First Look: Volkswagen L1 Concept

Volkswagen continues to refine its plans for a hyper-efficient car capable of traveling 100 kilometers on one liter of fuel with the L1 concept prepared for 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show. The German automaker first announced its intentions to build a “1-liter car” in 2002, and with this latest iteration has said a production version should be ready by 2013. The European fuel efficiency measure of 1 liter/100 km is equivalent to 235 mpg.

The L1 in its current form, however, doesn’t quite hit that impressive mark. Volkswagen says the prototype car is capable of driving 100 kilometers on 1.49 liters of diesel fuel or 158 mpg.

Power is supplied by a 0.8-liter diesel engine and electric motor mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. A lithium-ion battery supplies electricity, while regenerative braking captures energy when the car is stopping. In normal driving, the powertrain makes just 27 hp, but that number rises to 52 hp when sport mode is activated. Even in sport mode, performance yields to economy, with 0-62 mph taking a snail-like 14.3 seconds. Top speed is 99 mph.

To achieve such high levels of efficiency, Volkswagen engineers focused on making the L1 as light and aerodynamic as possible. Carbon fiber skin keeps the body weight to just 273 pounds, while the whole car weighs less than 850 pounds. The L1 takes on a long and narrow shape to slip through the air, seating the two occupants one behind the other and keeping the overall height as low as a Lamborghini Murcielago. Drag has also been reduced by replacing the side mirrors with cameras and enclosing the entire underbody. Volkswagen claims the result is a remarkably low drag coefficient of just 0.195.

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