When I was wee lad, I went through a phase where I wanted nothing more than to become a car designer.  I wasn’t looking to toy around with the mediocre crap that was already on the road… I wanted the glory, the creative jackpot of designing really innovative, futuristic concepts.  I would spend hours a day sketching cars that could hover over cities, glide underwater, or drive to your command while you sat in a reclining chair in the back reading comic books…. Well, the folks at Volkswagen are living my dream with their L1 car.  The concept/soon-to-be-production vehicle recently stirred up a lot of attention at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and rightfully so… the thing wails!

The L1 packs a whole lotta innovation into its compact, two-seater frame.  It runs on a diesel-hybrid engine that is projected to get, wait for it… wait for it… 170 miles to the gallon!  This would clearly make the VW the most fuel efficient car on the road today, but believe it or not it’s a bit less than what the designers were hoping for… the car is called the L1 because they wanted to get 100 kilometers on a liter of diesel… the equivalent to around 230 mpg!  170 miles to the gallon averages out to be closer to 1.4 liters per 100 km… c’mon guys, pick up your game!

I’ve been advocating for diesel-hybrids for a while now… after all, two of a good thing is better than one, right?  Clean diesel is significantly more efficient than gasoline and everyone knows adding hybrid technologies to a car will decrease its thirst for petrol.  Diesel-hybrids are also great because they don’t require a massive infrastructure overhaul like, say, a fleet of plug-in electrics or fuel cell cars…

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I’m guessing you’re thinking to yourself, ‘hmmm, that car looks awfully skinny…. where do the people sit?’  I’ll go ahead and spill the beans and tell you that the car features glider-like seating… driver in front, passenger in back… perfect for reenacting your favorite scenes from Top Gun.

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In addition to getting first dibs of role playing as either Val Kilmer or Tom Cruise, drivers get the added benefit of not having to worry about the passenger fiddling with the radio!

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Getting back to the car’s performance for a sec… how on earth is it able to get 170 miles per gallon?  Obviously the diesel-hybrid is a major contributing factor… equally important is the fact that the rig weighs in at 838 pounds, about half of what anything else on the road is (including the cuddly Smart ForTwo).  The body is made from uber-lightweight carbon fiber plastic and the gas tank is ridiculously small (2.64 gallons), cutting down on wet weight.  Don’t you fret though, you can still get over 400 miles on a tank of gas!  A lighter car means less energy to move it… a 29 horsepower .8 liter, 2 cylinder TDI engine is all that is required to get the L1 from A to B.  This is paired with a 10 KW electric motor that kicks in for short distances and charges the batter with regenerative braking… supah sweet!

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The slippery little L1 is looking to be more than a concept car… rumors on the street are saying that VW actually wants its diesel-sipping hybrid in showrooms by 2013.  How cool is that?  No word yet on how much this limited-to-land fuselage will set one back, but more info can be found <HERE>

-j

About Joshua Foss


Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.