First drive: Behind the wheel of the astonishing fuel-slashing 313mpg Volkswagen that could put tax grabbing Chancellor – and a few filling stations – out of business
Tax-hungry Chancellor George Osborne will hate it with a vengeance.
But as the fuel price fury intensifies ahead of next week’s Budget, Mailonline has had an exclusive first drive of the astonishing new ‘green’ super-frugal car offering 2p a mile motoring that could swiftly put him and the Treasury out of business.
Volkswagen’s new XL1 is a futuristic plug-in electric-diesel hybrid that achieves an astonishing 313 miles to the gallon. And with that sort of fuel efficiency the coffers of the Chancellor – who grabs 60p out of every pound in every pound spent at the pumps – would quickly run dry.
Ray Massey drives the new Volkswagen XL1, named the World’s most fuel efficient car
It features a Super-lean 800cc 2 cylinder TDI turbo-charged direct injection diesel engine developing 48 horse-power – about half that of a Ford Fiesta
For with the average cost of diesel at £1.46 per litre – £6.64 per gallon – this little beauty could in theory when driven most efficiently get you the 300 miles from London to Newcastle for around £6.00, to Edinburgh for under a tenner, and the 876 mile length of the United Kingdom from Land’s End’s John O’ Groats for under £20.
Indeed that was the very note I waved from the seat of the car as I finished a 30 mile test drive on country roads, around town and fast flowing motorways close to Geneva where the world’s car bosses were meeting for the annual automotive show. And 20 miles of that was on electric power only.
With the average cost of diesel at £1.46 per litre – £6.64 per gallon this little beauty could in theory when driven most efficiently get you the 876 mile length of the United Kingdom for under £20
And though frankly it might drive a times like a cross between a milk-float and a noisy tractor – with that throbbing diesel rattle – there’s no doubting that the technology it pioneers and which will filter down through the Volkswagen range could make a serious dent in the Government’s finances by slashing the tax they can take at the pumps.
And when the streamlined green-machine – with gull-winged doors that lift up and rather than swing out -runs in electric-only mode it uses no fuel and has zero CO2 emissions.
From the moment I lift-up the gull-winged door of this stylishly shaped car and stepped inside, I was transported back to the imagined sci-fi futures of motoring shown in childhood TV series – from ‘Thunderbirds’ to ‘UFO’. But now it was real.
Acceleration is a bit sluggish at 0-62mph in a leisurely 12.2 seconds, but it soon picks up the pace (and in electric mode it¿s totally silent)
The gull-winged door of this stylishly shaped car and stepped inside, I was transported back to the imagined sci-fi futures of motoring shown in childhood TV series
The cosy cockpit is far more sports car than tree-hugger and surprisingly well appointed with air-con, hi-fi, low-slung sports seats. The passenger seat sits slightly further back to free up space and allow the car to be narrower at the front, and thus more aerodynamic to save fuel.
Indeed this car is shorter than a Volkswagen Polo but lower than a Lamborghini or Porsche Boxster.
So much thought has gone into shaving off every extra penny spent at the pumps, that it has even been given special dispensation from the car construction authorities to dispense with wing mirrors – thus saving 10 per cent on fuel alone. Instead, there are three small tv screens where the mirrors would be feeding live pictures from cameras of what’s happening behind.
Volkswagen is to build 250 of the aerodynamically-styled two-seater cars at its Osnabruek factory in Germany, leasing them to customers at around £500 per month at a rate which equates roughly to a £30,000 Volkswagen Passat family saloon.
But the comparison is unfair because Volkswagen has spent around £1billion over 15 years and 20 prototype vehicles developing the new XL1, meaning the cost to the customer is massively subsidised. However Volkswagen says much of the cost of the development work will be money well spent as the technology will find its way into many more mainstream cars such as the Golf, Polo and Up! city car.
Tax-hungry Chancellor George Osborne will hate this new super- frugal green car with a vengeance
The rear-engined XL1 weighs just 0.795 tonnes thanks to its super-lightweight but strong carbon-fibre body.
It is powered by two motors. One is a super-lean 800cc 2 cylinder TDI turbo-charged direct injection diesel engine developing 48 horse-power – about half that of a Ford Fiesta.
That is supplemented by a 20kW electric motor – about the same as seven electric kettles – developing 27 horse-power. These are linked to a seven-speed DSG automatic. Electric charge is stored in an on-board lithium ion battery.
And overall when the electric motor and diesel work in tandem, it still manages an extremely 21g/km.
The ‘plug-in’ car’s battery can be charged from a conventional household socket. But the vehicle also captures energy on the move from braking which is stored in the battery and released when needed for extra acceleration or for electric-only running.
Acceleration is a bit sluggish at 0-62mph in a leisurely 12.2 seconds.. And in electric mode it’s totally silent.
But it soon picks up the pace and handles motorways as well as any small runaround as I cruised at the Continental speed limit of 12km/her or a shade under 80mph. Top speed is in any case restricted to 99mph.
The tiny 10 litre tank – why would you need more – has a capacity of a mere 10 litres (2.2 gallons).
Which means a fill up is an unheard of £14.60 for a fill-up.
The electric range is only 31 miles but that’s fine for city driving. The combined average diesel and electric total range stretches that to 310 miles.
As motoring groups and campaigners press the Chancellor to freeze a planned 3p a litre tax rise at the pumps due in September AA spokesman Paul Watters welcomed the new car and the nervous nights it may give to the Chancellor.
He said: ’These sort of fuel savings would bankrupt the Chancellor and put the Treasury out of business while being a welcome boost to motorists who could save a lot of cash at the pumps.
The Government is already losing cash to their coffers because the high cost of fuel is making people drive less. And we want him in next week’s Budget to at least freeze the planned 3p a litre tax hike in September.’
However any benefit could be short lived. Ministers are already cooking up more ways to milk the motorist to take account of the money the Exchequer is already losing as cars become more fuel efficient and motorists use them less.
Will it fit in my garage?
World’s most fuel efficient car: Volkswagen XL1 diesel-electric plug-in hybrid.
Cost: leased at around £500 per month – equivalent to a £30,000 Volkswagen Passat.
Built: Osnabruek Germany
Number to be built: 250
Length: 12ft 9 inches
Width: 5ft 5 (and a half) inches
Height: 3ft 9 inches
Weight: 0.795 tonnes
Maximum Fuel efficiency: 313 miles to the gallon
Diesel Engine: Super-lean 800cc 2 cylinder TDI turbo-charged direct injection diesel engine developing 48 horse-power – about half that of a Ford Fiesta
Electric motor: 20kW E-motor – about the same as seven electric kettles – developing 27 horse-power
Total power: 75 horse-power or 55 kW (or 18 electric kettles)
Gears: Seven-speed DSG automatic
Battery type: lithium ion
Body: Super-lightweight but strong carbon-fibre reinforced polymer single cell.
Electric power only: Zero
0-62mph: 12.2 seconds
Top speed: 99mph (restricted)
Fuel tank capacity: 10 litres (2.2 gallons)
Cost to fill-up: £14.60
Electric only range: 31 miles
Diesel plus electric total range: 310 miles
Today’s average cost of diesel: £1.46 per litre – £6.64 per gallon
Cost to travel 1 mile: 2p
Cost to travel 100 miles: £2.00
London to Newcastle (300miles): £6.00
London to Edinburgh (400 miles): £8.00
Land’s End’s to John O’ Groats (876 miles): £17.52
Future: Hybrid plug-in diesel-electric and petrol-electric technology also to be carried into more mainstream models including Volkswagen Golf, Polo and Up!