If all auto shows are paeans to over-the-topness, the Qatar Motor Show must top them all. So it’s probably appropriate that Volkswagen is unveiling its highly anticipated XL1 hybrid concept car there: with a look that’s part Prius, part Tesla, and part… DeLorean (dig those split windows and gullwing doors, Marty!), the XL1 appears to be stuffing 10 pounds of futurism into a five-pound bag.
But look closer and you’ll see that all those details are actually design choices with a ruthless purpose: sculpting the XL1 into a form that can go 100km on less than a liter of diesel fuel. Let me put it in terms we coarse Americans can understand: that’s 261 miles per gallon. Das Auto indeed!
First, the shape: the XL1 is widest in the front and tapers to a slippery tail in the rear, which gives it an enviable aerodynamic profile compared to most cars. (VW claims the shape is inspired by dolphins.) Those George Jetson-looking rear wheel covers? They reduce drag too, by preventing air turbulence. VW also ditched side mirrors in the name of aerodynamics, installing sleek, recessed video cameras in their place — even the entire rear window was sacrificed to the wind-tunnel gods.
Next, the materials: the XL1 follows trends in Formula One car design to clad itself in carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) — which in non-Star-Trek-speak means “stuff that’s super duper light.” And low-profile but powerful LED lights stud the vehicle from nose to tail. It all weighs just 1,753 pounds: positively waifey for a performance automobile (that’s about 1000 pounds less than the Tesla roadster).
All of this rides on a hybrid diesel-electric engine with a fuel consumption of just 0.9-liter per 100 km and CO2 emissions of 24 g/km. According to Gizmag, the last time Volkswagen put a production date on the XL1, it was slated for 2013. Let’s hope the big unveiling in Qatar keeps that promise, so in a couple years we can start hypermiling in style.