The XL1 by Volkswagen, also known as the 1-liter car because it aims to burn one liter of fuel per 100 kilometers (equivalent to 240 miles per gallon), is a very impressive vehicle. It's a plug-in diesel-hybrid with a 5.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that allows it to drive 50 km (31 miles) in electric mode and get an official fuel economy rating of 0.9 l/100 km (260 MPG) under the NEDC cycle, actually beating the ambitious goal of 1-liter/100km.
So what's not to like about the world's most fuel-efficient "production" car?
The price for one: €111,000 in Europe (~ US$146,000), and even more in the UK, £98,515 (~ US$169,000).
Also, how few will be produced: Only 250 units will be made. 250! They could all fit in a single mid-sized parking lot!
This is really a big missed opportunity, because what the world needs lots of affordable low-carbon vehicles to replace traditional vehicles, and 250 doesn't come close to making a dent in the problem.
Don't get me wrong; I think VW did a great job with the technical aspects of the XL1. It was a great idea to start with an ambitious goal (go 100 kilometers on a liter or less of fuel) and they seem to have pulled together all kinds of ideas to make it happen (light weight, aerodynamic, plug-in capability, diesel-electric hybrid, etc). It's just that they dropped the ball when it came time to bring what they have created to market.
What VW should do nextThe ideal scenario would be for VW to find a way to start mass-producing the XL1 at a low-cost. Any car that you only sell in small numbers will have a very high price per unit, but if you make tens of thousands, the cost per unit usually plummets because the high fixed costs of development and tooling are spread over more cars. Imagine if VW sold a car that got over 200 MPG for $30k. They could probably re-style it a bit to make it appealing to more people and sell boatloads of them!
But if that's not in the cards, another option - a better option, in some ways - would be to take what has been learned with the XL1 and apply it to existing mass-market vehicles. VW has already transplanted the XL1's powertrain to the Twin Up!, giving it an impressive 214 MPG. But I'd like to see the XL1's powertrain (and some aerodynamic features) moved to something like a VW Golf or Jetta, not some low volume show car.
Our very own Zach had the chance to see the (very) limited XL1 in person last year: