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Volkswagen XL1 diesel-electric hybrid – The future of electric cars?


Volkswagen XL1 diesel-electric hybrid car

As we strive to improve the energy efficiency of our homes and reduce their carbon footprint, it’s natural that our attention should also turn to that other great guzzler of fossil fuels: the car.

The Geneva Motor Show in March was the setting for Volkswagen to launch the latest incarnation of their prototype diesel-electric hybrid car: the XL1, and to announce that this model will go into production, starting at the end of 2013. (Image source:

Technology and Design

For over ten years, VW has been working on the technology and design of this new supercar, with the intention of producing a machine that runs as efficiently and economically as possible. Early versions included tandem models with single-piston engines, but the latest XL1 is more familiar in appearance. The seats may now be side by side, and there may be plenty of space for luggage under the boot behind the engine, but the car is still extremely slimline and lightweight. It is under 13 feet long, and weighs just 1,752 pounds.

A plug-in hybrid electric car, the XL1 is rated as a Super Efficient Vehicle and runs on diesel and a back-up electricity supply. The electric motor can work either alongside the diesel engine or drive independent of it for up to 22 miles. Recharging the Lithium-ion batteries takes about an hour from a UK domestic electricity supply. Early test drivers have indicated that the car is a smooth drive with few problems, with a journalist from the Telegraph giving the XL1 a maximum five stars following his test drive in Geneva.


The really incredible thing about the XL1 however is the efficiency of its engine. With a fuel consumption of 310 mpg (0.9 litres per 100km) and CO2 emission of just 21g per kilometre, it is a staggering improvement on standard cars. As a case in point, compare it with best performing VW Golf in 2012, which has  64.2 mpg and a 115 g/km carbon emission.

Combined with the battery, the 10 litre fuel tank gives the car a range of over 300 miles, which compares favourably with other hybrid and electric cars. Last month, the US electric car manufacturer Tesla was involved in a controversy concerning the battery life of its new Model S luxury car. A new York Times journalist took the car on test drive from Washington DC to New England, and claimed the car was unable to make the distance between the battery charging points located at stops at 200 mile points along the way. However, Tesla Motors refuted the journalist’s claims and accused him of running down the battery on purpose in order to trash the car.

As the debate continues, it is clear there are still many bumps along the road ahead for electric and hybrid cars. But there can be little doubt that with innovations like the XL1, the future of the automobile is one of increased fuel efficiency and a significant reduction in carbon emissions. While this is good news in the long term, the changes will not happen overnight. Volkswagen still hasn’t announced how much an XL1 is likely to cost, and with an initial production run of only 250 models scheduled, it’s a fairly safe bet that not many of us will be able to get our hands on one just yet.

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