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Forget about adding the Volkswagen XL1 to your car collection, Jay Leno, it’ll only be available for lease

Volkswagen XL1

When Volkswagen unveiled the production XL1, the most fuel-efficient and aerodynamic production car in the world, we jumped for joy.

It is essentially – save 500 horsepower – everything we dream future cars to be: fuel-efficient (261 mpg!), tech-savvy, and visually dynamic.

We then learned Volkswagen would only make a limited run of the XL1s, around 250 or so. Then we learned they weren’t likely to ship any Stateside. If they did send some across the pond, it’d only a hand-full, 20 or so.

Now we’ve learned VW is considering the XL1 as a lease-only car, according to Auto Blog Green.

How are we not surprised?

Since the debacle of the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s and the ensuing “Who Killed the Electric Car” documentary, we figured automakers had learned their lesson not to keep their extremely forward-thinking cars under veritable wraps.

We wonder: why make them at all if we can’t even keep them? We realize only a few would actually ever be used, the rest would be snapped up by millionaire weirdos like Jay Leno, only to be held captive for all eternity in their colossal shrines to all things motoring. We had hoped for a moment at least a few would live on as daily drivers. Alas.

So there we have it, folks. The Volkswagen XL1: the future of automotive engineering. If you’re lucky enough to even get close to one, you’ll never get to keep it.


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Nick Jaynes
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nick Jaynes is the Automotive Editor for Digital Trends. He developed a passion for writing about cars working his way…
Volkswagen Up to achieve 250 MPG thanks to XL1 powertrain

In Europe, Volkswagen sells an A-Segment car - or city car - called the “Up.” Just like all other city cars, like the Scion IQ or the Fiat 500, the Up is small, lightweight, and economical. It’s a car for people who don’t really want a car but rather need something tiny to get around with.
While European reviewers have put the Up at the top of the scale in terms of drive and livability, the Up has never really been very revolutionary. That is – until now.
Word has come from Autocar that Volkswagen is planning to put the drivetrain from its radical new hyper mileage car the XL1 into the Up.
When fitted to the tiny body of the Up, which only weighs 286 pounds more than the XL1, the diesel plug-in hybrid powertrain will achieve an estimated 250 miles per gallon, on an European cycle. This kind of fuel economy would send the Up from a great city car to the world’s most efficient production car.
How is the system so efficient? Volkswagen engineers have mated a 47-horsepower two-cylinder diesel engine to a 27-horsepower electric motor powered by a 5.5-kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack.
When we spoke to Volkswagen representatives about hybrid diesels, they assured us that although the brand loves both technologies, combining the two became prohibitively expensive – at least in the U.S. This means the Up diesel plug-in hybrid is not likely headed Stateside anytime soon. In spite of its high production costs, we expect it will be this kind of innovative drivetrain that will power fuel-efficient cars of all sizes in years to come. Volvo, for instance, has a diesel plug-in hybrid production car that is presently selling like gangbusters in Europe.
Subcompact car sales are expected to double in the U.S. in the next several years. While VW doesn’t currently sell the Up in North America, that could very well change.

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Volkswagen’s XL1 goes from legend to reality, reportedly gets 261 MPG

When in 2009 we first learned about the Volkswagen XL1 in early prototype form, we thought it was a bit of a myth. Then called the L1, we figured the 261-MPG concept vehicle was on par with the 100-MPG carburetor our grandfathers used to talk about, the one the government was reportedly withholding. When friends and colleagues would ask us about the hyper mileage Volkswagen they’d heard about, we would assure them they’d never see one outside a museum.
Now, however, we’re left eating crow because Volkswagen is really going to sell this unicorn of a car.
The extremely efficient XL1 is powered by a diesel plug-in hybrid system. The engine is a 1.0-liter two-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produces 47 horsepower. That tiny diesel is mated to a 27-horsepower electric motor, which is bolted to VW’s seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. The XL1 is capable of an emissions-free, electric only range of 32 miles from the initial electric charge. The result, as you already know, is a European combined fuel economy rating of 261 MPG.
Interestingly, at a constant 62 MPH cruising speed, the XL1 only requires 8.3 horsepower to propel itself forward. To hit that 62 MPH, the XL1 will need 12.3 seconds from a dead standstill. Although the XL1 is most efficient at 62, its stop speed isn’t far off at 99 MPH.
The XL1 doesn’t simply benefit from a highly efficient powertrain; it also has the most aerodynamic body of any production car ever with a drag co-efficient of only 0.19. Additionally, the XL1 is very, very light weighing only 1953 pounds thanks to its carbon fiber construction.
Unlike the previous L1 concept, the XL1 can seat two passengers in a slightly graduated seating arrangement - not too dissimilar from normal coupes.
Volkswagen has said the XL1 will go into limited production for select markets. A Volkswagen representative has informed us that the brand has no current plans to offer the XL1 in the States. In addition, VW has also not announced any pricing. When we learn more, we’ll be sure to update accordingly.

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EV vs. PHEV vs. hybrid: What’s the difference?
BMW X5 PHEV charge port

When sizing up options for your next car, you may be figuring out whether to get an electric vehicle, only to discover there are a bunch of variations to consider -- not just hybrids, but plug-in hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles are just some of the other categories. The depths of EV jargon run so deep that we wrote an entire EV glossary, but for now let's zero in on the difference between electric vehicles, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids. These options blend old tech and new tech in a way that's often practical, cheaper than an EV, and still more efficient than an old-school gasoline car.
What is an electric vehicle?
An electric vehicle skips the internal combustion engine found in most traditional cars in favor of an electric motor. This allows EVs to operate without needing gasoline. Instead, they're powered by an electric battery that will need to be charged regularly, either at your home or at a charging station like a Tesla Supercharger. The Ford Mach-E, Kia EV6, and Rivian R1S are all popular examples of modern EVs.

The electric motor works by way of a rotating magnetic field. Inside the motor, three electromagnets surround a free-floating rotor, which spins based on which magnet is attracting it most. That rotor in turn produces power to the wheels of the car and pushes it forward and backward. Regenerative braking reverses the relationship and turns motion into electricity. While you're slowing to a stop, the force of the turning wheels spins the rotor and generates a charge via the electromagnets in the motor, which in turn goes up into the battery for storage. If you're curious, you can dig into the nuts and bolts of how an electric vehicle works.
What's the difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid?
In short, a hybrid primarily relies on gas with an electric backup, while a plug-in hybrid relies on electric power with a gas backup.

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