Volkswagen's Fuel-Efficient Hybrid

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted July 10, 2013

Volkswagen (OTC: VLKAY) is adding a new dynamic vehicle to the hybrid market with the XL1.

This two-seat hybrid has diesel and electric twin engines – 47 hp for the diesel engine and 27 hp for the electric battery. Altogether, the powertrain yields 68 hp. The electric battery is a 5.5 kWh lithium-ion battery, and the electric motor is 75 kW. Maximum speed using the drivetrain is 94 mph.

volkswagen xl1Obviously, the speed is far below standards in today’s high-speed vehicle market, but it should be noted that the XL1 is in its testing stages in Europe. There are even some versions where the user can rely strictly on the electric battery.

The 2.6 gallon fuel tank is impressive, with a fuel efficiency standard of 261 mpg. The vehicle has a total range of 310 miles, and charge time for the electric battery is an hour and a half, which is on par with Tesla’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) Model S, which can run for 300 miles on a one hour charge.

The weight of the car is roughly 1,750 pounds, and true to Volkswagen form, every piece of the vehicle is designed with efficiency, with a single-shell outer frame made of lightweight carbon fiber. The rear wheels are covered with plating, giving the vehicle a trendy futuristic vibe. The side windows are made of polycarbonate, and the dashboard comprises natural fibers.

The rear structure is narrower, with no back window or side mirrors. The only way to navigate about when backing up is to look through side-mounted cameras. There is also no power steering.

The wheels are forged in magnesium and fitted with custom rubber made by Michelin. There is no radio or plug-in port for smartphones. Instead, users would get a GPS that functions through the car’s sound system and smartphone connection would occur through Bluetooth.

There is no word from Volkswagen as to when this vehicle will become available or the official sticker price. According to experts, this rare find will set you back $100,000 or more in its current form, but the price may come down as changes are made accommodate the market. Above all, the makers want to brand the XL1 as a budget car that is accessible to the masses.

But don’t count on this vehicle heading to the states any time soon; the features of the vehicle would not pass safety standards. Aside from the lack of rear windows and mirrors, there are no turning signals or airbag. Volkswagen was able to get away with this through a special waiver from the European Union. Currently, the designers do not plan to tailor the car to U.S. safety guidelines.

Comparison to Chevy Volt

Indulge me for a moment, and let’s say the XL1 does make it to the American market. How would it stack up to GM’s (NYSE: GM) Chevy Volt?

Although it is a bit hard to compare the two, since the XL1 is essentially in prototype form, the Chevy Volt does have some leverage. Volt comes with RemoteLink, Onstar, traditional radio, and a three-month trial of Sirius Satellite radio. With the XL1, however, such benefits have been stripped away in the spirit of keeping the car lightweight and fuel efficient.

Fuel tank capacity for the Chevy Volt is 9.3 gallons, and it has a total range of 380 miles. Battery range goes for 38 miles.

These are just some of the things that Volkswagen will need to compete with, but the German automaker could just as easily add some perks of its own to lure in buyers.

But the efficient and bare essential nature of the XL1 may be a turn-off to some who are looking for amenities in their cars. And the enclosed nature of interior may leave some riders feeling claustrophobic. Also, no back windows and side mirrors will be a problem for many consumers.

Designers of the car believe riders will eventually get accustomed to the side cameras, but when you’re on a freeway and need to make a lane change, or when backing up in the middle of a neighborhood where children could be playing, there is little time for a learning curve when it comes to real-world navigation. But these are things that can be worked out as the XL1 is being transitioned to the automobile market.

Right now, the XL1 has been designed with full creative force, amounting to more of a science project than a vehicle ready for mass consumption.

XL1 Future

The XL1 will eventually have to be grounded for practical road usage, but the car in its current stage has high potential. The XL1 can compete with GM if it is packaged as an economy car that is cheaper in price, providing an alternative to traditional gasoline-based hybrids.

Diesel may be more expensive than conventional gasoline, but the limited capacity tank will do little damage to a driver’s wallet.

There has been no determined date as to when the XL1 will make a full market debut. There are only 50 on the road, and limited production of 250 is expected this year or in the near future. It is being tested on the road in Europe, and others are driving the XL1 who won the car in an essay contest about green energy and urban design.

But the car will make a lasting impact in the alternative car market, and it something worth following for investors interested in hybrids and EVs.


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