The VW L1 is a revolutionary carbon fibre two-seater capable of returning 189 mpg on the combined cycle while emitting just 39 g/km of CO2. The first previews of the concept car will be at the forthcoming Frankfurt Motor Show.
The L1 can seat two occupants one in front of the other. They enter through a futuristic side-hinging, electrically operated canopy that might look more at home in Blade Runner than your local VW showroom. Whilst only a concept, it perhaps points to the radical steps needed to achieving real improvements in fuel efficiency, by maximising the aerodynamic efficiency of the L1 Concept, turning it into a bullet-shaped car. The result is a drag co-efficient of just 0.195, lower than any mainstream car, and 30% lower than the current Toyota Prius.
Strength is provided by an ultra light safety cell, constructed from carbon fibre reinforced plastic, weighing in at just 124 kg. The car is only 1.2 metres wide, so good for squeezing into awkward parking space, or perhaps in between!
More nods to the future are an adjustable front seat that is ultra-thin and constructed from carbon while the rear passenger sits in a fixed seat built into the bodyshell.
At its heart is a tiny 800 cc two-cylinder common rail, direct injection TDI engine. In ‘ECO’ mode the engine develops 27 PS at 4,000 rpm, in ‘Sport’ mode this rises to 29 PS and 74 lbs ft of torque developed at 1,900 rpm. This engine is derived from the same technology that powers the new Golf Blue Motion.
The low weight of the L1 Concept and efficient aerodynamics mean that it is capable of accelerating to 62 mph from rest in 14.3 seconds and has a top speed of 99 mph. The 10-litre fuel means that it is capable of travelling up to 416 miles between stops.
The 800 cc engine is derived from the 1.6-litre TDI engine found in the new Golf BlueMotion, also making its debut at the Frankfurt Show.
The 14 PS electric motor is normally inactive, only engaging when additional acceleration is required, delivering 40 per cent extra torque. In addition, the electric motor can take over from the engine to power the L1 Concept for short distances.
The L1 Concept draws inspiration from the original 1-litre car, unveiled in April 2002 when Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, then Chairman of the VW Board of Management, drove the concept between Wolfsburg and Hamburg. At that time manufacturing the carbon fibre reinforced plastic body was not financially viable. With modern production processes, large-scale manufacture of such structures is now possible.
With government subsidies for alternate fuel vehicles set to be launched in many countries, including the UK, over the next few years, we could all be driving cars like this in the not too distant future.