(Jens Meiners, Car and Driver) A one-liter car? This moniker describes a car that uses one liter of fuel—about a quarter of a gallon—to propel a car for 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. The one-liter car’s fuel economy translates to almost 240 mpg, and VW has had such a car in its sights for some time now. In 2002, outgoing VW CEO Ferdinand Piëch, now head of the company’s supervisory board, drove a cigar-shaped prototype from VW headquarters in Wolfsburg to a shareholders’ meeting in Hamburg.Is the Relatively Archaic Auto Industry Finally Yielding To The Inevitable Future?
Now the idea of the one-liter car has been resurrected. VW’s biggest news at the Frankfurt auto show was the L1 concept, a prototype that "is close to production" and "will be developed," the company says. Three ingredients were needed to make it happen: a supremely efficient powertrain, great aerodynamics, and lightweight engineering.
As to the powertrain, VW has opted for a two-cylinder, 39-hp turbo-diesel engine combined with a 14-hp electric motor. There is a stop/start system and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The L1 can reach 100 mph, but fuel economy at that speed drops to a shameful 1.38 liters per 100 kilometers, or 170 mpg.
The front-wheel-drive L1’s aerodynamics are optimized by the two-seat layout with the occupants sitting in a row. The result is a car that is relatively long, quite low, and extremely slim. The monocoque and body is made of carbon fiber, and total weight of the L1 is a mere 838 pounds. We think that the seating configuration will likely be changed as development progresses; two people sitting behind each other is too unusual for prospective buyers.
Even so, the L1 looks refined and close to series production, which couldn’t be said of the 2002 concept. It could be on the market as soon as 2013, Volkswagen sources tell us. The L1 may seem ironic to those who remember that VW is also responsible for Bugatti, which makes the fastest production car in the world, the Bugatti Veyron, and which just unveiled the W-16 Galibier sedan concept. But if you think about the styles of both Piëch and current VW chairman Martin Winterkorn, this contradiction seems logical: These guys both tend to go to extremes. And we submit that the Volkswagen L1 is a more significant step in saving resources than are heavy gasoline-electric hybrids.
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