If you were to merge Volkswagen’s L1 and E-Up! concepts shown at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show, you’d likely have something quite similar to the Up! Lite concept, which debuts at the 2009 Los Angeles auto show.
Although theoretically built upon the same “New Small Family” platform as other Up! concepts, the Up! Lite concept looks slightly different from its siblings. Volkswagen’s tried to reduce drag by shrinking the front fascia, and the result looks more like a miniature Scirocco than an E-Up! Even though it’s both lower and longer than the E-Up!, the Up! Lite has interior space comparable to a three-door Polo, and can easily seat four.
While the one-liter concept made use of a ridiculously tiny turbo-diesel engine and the E-Up! an electric motor, the Up! Lite combines the two into a single package. Motive power stems from the same 51-hp, 0.8-liter two-cylinder turbo-diesel TDI engine used in the 1L concept, but in this instance, it’s pared with a 10-kW electric motor. Both power sources channel their energy through a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.
While power mostly stems from the microscopic TDI, the hybrid driveline is capable of allowing the electric motor power the car on its own. VW claims the car has 1.2-mile range in EV mode, making it ideal for parking lots, neighborhoods, and other short-range, low-speed scenarios. VW could extend that range by stuffing in a larger battery pack, but the automaker claims the car’s effiency would suffer as a result.
Honestly, if the figures given from this car are true, it’s hard for any fuel miser to scoff at the Up! Lite. Volkswagen says the car can return approximately 70 mpg on the freeway — substantially less than the 235 mpg offered by the 1L, but not bad for a vehicle that carries four and offers some additional cargo space.
The 70 mpg figure is accomplished in a few different ways. First and foremost, VW used a lot of carbon fiber and aluminum in the car’s construction (both materials even appear in the 18-inch wheels). As a result, the car weighs a scant 1402 lbs.
Further, drivers can make the most of the Up! Lite’s efficient powertrain by not using it to its maximum power. By selecting an “Eco” mode, output of the two-cylinder TDI is limited to 36 hp. This is ideal for long cruises, but full power can be dialed in should the driver need to pass (slowly, mind you; 0-60 mph comes in 12 seconds). Better yet, seeing as the TDI is shut off during stretches of coasting, the car’s navigation system can route drivers on roads that offer long stretches where the engine won’t be needed.
As with all other Up! family concepts, VW teases the fact that Up! models are likely to enter production by 2011, with variants reaching the U.S. by 2013. We wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if a diesel hybrid model — perhaps even this car itself — is in the cards.