300mpg Diesel-Electric Hybrid Unveiled by Volkswagen

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The star of this week's Qatar motor show will undoubtedly be Volkswagen's (NASDAQOTH: VLKAY  ) "one-liter car," the diesel hybrid XL1, which is able to achieve more than 300 mpg.

The $60,000 XL1 is powered by an 800cc, two-cylinder turbodiesel powerplant (half a BlueMotion engine), producing 47bhp, supported by a 27bhp electric motor hat fuelled by lithium-ion batteries. The batteries can be charged from a domestic plug, allowing the car to travel 22 miles solely on electric power.

Over the past decade governments worldwide have been pressing the automotive industry for better gas mileage, better fuel economy in vehicles, and other sources of energy. The XL1 fulfills all these requirements.

The XL1 also emits just 24g/km of CO2 and has a 0-60 time of 11.9 seconds. Its 10-liter diesel tank gives the XL1 a range of around 340 miles. Adding to the XL1's remarkable fuel efficiency is the fact that the car has been designed to be as light as possible, with an unpainted carbon fiber skin over a magnesium-alloy subframe.

Efforts to pare weight extend to the engine, transmission, suspension, carbon fiber wheels, aluminum brakes, titanium hubs and ceramic bearings, producing a vehicle weighing only 1,752 pounds.

The XL1 is the brainchild of Volkswagen group former head Ferdinand Piëch, who initiated the project in 1998. Volkswagen's designers and engineers responded to Piëch's challenge, immediately setting about producing a carbon-fiber bodied car with tandem seating and a single-piston engine. In 2002, in his last public appearance as chairman, Piëch drove to a VW shareholders meeting in Hamburg in the prototype, and even then managed to beat the fuel-consumption target that he had set his engineers. Following Piëch's leaving Volkswagen, the project was essentially shelved until Piëch's replacement, Martin Winterkorn, along with Volkswagen's research and development head Ulrich Hackenberg, revisited the concept and developed the twin-cylinder hybrid L1, which appeared at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009.

 Volkswagen engineer Andreas Keller, who's been with the project since its inception, said, "In many respects, this car is similar to the Bugatti Veyron. I mean that it's the absolute pinnacle of engineering that we as a company are capable of right now. It's an extreme car, it's just that it's the opposite of the Veyron. But the technology and the design are equally important. There had to be some creature comforts, but we've done everything possible to keep the weight down. The air conditioning, for instance, is powered by a smaller unit than is usual, so it might get a bit hot in there during the UAE's summer. Also, the gearbox, which is a twin-clutch automatic, has been rehoused in a magnesium casing because it's incredibly light — the entire car only weighs 1,752 pounds. The tires are narrow to keep down the rolling resistance and the rears are covered by wheel spats that aid streamlining. You will also notice there are no exterior mirrors. There are two rear-facing cameras fitted into either side of the car, and the real-time images are fed to screens in the doors." The XL1 is being built at Volkswagen's Osnabrück facility. 

The bad news for XL1 enthusiasts is that currently only 250 are to be constructed, with production ceasing next year. Interestingly in October 2013 the XL1 made its U.S. debut in Chattanooga at the 23rd Annual Society of Environmental Journalists Conference. Volkswagen Group of America, Engineering and Environmental Office General Manager Oliver Schmidt said at the unveiling of the prototype, "The XL1 offers a glimpse into Volkswagen's present and future eco-mobility capabilities, and highlights the ultimate successes of 'Thinking Blue.' Volkswagen is proud to debut this ultra-fuel-efficient vehicle before the Society of Environmental Journalists, a group that shares in our commitment to environmental stewardship."

As Volkswagen of America, in 2011 opened a $1 billion Volkswagen Chattanooga factory that manufactures the Passat sedan for the North American market, which provides more than 12,000 full-time jobs and is responsible for $643 million in annual income in the area, as well as $53.5 million annually in state and local taxes, the question might be – why not manufacture XL1s in the U.S.?

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Read/Post Comments (20) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 8:56 AM, SomethingCryptic wrote:

    Something is wrong with this article, if this a 300 mpg car, with a 10 liter diesel tank then it should have a range of 792.5 miles. Based on 3.78541 liters/gallon and mpg mentioned in the title.

    Further 300 mpg is just a little hard to believe, 100 mpg is a stretch, especially since the average car(that is not totally electric or a hybrid gets 50 mpg) today is 24.9 mpg for gasoline, with the most efficient models getting 37 mpg.

    Where did the 340 mile range come from?

    Are any of these figures accurate?

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 10:13 AM, McSniperliger wrote:

    I heard about this thing about a year ago and I doubt we'll ever see it in the US with the way Oil Companies bribe politicians or pay off companies so they cannot develop something more efficient than an oil base fuel. Electric cars have the potential but oil companies don't want them.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 10:19 AM, jjcimino wrote:

    Talk about " Yellow Journalism ". The headline says " 300mpg....hybrid.... ". Yet it carries 10 liters of fuel which equates to a little over 2 1/2 gallons that allows the vehicle to go 340 miles. That, my idiot author, is only, approximately, 136 mpg, Certainly, very good but not the ( erroneously ) suggested 300 mpg.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 10:28 AM, Grandpastu wrote:

    Wait until the oil companies get a hold of this news. They'll crush VW's new venture quicker than Detroit killed the Tucker!

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 10:40 AM, Charos wrote:

    I had a 1980 diesel VW pick-up back in 1987. I could drive from Long Island NY to Palm Bay FL stopping only once for fuel. The whole trip cost about $20.00

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 11:15 AM, blackdeath wrote:

    Imagine how this news will just THRILL the middle east! Kinda like a skunk at a garden party.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 11:25 AM, bitcomet510 wrote:

    Wait the electric system only goes 22 miles and the diesel goes 340. Why the hell put an electric engine in just for the 22 miles? So put the battery in later on when it fails all the more reasons for expensive repair? That just doesn't make sense.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 11:41 AM, noitzie wrote:

    BitComet, you're missing the point of hybrid power. The diesel gives highly efficient but low-performance power. Electric gives high performance but needs batteries. Then, regenerative braking charges up those batteries in the precise environment (stop and go city driving) where the high efficiency of the diesel doesn't make up for its poor performance. Besides, charging the battery on house power gives low-cost energy for driving, and 22 miles covers about 80% of my driving (yours may vary) which is probably what generates that 300 mpg imputed efficiency.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 12:15 PM, Locruid wrote:

    Does not mater what mpg the car gets...if Big Oil starts losing profits they start increasing price. Look when Gas prices took a HUGE jump instead of the normal climb......Diesel pickups had gained enormous popularity. Double the previous mpg of their unleaded brethren. Then cars started topping 40mpg....next thing we know gas went from $2.3 to $4.00 a gallon. It's not "wars or "disasters" causing price increases it's the government's push towards huge MPG. As more and more get better and better, gas is going to increase. Meanwhile the working poor who can only afford the 15-20 mpg cars get screwed.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 1:08 PM, ohiodale wrote:

    Who would pay $60k for a car that is usless besides driving to and from work. I doubt the oil companies care about a car that is so impratical I doubt they sell more than 1000 per year in the US. That is so blue collar to think the oil companies will try to stop VW from selling this car.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 1:22 PM, spoonteam2 wrote:

    This is entirely possible go buy this VW, say goodbye Tesla

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 2:17 PM, Nohurry1 wrote:

    I was talking about this just yesterday and I said a 2 cylinder engine would do and... preferably diesel! This is fine, except my idea is to constantly use the small, highly efficient diesel to power the batteries constantly to keep them charged at least well enough to extend the range to the 300 mile area. Even if only 200 with the highly efficient diesel picking up after that. This could be used to not only power the car, but to continue recharging the batteries.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 3:13 PM, PiousBird wrote:

    I just did a little resurch and found out that this car has a 2.6 gallon fuel tank,get 261 mpg,and cost more than 100 thousand dollars. All of the manufactured cars are to be sold in Europe. It seems to be what they say it is.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 3:45 PM, speculawyer wrote:

    This is nothing but a vanity project. They are not going to mass manufacture it.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 4:07 PM, clutch58 wrote:

    Out come the conspiracy theorists that say the oil companies will kill this idea. Last I checked, you buy DIESEL FUEL FROM THE OIL COMPANIES!. I bet they think the coal companies had a plan to kill DIESEL-ELECTRIC LOCOMOTIVES. That aside, I'd love to convert my trucks to a system like this-I need vehicles that can haul over 2000 pounds, traverse feet of snow, run muddy roads, and launch my boat. I don't see a pure electric vehicle that can do this. I'd also love to see over the road trucks use this system.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 4:08 PM, clutch58 wrote:

    @Speculawyer-I believe Volvo is working on this system for their large over the road truck division.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 11:39 PM, Dpower wrote:

    Many doubt the rated mpg. I don't know how accurate it is, yet I did have a 79 diesel rabbit that gave the high 40+ mpg 35 years ago. This was with a much heavier car without the ability to switch to electric. This sounds like a great idea. As one reader mentioned, the diesel electric locomotive has been around for over 70 years. If this technology is successful, it could greatly reduce our need for oil.

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2014, at 12:26 AM, wheatonformaine wrote:

    I think this is the same car VW was working on back in 2013. The 300 miles is quite possible, however it is figuring on a lot going on. See this first drive test in 2013....

    http://www.plugincars.com/first-drive-volkswagen-xl1-plug-di...

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2014, at 12:31 AM, wheatonformaine wrote:

    According to VW website this car will be for sale only in Europe...

    http://why.vw.com/concept-cars

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2014, at 9:57 PM, Phrontrowalpine wrote:

    Better than anything the Big 3 make, but still not good enough. Isn't Tesla going to have the Model E with unlimited mpg's?

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