VW's been teasing us with 1930s World-Of-Tomorrow-looking teardrop-shaped streamliner experimental efficiency cars since 2002's L1. The latest revision, and the first one slated for any kind of production was just unveiled at Geneva, the XL1. VW says the two-seater will get about 260 MPG, and they're planning on making at least 250 of them to start. Oh, also I think it's the first passenger car offered for sale without a conventional rear window since the Tatra T87.
The XL1 weighs only 1750 lbs, and is powered by a both a 47 HP two-cylinder TDI diesel and a 27 HP electric motor, each capable of driving the wheels independently or combined, up to a limited top speed of 99 MPH. Alone, the electric motor can move the car 31 miles, and the diesel alone can get about 140 MPG, which is plenty impressive on its own. The Li-ion batteries are mounted in front, and the engine/transaxle is at the mid-rear, just over the rear axle. This makes VW's first return to behind-the driver engines since the still-in-production Type II Bus, and their first rear-mid engine car since the VW-Porsche 914.
The body of the XL1 is quite radical, being made up mostly of carbon fiber reinforced polymers, with polycarbonate windows, all for lower weight. The drag coefficient is an impressive 0.189 Cd, which VW longingly compares to a penguin's 0.03. They achieve this slipperiness thanks to extensive underbody covering, very careful vent placement, and, most strikingly, rear-view mirrors integrated into the door panels, and visible from within via special windows on the door.
The doors themselves open Lambo-scissors style, so that's a big loss for the potential aftermarket kit guys.
This is a very impressive car, and even for something built so focused on one goal, it seems like an appealing and usable vehicle. What will be interesting to see is how the technologies from this eco-halo car trickle down in to Volkswagen's more earthbound offerings.
(Show photo credit Davey Johnson, sources: VW PR, Wikipedia)