It's Time For Volkswagen To Build An Electric XL1

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Image for article titled It's Time For Volkswagen To Build An Electric XL1
Image: Volkswagen

Back in 2013 when the Volkswagen XL1 went into limited production, it was a futuristic and exciting proposal. This low-slung hyper-efficient machine was intended as a marketing exercise to continue VW’s greenwashing of “clean diesel” technology. We all know how that turned out, but what it did do was further aerodynamic research, and proved that a commuter car could get truly astonishing fuel consumption ratings.

The XL1 was powered by a 0.8 liter two-cylinder diesel engine with 48 horsepower, mated to a 27-horsepower electric motor. It was a plug-in hybrid that was capable of over 30 miles of electric propulsion. This was possible because the XL1 weighed just 1753 pounds thanks to carbon fiber, aluminum, and magnesium construction, and had a drag coefficient of just 0.189, making it the most aerodynamic production car of all time.

Because of this huge investment in technology, Volkswagen managed to garner a 261 miles per gallon fuel consumption rating. That number is still amazing today, in spite of how dirty VW’s diesels were proven to be.


In light of the Dieselgate debacle, Volkswagen has gone all-in on EVs since 2015, and seems to be diving head first into an electric future. Thus far, however, VW has focused on electrifying cars with traditional body shapes. There is the hatchback-shaped ID.3 and the crossover-shaped ID.4 coming, and the now-dead Golf-shaped eGolf. That’s not the radical and forward thinking Volkswagen that built the XL1 in the first place. Where is that Volkswagen?

So, it’s time for VW to do the wild version of an EV that it did for diesel. Where is the super high-efficiency EV two-seater aerodynamic concept for the street? I want to see a hyper-efficient 40 kW electric motor in a sleek lightweight two-seater commutermobile that somehow manages to eke out a thousand miles of range from a charge.


If you want to convert normal people and convince them that electric cars are viable for their everyday life, as it seems VW does, you’ve got to do the moonshot as a proof of concept. Get headlines for EV tech. Get interest. Get people into the showroom and get them excited about an electric future.

Volkswagen, there’s your free marketing idea for this month. Now go get it done. I’ll be first in line to get one. Hand to God, that’s the truth.