When Volkswagen unveiled the L1 at the Frankfurt auto show, they boldly called it “the most fuel-efficient automobile in the world.” Try these specs on for size: 158.7mpg with a 416mile range, from a diesel engine/electric motor setup, sipping from a 1.7gallon fuel tank. (1, 2)
The whole car weighs in at about 650pounds; the carbon fiber-reinforced body shell is only 280 pounds. All the weight isn’t there thanks to aluminum brakes, carbon-fiber wheels, titanium hubs and ceramic bearings. Power is fed through a Direct Shift Gearbox transmission, giving the L1 a top speed of 100mph.
Inside, other expensive goodies include a driver display screen using high-contrast OLED (organic LED) technology. There’s room for two, situated pea style, driver ahead of passenger. Width wise, the L1 makes the Smart for 2 appear bulbous in comparison. The New York Times says:
“In photos, it looks like a car. In the metal, it has the appearance of a small plane, to which someone forgot to attach the wings and a tail. Walter de Silva, Volkswagen's head of design, says the shape 'redefines classic and aesthetic vehicle traits. All of its moving parts are integrated so accurately that the body resembles a rocket or jet.'” (2)
There doesn’t seem to be much debate that the L1 is in fact the world’s most fuel-efficient car. It was the talk of the Frankfurt auto show when the sheet dropped off it and VW isn’t known for making wild claims.
VW says the L1 will be available in 2010, in limited numbers. All those carbon fiber, titanium and ceramic components will probably make the price tag considerably heftier than the curb weight, not to mention the “new technology” mark up. Regardless, this is one of those cars to be excited about.