The diesel engine makes just 47 hp and the electric motor only 27 hp, so Volkswagen invested a significant amount of time reducing weight and minimizing aerodynamic drag. To cut down on frontal area, the passenger seat is staggered to sit slightly behind the driver's seat. This allows the car to be just 65.2 inches wide -- a bit smaller than a Volkswagen Polo -- yet not feel too cramped. The length is also similar to that of a subcompact car, but the 45.5-inch height is typically reserved for supercars. Thanks to the teardrop-like shape, Volkswagen is claiming the world's most aerodynamic shape with the slippery 0.186 drag coefficient. A Toyota Prius, for comparison, has a coefficient of drag of 0.25. The XL1's combination of a small frontal area and minimal drag means it takes just 8.3 hp to cruise at 62 mph. That's less than half the power required to move a Volkswagen Golf with a 1.6-liter diesel.
The weight watching was so methodical that some of the wiring is aluminum rather than copper to save a few ounces here and there and the wheels are magnesium to lower the rotational mass. Those little details are neat, but Volkswagen's real breakthrough is a carbon-fiber tub that will theoretically be cost effective for a production car. We doubt the production run will be huge, but even bringing a few thousand XL1s to market with this technology and construction would be an impressive feat. We were assured the car meets all safety regulations (at least in Europe) as it sits now. Though the passenger doesn't need an airbag because the seat sits too far away from the dash, we imagine potential customers would demand another airbag. Expect a slight increase from the 1753-pound curb weight when the car comes to production, but rest assured the engineers are sweating every ounce.