What first stands out about the new Volkswagen XL1 is the diesel plug-in hybrid’s stratospheric fuel efficiency — a combined 260 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) under ideal conditions. But equally noteworthy is the car’s long list of design innovations.
Touted as “the world’s most fuel-efficient car” by its manufacturer, the two-seater packs a small diesel engine and an electric motor inside a highly aerodynamic design. The teardrop-shaped body clears the pavement by only 2 inches and is made from lightweight, carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (with an underlying crash structure for safety). Cameras have replaced the exterior mirrors to reduce drag. Even the body paint weighs substantially less than normal. The total weight of the car is only 1,750 pounds, which, for comparison, is 1,000 pounds less than the 2014 two-door Honda Civic. Only about 200 XL1s have rolled off the Volkswagen production line to date, and sales are limited to Europe. While the XL1’s estimated $167,000 price tag makes it inaccessible for most drivers, its impressive design elements will likely boost the mpg of less expensive cars in the future.
Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like. You can find her on Google+.