Preview: 157 MPG Volkswagen L1 Concept

September 15, 2009
2009 Volkswagen L1 concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show

2009 Volkswagen L1 concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show

Enlarge Photo

2009 Volkswagen L1 concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show

2009 Volkswagen L1 concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show

Enlarge Photo

2009 Volkswagen L1 concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show

2009 Volkswagen L1 concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show

Enlarge Photo

2009 Volkswagen L1 concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show

2009 Volkswagen L1 concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show

Enlarge Photo

2009 Volkswagen L1 concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show

2009 Volkswagen L1 concept at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show

Enlarge Photo

As outrageous as the idea of a production 235 mpg (1.0L/100km) car sounds, Volkswagen believes it has what it takes to build such a vehicle and has already produced a concept version. The ultra-frugal concept hit the floor of the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show today, and we were there to capture these live shots.

News from the show today indicates that 2013 would be the earliest the car could enter production, though we'll have to wait to see rubber hit the road before we'll know whether it's all auto show bluster or real green muster.

Called the L1 and feature a carbon-fiber body wrapped around a 0.8-liter twin-cylinder turbodiesel engine developing 36 horsepower and matched to a 7-speed dual-clutch DSG and a 14-horsepower E-motor hybrid electric drive system. With a curb weight of just 1,100 pounds and a super-slippery aerodynamic body thanks to its tandem seating layout, the L1 is claimed to return a fuel economy of 157.8 mpg (1.49L/100km)--we think this is low enough to warrant the L1 or '1-Liter' name.

The 800 cubic centimeter turbodiesel engine in the L1 is essentially half of the 1.6-liter unit found in the Golf and Polo BlueMotion vehicles, meaning it is a series-engine-derived mill. Performance isn't as terrible as you might expect from a hyper-frugal hybrid, either: top speed is 100 mph and it can reach 62 mph in just 14.3 seconds--not so far behind some standard cars on the road today.

Driving range is an impressive 416 miles, much farther than a typical electric-only or plug-in electric vehicle. Cargo space is at a premium, however, with just 1.8 cubic feet, or about enough for a quick run to the market.

This isn’t the first time Volkswagen has developed a super efficient concept car. Back in 2002 the automaker produced a similar vehicle powered by a 0.3-liter diesel engine that returned a fuel economy of 264 mpg.

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