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February 21, 2013
This is VW’s radical, lightweight XL1 which promises an EU-certified economy of 111.16kpl and 21g/km CO2 emissions when it goes into limited production later this year following its Geneva motor show reveal next month. Powered by a 47bhp two-cylinder 800cc TDI engine backed up by a 27bhp electric motor and 5.5kWh battery pack, the two-seat car is claimed to have a Cd rating of just 0.189.

First shown as a running concept two years ago, the XL1 is being built at the VW-owned Karmann factory in Osnabrück, alongside the VW Golf cabriolet and the new Porsche Boxster.

The XL1 has a carbon-fibre body, weighing in at just 795kg and is some 3.8m long and 1.66m wide, only marginally smaller than a VW Polo supermini. However, it is only 1.15m high, some 129mm lower than a Boxster. VW says the XL1 has its top speed limited to 159.9kph, but that it can hit 100kph in just 12.7seconds. It uses aluminium double wishbone front suspension, a semi-trailing link suspension at the rear; carbon-fibre reinforced plastic anti-roll bars and ceramic brake discs.

The XL1, with a 10-litre fuel tank, can travel for 49.8km on battery power alone and has a claimed range of 499km on diesel and battery power combined.

Rough calculations suggest the XL1 is capable of a real-world 44.96kpl economy in ideal conditions. VW claims it requires just 8.3bhp to be able to maintain a steady 100kph.

The hybrid system’s electric motor and its dedicated clutch are fitted between the 800cc two-cylinder diesel engine and the XL1’s seven-speed DSG gearbox. The lithium-ion battery is mounted in the nose of the car and can be recharged when the car is braking and coasting.

In pure electric mode, the engine’s clutch disengages and the motor shuts down. The engine is brought back to life via what VW calls ‘pulse starting’, where the electric motor spins up to high speed and is coupled back to the engine, accelerating the idled engine to the revolving speed required for smooth starting.

The extreme weight-saving measures include using carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic for the body, the skin of which is just 1.2mm thick. Aluminium crash structures are used front and rear and as crash beams in the doors, to absorb impact forces.

The windscreen is just 3.2mm thick. VW says the XL1’s construction breaks down into a 227kg drivetrain (including the battery), 153kg running gear, 105kg electrical system, 80kg of on-board equipment, such as seats and instruments, and a body that weighs 230kg. Even the dashboard is made from a lightweight wood fibre material that’s just 1.4mm thick.