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Volkswagen Introduced 261 MPG Diesel/Electric Hybrid

Volkswagen XL-1Twenty-first century automotive technology continues to produce some fascinating vehicles. The latest wonder-car to arrive on the scene is Volkswagen’s XL-1. Scheduled to debut at the 2013 Geneva Auto Show (March 7-17), the XL-1 is a two-seater, plug-in diesel-electric hybrid that reportedly delivers an astounding 261 mpg.

Here’s how the XL-1 achieves such superior efficiency:

Weight Reduction: The XL-1 weighs just 1,753 pounds thanks to its small size (12.8 feet long by 5.58 feet wide and 3.7 feet high) and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body construction.

Diesel/Electric Hybrid Engine: The car is powered by a combination 0.8-litre TDI diesel engine and a 27 horsepower electric motor. The whole drive unit, including the 5.5 kWh lithium battery, weighs just 500 pounds.

Aerodynamics: A swoopy art deco look, complete with rear fender skirts, tiny rear windows and no side mirrors, give the XL-1 a drag coefficient of just Cd 0.19, which is better than the Toyota Prius.

Additional Special Features: To further boost efficiency, the XL-1 incorporates low friction bearings, low rolling resistance tires, aluminum suspension components and magnesium wheels.

The XSL-1 is not exactly a powerhouse. It reportedly has a top speed of just 99 mph, and in all-electric mode, it can manage just 50 mph. Acceleration is fairly poor: Going 0 to 60 takes 11.5 seconds. But with its batteries fully charged and 2.6-gallon gas tank loaded, it has a range of 700 miles. Not bad for about $10 of gas.

And now for the bad news. Hand-built in Osnabrück, Austria, the Volkswagen XL-1 is expected to have a production run of just 1,000 units and sell for about $50,000 each. (Most customers are expected to lease, not buy, the car.) And it’s not expected to ever be available in the United States. In fact, Volkswagen expects virtually all XL-1 sales to be limited to Germany and Austria.

Even so, the XL-1 provides clues as to where automotive design, engineering and technology are likely to be headed in the decade ahead. It’s all about fuel efficiency. With gas prices at America’s pumps closing in on $5/gallon, it’s easy to see why.

To read more about the Volkswagen XL-1, visit

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