Introducing the 261 MPG Car

No mistake there. 261 mpg. And it’s not a concept car, either. The Volkswagen XL1 has a 261 miles-per-gallon rating and is a real car actually in production. Granted the original production consists of only 250 XL1s and won’t make its way across the Atlantic to the US, but the fact of the matter is that the XL1 is real.

The Engine

For the XL1, VW started with a plug-in hybrid engine and enhanced it. The XL1 runs with the help of a 2-cylinder, turbo diesel engine and an electric motor that draws power from a lithium-ion battery. The small engine does mean a compromise when it comes to power. The XL1 features a total output of only 74 horsepower. However, power isn’t the goal of the XL1. There’s evidence of that in the fact that it takes only 8 horsepower to keep the XL1 driving at speeds of 62 mph.

The XL1 can also run as a standard hybrid if the lithium-ion battery isn’t charged via plug-in. Even without the extra boost of the electric motor, the XL1 still gets 141 mpg.

What do all these numbers mean for the driver’s wallet? According to VW, about $1.50 of electricity and $4.60 worth of fuel (the fuel tank only holds about 2.6 gallons of fuel) will allow the XL1 to travel approximately 300 miles.

The Design

Over more than 10 years, VW developed one of the industry’s most innovative body designs for the XL1. Every aspect of its design is specialized for lighter weight and/or improved aerodynamics. It was rigorously tested in wind tunnels to develop the least wind-resistant (not to mention super cool, futuristic) shape. For example, the back end of the XL1 is tapered, and the rear wheels are covered to reduce wind turbulence.

Overall, the XL1 was designed with a minimalist bent, inside and out. There are only 2 seats inside. For the sake of aerodynamics, VW has done away with side mirrors, replacing them with cameras. Altogether, the XL1 only weighs about 1,750 pounds. In fact, it’s so light it doesn’t need power steering.

The Materials

The XL1’s light weight comes not only from the aerodynamic design but also from the materials used. Its exterior is built mostly from carbon fiber. Its single-piece seats are made of carbon fiber also. The XL1 features magnesium wheels, lightweight dampers, and even a dash made of compressed wood fibers.

Considering the fact that only 250 XL1s will be produced and the price tag of over $130,000, VW isn’t banking on the XL1 to rake in huge profits or become the world’s most popular car. So why produce the XL1? Why not simply make it a concept vehicle?

The XL1 is a showcase for VW’s advanced technology. But unlike concept cars, VW wants to show that there are real world, street-ready technologies behind the XL1’s 162 mpg rating. VW plans on implementing the technology, including aspects of the drivetrain and chassis design, into some of their more popular models, so we can all get a little closer to the 261 mpg of the XL1.

Image courtesy of Volkswagen.