Co.Design

How Volkswagen's XL1 Concept Gets 261 Miles to the Gallon

The XL1's futuristic lines look made to dazzle, but they're aimed at unprecedented fuel efficiency.

If all auto shows are paeans to over-the-topness, the Qatar Motor Show must top them all. So it's probably appropriate that Volkswagen is unveiling its highly anticipated XL1 hybrid concept car there: with a look that's part Prius, part Tesla, and part... DeLorean (dig those split windows and gullwing doors, Marty!), the XL1 appears to be stuffing 10 pounds of futurism into a five-pound bag.

But look closer and you'll see that all those details are actually design choices with a ruthless purpose: sculpting the XL1 into a form that can go 100km on less than a liter of diesel fuel. Let me put it in terms we coarse Americans can understand: that's 261 miles per gallon. Das Auto indeed!

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First, the shape: the XL1 is widest in the front and tapers to a slippery tail in the rear, which gives it an enviable aerodynamic profile compared to most cars. (VW claims the shape is inspired by dolphins.) Those George Jetson-looking rear wheel covers? They reduce drag too, by preventing air turbulence. VW also ditched side mirrors in the name of aerodynamics, installing sleek, recessed video cameras in their place -- even the entire rear window was sacrificed to the wind-tunnel gods.

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Next, the materials: the XL1 follows trends in Formula One car design to clad itself in carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) -- which in non-Star-Trek-speak means "stuff that's super duper light." And low-profile but powerful LED lights stud the vehicle from nose to tail. It all weighs just 1,753 pounds: positively waifey for a performance automobile (that's about 1000 pounds less than the Tesla roadster).

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All of this rides on a hybrid diesel-electric engine with a fuel consumption of just 0.9-liter per 100 km and CO2 emissions of 24 g/km. According to Gizmag, the last time Volkswagen put a production date on the XL1, it was slated for 2013. Let's hope the big unveiling in Qatar keeps that promise, so in a couple years we can start hypermiling in style.

[Read more at Gizmag]

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