If VW gives us a 100 mpg version of that car for a reasonable price, then that’ll really grab our attention.
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