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By Robert Rapier on Feb 4, 2011 with 23 responses

The World’s Most Fuel Efficient Car

This likely blows previous fuel efficiency records out of the water:

VW to roll out 313mpg car in Germany and UK

Last week at the Qatar Motor Show saw the world debut of Volkswagen’s XL1, a diesel-electric hybrid two-seater that can do 313mpg (0.9 l/100 km) and an announcement that the vehicle will enter limited production for the UK and German markets in 2013. If it proves popular, VW says it plans to increase production and sell in other countries.

More coverage from Auto Express:

Volkswagen XL1

With rear wheel covers, an F1-style carbon fibre monocoque, and other ultra-lightweight materials such as magnesium wheels, it’s meant to show how economical cars can be, boasting 300mpg-capability. But what’s it like to drive? Open the gullwing door and you sit very low in the cabin. However, that’s not an issue because the driving seat and steering wheel positions are spot-on.

AT A GLANCE

Price: £30,000 (est.)

Engine: 47bhp 800cc two-cylinder turbodiesel, 27bhp electric motor

Transmission: Seven-speed DSG, rear-wheel drive

Top speed: 99mph

0-62mph: 11.9 seconds

Weight: 795kg

Economy: 313mpg

CO2: 25g/km

Equipment: Electric windows, sat-nav, climate control, carbon-fibre monocoque, magnesium wheels

On sale: 2013

All I can say is “amazing.”

Coming up next week, I will discuss the recent online debate on natural gas at The Economist. I was asked to submit an entry, which I will publish here as well. I will also post an interesting Q&A I had about butanol with Rick Wilson, CEO of Cobalt Technologies about the work they are doing.

  1. By walter-sobchak on February 5, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Russ Finley said:

    Thanks for the analysis, Walter. So, this car is a plug-in hybrid? You start off with a grid charged battery?


     

    Yes.

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  2. By Kit P on February 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Another demonstration that concept cars presented at auto show are not practical. Practical cars can handle a load of plywood, three car seats, or the tennis team.

     

    “it’s meant to show how economical cars can be..”

     

    A GEO Metro is economical. A Toyota Corolla is economical. When they do not tell you how much something cost, it is just an expensive toy that requires back surgery after any trip.

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  3. By Anonymous One on February 4, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    313 mpg (Imperial gallons)
    261 mpg (US gallons)

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  4. By PeteS on February 4, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Robert — what do you know about AFEX (“ammonia fiber explosion”), a pre-treatment for cellulosic biomass that is supposed to make it dramatically easier and more economical to ferment? I can’t find any references to it on your blog (sorry if I missed them), but the inventor of the process is Bruce Dale, who you have spoken approvingly of before. There was a Scientific American article about it in July 2009 which talked about it in glowing terms, but on the other hand it came across as possibly over-exuberant (it was co-authored by Dale and George W. Huber). Also, AFEX has been around a good few years now and is still not commercialised, which sounds ominous. Ta for any insights.

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  5. By walter-sobchak on February 5, 2011 at 12:08 am

    From Green Car Congress: “The XL1 prototype has an all-electric range of up to 35 kilometers (22
    miles); total range is approx. 550 km (342 miles) with a 10 liter fuel
    tank.”

    The 313 mpg number is based on an Imperial (UK) gallon, which is 1.2 U.S. Gal. So that would be 260 mpg. It is also based on the getting the 35 km for no gasoline.

    If you back out the 35 km of electric only, you get 515 km for 10 liters, you get 1.9 l / 100 km. That is equivalent to 120 mpg.

    I am not inclined to believe this. The first generation Honda Insight could get 60/66 mpg on the EPA cycle, about 3.8 l/100km. Like the VW it had room for only 2 passengers. It was also very aerodynamic having a Cd of .25 (the VW has a Cd 0.186 but is only 46 inches high). The Insight weighed 838 kg (1,847 lb) in manual transmission form or (891 kg, 1,964 lb) with CVT and air conditioning. The VW weighs 795 kg. But while the Honda used a lot of aluminum and plastic, the VW relies very heavily on carbon fiber.

    My guess is that a mass production vehicle that was not as extreme as the prototype*, and was made of the same sort of stuff that ordinary cars are made of would have dimensions like Insight and perform like it as well.

    The real secret is light weight and good aerodynamics. Honda built a car called the cRX back in the 80s. It weighed about 850 kg and got 40/50 mpg EPA. VW built the Audi A2, which was very aerodynamic and could make 3l/100km (78 mpg), but it was cancelled due to low sales and the high cost of manufacture for an all aluminum vehicle.

    *I can’t imagine getting in and out of the pictured vehicle without a crane and a chiropractor.

     

     

     

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  6. By rrapier on February 5, 2011 at 4:38 am

    Robert — what do you know about AFEX (“ammonia fiber explosion”), a pre-treatment for cellulosic biomass that is supposed to make it dramatically easier and more economical to ferment?

    That process was invented adjacent to my lab at Texas A&M when Bruce Dale was there. It is another method of exposing and breaking down cellulose; I don’t know that it is much better or worse than the other methods. We used a similar method when I was at A&M; we used a weak caustic to hydrolyze the cellulose. I think “dramatically easier and more economical” is probably an overstatement.

    RR

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  7. By Russ Finley on February 5, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Thanks for the analysis, Walter. So, this car is a plug-in hybrid? You start off with a grid charged battery?

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  8. By Kit P on February 5, 2011 at 11:53 am

    “The real secret is light weight and good aerodynamics.”

     

    Walter if you talk to any old engineering they would tell you that it is no secret, then they would also tell you that your are wrong. The key to good mileage is the nut behind the wheel not the engineers that design it. Aggressive driving uses lots more fuel.

     

    The second key is not buying fuel. It is amazing the number of people that brag about good mileage that use more gallons of fuel than I do. The need for an efficient POV is a result of an inefficient lifestyle. Commuting to work requires 15 gallons per month in my old POS PU. How much money can I save by not spending $40K on an impractical POV? This is not a trick question, no engineering degree is required.

     

    The third key is buying a car that meets your needs. Safety and reliability trumps fuel economy. If you drive a large number of miles at a time you need something that reduces fatigue.

     

    “I can’t imagine getting in and out of the pictured vehicle without a crane and a chiropractor.”

     

    Which is my point. About 20 years ago, I was commuting 140 miles one way. I bought a new Honda Del Sol. It got great mileage. I still had it when I changed jobs and moved. It was great fun to drive 12 miles to work.

     

    “Honda built a car called the cRX back in the 80s.”

     

    For medium commutes and kids driving to school/college, this was the epitome of a reliable, practical POV. There has never been a shortage of good car options in the US. However, there has also been a surplus of bad choices. So far buying a car for environmental reasons only will result in a bad choice.

     

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  9. By mac on February 5, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    There is a Volkswagen Press Release on this Super-mileage XL1 car from VW on the web-site newcarlist.net

    http://newcarlist.net/volkswag…..-revealed/

    This is a lengthy, official press release from VW with history of the XL1 car, the materials science involved and so on. Also, engine and transmission specs. Pictures, and lots of other stuff for tech heads.

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  10. By Dave Runyon on February 5, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    RR, I am reading the Tom Blees book “Prescription For The Planet”. He writes about using boron as fuel for cars. I searched, and didn’t see any posts from you on boron. Have you looked into his exploration on boron use in cars?

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  11. By Kit P on February 5, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Dave there are various crackpot ideas for powering cars. The fact that you have to ask indicates such. The basic idea is to produce energy with nuclear fission and use chemical batteries or hydrogen (in compounds) as an energy carrier. BEV would be one example. Technology to produce hydrogen from electricity is common but hydrogen powered cars would be a little expensive. Before we run out of oil, nuke plants will be put next to refineries to provide hydrogen to bond to carbon.

     

    “The Painless Remedy for Our Energy & Environmental Crises”

     

    Some people make a living producing energy or protecting the environment. Others make a living selling books that pander to irrational fears.

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  12. By paul-n on February 6, 2011 at 11:35 am

    The claim of 313 mpg is just as misleading as GM’s original claim of 230mpg for the Volt.  The real number, as Walter has provided, is far less.  However, 120mpg is very economical, and VW has had concept cars that can do this for almost a decade.

    The challenge is always turning this into a mass market vehicle.  While the size of the car is “challenging”, it is actually similar to that of a Ferrari, Porsche, etc.  The difference, being, as Kit points out, that such cramped cars are not intended for everyday mundane usage.

    The original insight was a very efficient car, and still holds the world record for production car fuel efficiency – but it was a commercial failure.

    If this VW makes it into production, it will likely be a “niche success”

    “light weight and aerodynamics” was the same approach used by the winning X-prize team – there is indeed no secret there.

    If we are having trouble getting people to buy Corollas instead of Explorers, an even more restrictive car like this is unlikely to help.  It may get a few Corolla buyers to change, but that is not really achieving much.

     

    A better approach for VW would be to take this technology, and then repackage it into a more useful product, that can still get 70 mpg, and that will sell enough to actually make some decent oil savings.  

     

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  13. By Kit P on February 6, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    “If we are having trouble getting people to buy Corollas instead of Explorers, ..”

     

    Paul I think if you check you will find Corollas are among the best selling cars. It is a practical 5-passenger car although I do not think I would like to be the fifth adult passenger on a road trip. There are lots of good comparable cars, the Civic for example.

    However, our Corolla replaced a very practical 7-passenger Ford Aerostar. Also used all the seat belts in our 9-passenger Suburban and IH travel. 

    Amazing is the number of sheets of plywood that you can carry or the ability to keep going with a set of chains. Amazing is a car that starts when it 40 below and keeps running when it is 110 because the life of your family might depend on it. If you show me a practical POV that gets 70 mpg, I will consider it only if it is reliable in real life. It is truly amazing that concept cars are shown at auto shows with pretty girls are taken seriously by anyone but 18 year old boys.

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  14. By paul-n on February 6, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Paul I think if you check you will find Corollas are among the best selling cars.

    Absolutely, but the problem is that “trucks” (incl vans and SUV’s) are outselling “cars”, so the Corolla and Civic are the top of a shrinking pile;

     

    Photo

     

    So clearly, we are not getting people out of trucks/suv’s/vans, rather, they are getting out of cars and into them.  And that is fine if that is what people choose, but every time they do, there is more oil that needs to be imported to fuel them.

    Of course, if people were driving much less, it matters not if it is a big vehicle, but annual vehicle miles travelled has been increasing for decades.

    I don’t think it would matter even if there were a vehicle available that got 1000mpg, the fact is that, generally, people are choosing bigger vehicles, and driving them more.  The only thing that has (temporarily) reversed that trend is the recession – it is hard to own and drive a big vehicle when you are out of work, though many still do.

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  15. By Kit P on February 7, 2011 at 6:37 am

     

    “So clearly, we are not getting people out of trucks/suv’s/vans, rather, they are getting out of cars and into them.”

     

    Thirty years of liberals telling us how to live and we just do not get it. About 35 years ago I test drove a IH Travelall at the suggestion of a marine friend. It was the perfect family station wagon. Tell me when you get it Paul?

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  16. By sameer-kulkarni on February 9, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    PeteS said:

    Robert — what do you know about AFEX (“ammonia fiber explosion”), a pre-treatment for cellulosic biomass that is supposed to make it dramatically easier and more economical to ferment? I can’t find any references to it on your blog (sorry if I missed them), but the inventor of the process is Bruce Dale, who you have spoken approvingly of before. There was a Scientific American article about it in July 2009 which talked about it in glowing terms, but on the other hand it came across as possibly over-exuberant (it was co-authored by Dale and George W. Huber). Also, AFEX has been around a good few years now and is still not commercialised, which sounds ominous. Ta for any insights.


     

    A crucial advantage AFEX process has over other pretreatment processes that there are no side formation of inhibitors like furfurals, acids etc., which have to be detoxified. The reaction times are also significantly lower @ 5min compared to 15-20 mins for other processes. The only major shortcoming of the process is the recovery & recycle of anhydrous ammonia making it expensive. I’ve read somewhere that POET would probably be using this pretreatment method for their upcoming cellulosic refinery.

     

     

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  17. By sameer-kulkarni on February 9, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Not much of an automobile analyst but here’s a pic of another concept car (a primeval thought though), no fuel inputs, no ghg emissions, no mileage issues blah blah blah…

     

     

    Hans-Peter Gramatke’s magnet-mobile.

    The magnet pulls the iron anvil.

    The brake lever rotates the horseshoe magnet to stop the vehicle.

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  18. By paul-n on February 11, 2011 at 2:10 am

    Kit, I have no problem with a perfect family station wagon for a perfect family – I grew up with one myself.  A family car carrying  a family is very energy efficient.  In fact, I don;t really have a problem with what people choose to drive – it’s a free country (and should remain so).  

    It’s just that so many people choosing large vehicles has created this problem;

    Primarily, I see this as en economic problem (not an environmental one), and, given that all efforts to reduce oil usage, and increase domestic production, have amounted to nought, it looks like it is an economic burden that America will just have to keep on living with.

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  19. By Kit P on February 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    No Paul that is not the problems. Paul is the problems. People keep moving to North America for the economic opportunities. Every place I have been rich people drive big cars. Second the liberals have banned drilling for oil where it is easy to get to like the coast of California.

     

    “In fact, I don;t really have a problem with what people choose to drive – it’s a free country (and should remain so).”

     

    I do not believe you Paul. I am not saying you are a lair just deluded. You want regulations that require everyone to be ‘free’ to make the same choice you do.

     

    In California there are regulations that tell you how many windows your house can have (unless you are rich) so that new nuke plants would not be needed. It is a simple process of planning to build power plants so people do not have to make such choices. A few years back, the US could not keep up with demand but we started drilling more (500 rigs more) in people’s back yard so some rich people in California will not have to see any new rigs.

     

    I am certainly an earth first guy. We can drill the other planets later.

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  20. By Peter Haken on February 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I do not want to spoil the party but how much energy is used to make a new car, compared to us just driving our old cars till they die!

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  21. By Kit P on February 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    “compared to us just driving our old cars till they die!”

     

    Peter that is a lot harder than it used to be. With a little care, old car just will not die. The fraction of energy to build a car is small compared to what is needed to say operate it. However, there is no reason to think that BEVs use less energy, less imported petroleum for sure.

     

    I have no idea how much energy it takes to recycle batteries. How much energy it takes to recharge batteries and haul them around in actual practice is not determined yet either.

     

    I am a little skeptical of the whole notion of spending $20k more to save on fuel. It cost nothing to car pool and organize trips to reduce fuel use.

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  22. By dan kerviachuk on January 17, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Second the liberals have banned drilling for oil where it is easy to get to like the coast of California.

    Kit P. Seriously, you actually think more drilling is the solution to your addiction to oil? That’s akin to saying that the drug/gambling addict needs more heroin/debt to fix their problems. Anybody that’s deluded is you! Crude is an insanely dirty, poisonous, inefficient, etc etc etc all in all a disastrous form and source of energy. You obviously didn’t live along the coast line of where the exxon valdez spill happened or the recent BP disaster. All this argument of the energy it takes to built a BEV is much much more than a conventional ICE is hogus bogus. Recycling batteries have been going on for decades and no it does not take more energy than drilling, fracking, transporting, refining, transporting again to gas stations. Stupid is the stupid does.

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  23. By Thunderbird on December 22, 2012 at 10:35 am

    My Dad bought a VW 3l lupo, and it was a catastrophe! The money saved by the more than doubtful 3.5 l consumption was eaten up as the car had to be brought every now and then to repair.
    As a consequence I can only warn everyone from buying a VW, especially one which is packed full of electronic gadgets and chips where no one needs!!

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