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Volkswagen Concept Car Averages 262 MPG 353

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-can-it-fly dept.
coolnumbr12 writes "The Volkswagen XL1 averages an amazing 262 mpg, and although it may never hit streets in the United States, the technology behind the car could impact future Volkswagen vehicles. The keys to the incredible mileage in the Volkswagen XL1 were reducing the weight of the vehicle and eliminating wind resistance. The XL1 only weighs 1,753 pounds — that's more than a thousand pounds lighter than the Toyota Prius, which weighs in at 2,921 pounds. The wheels on the Volkswagen XL1 are as thin as road bike's and wrapped in custom Michelin rubber. The XL1 chassis is a single piece of molded carbon-fiber, and has a drag coefficient of only 0.189 – similar to a bumblebee."
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Volkswagen Concept Car Averages 262 MPG

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  • by BroadbandBradley (237267) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @07:11PM (#44231999) Homepage

    We have very safe cars but they're also very heavy as a result. Granted gains can be made with expensive and exotic materials, but how about CHEAP and LIGHT cars that could be had for just a few grand, and get 80-100MPG? before you think no-one would want to drive something without airbags and side impact beams and crush zones, what about motorbikes? I really think it would be a big hit with consumers who don't wish to be exposed to the elements or have to balance a motorcycle, but would opt for BASIC transportation with a 500cc motor, 3 or 4 wheels, and enclosed cab. Current safety standards for 4 wheeled vehicles make basic and light car not an option.

    • There's a category of neighborhood electric vehicles [wikipedia.org] that are basically glorified golf carts. They can go about 30 mph, in some states can legally go on roads up to posted speed limits of 45 mph, and don't weigh much.

      • There's a category of neighborhood electric vehicles [wikipedia.org] that are basically glorified golf carts. They can go about 30 mph, in some states can legally go on roads up to posted speed limits of 45 mph, and don't weigh much.

        Yeah, so banned from the same roads that motorcycles can drive on. I was looking at one of those Italian enclosed scooters for commuting to work (10 miles of country road), but I'd rather have 4-wheel stability.

        I think it's like alcohol and tobacco - if they weren't grandfather

        • if they weren't grandfathered, the Nanny State would never approve them today.

          There is hope: Not long ago Colorado approved 35mph neighborhood electric vehicles, conditional on a federal safety standard for such vehicles (and change in DOT reg to allow them on the roads).

    • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @07:34PM (#44232201) Journal
      That is the concept behind Tata Nano. It is very cheap and you could barely call it a car. But its CEO (at that time, not sure who is running the show now) Ratan Tata said "It is not an unsafe car. It is a safe motor cycle with four wheels and a roof" (I am paraphrasing). In India it is common to see an entire family, dad+mom+two+kids all piled up in one motor cycle or a scooter dodging potholes and weaving in out of traffic. Yes, such cars exist. But it is very unlikely to pass any safety test in USA/Europe/Japan/Korea.
    • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @07:46PM (#44232313) Homepage

      If the goal here is to 'save money' or 'save resources' by having a high MPG/k/L, I don't really get the point of these 'ultra safe' cars.

      I'm sorry, but I've seen dozens of what would've been considered 'minor fender benders' even 10 years ago result in the vehicles being irreparably totaled. I've personally been hit twice where the other late-model vehicle was put on a flatbed and (likely) scrapped: in both instances, I barely even noticed the impact in my 1980s-vintage vehicle, I had -maybe- $250 in total body damage each time, and nobody was hurt. These modern cars, to the exception of full size trucks, seem to lose pieces if they hit so much as a slightly sticky traffic cone. Considering the cost and resources that go into making them, and how easily they're totalled, I can't see this as a win for anyone but the automotive makers and insurers (through larger premiums).

      • As far as I know, modern cars are designed to crumple, and smash externally in order to dissipate shock in an accident as much as possible.

        For instance, if you have a very rigid-bodied vehicle and a crumply-bodied vehicle, you'll most likely experience more acceleration in an accident with the stiff bodied vehicle, as the crumply vehicle takes more time to come to a complete stop. Going from 60mph to 0mph in 100 milliseconds exerts ~27.34G on the occupant. If you can double the period of acceleration from 100 milliseconds to 200 milliseconds, you can half the G load to ~13.67G, which is much more survivable.

        I don't know how much the crumple zones and pliability of the frame contribute exactly, but in life or death situations every little bit counts, as far as the highly risk averse public is concerned.

        • by turp182 (1020263)

          This.

          The frames of most of today's cars are referred to as unibody. The frame is essentially one piece (including the roof, door mounts, trunk/engine enclosures) that everything is attached to. It provides structural support; and when impacted, crumples, absorbing energy.

          The OP mentions trucks specifically, which is a very astute observation. Work trucks use the older body-on-frame construction, which has a solid frame supporting the "body" of the vehicle (the body is essentially a separate frame on top

        • by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @10:47PM (#44233769)

          As far as I know, modern cars are designed to crumple, and smash externally in order to dissipate shock in an accident as much as possible.

          This x 1000. Modern cars are designed to ablate and crumple as much as possible in order to protect the meat that crashed it.

          People without a clue as to how physics works in a car crash often lament that their 19-dicket-2 car hardly gets a scratch in a low speed collision and completely forget that in a mid speed collision the car also harldy suffers a scratch, but the driver and passengers ended up going to the morgue.

          The more bits that come off the car, the more crumpled it looks the less kinetic energy went into the occupants.

        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          For instance, if you have a very rigid-bodied vehicle and a crumply-bodied vehicle, you'll most likely experience more acceleration in an accident with the stiff bodied vehicle, as the crumply vehicle takes more time to come to a complete stop.

          This crash test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety speaks for itself
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtxd27jlZ_g [youtube.com]

          I know which car I'd rather be in

        • Formula 1 race cars are designed to shatter upon major impact. It take the energy and throw it away from the driver. At the very least, the carbon-fiber monocoque (tub) that the driver sits in will be the last line of defense .

          Did you know that during his high-speed crash at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2007, Robert Kubica was subjected to more than 28 times the acceleration of gravity? This meant that his body effectively weighed two tons instead of 73 kilograms. Millions of spectators expected the worst,

      • Well ya see, you need a 3,000 lb car to protect you from getting killed when you get hit by a 2,000 lb car... but now the roads are dangerous from the 3,000 LB cars, we really need to make a 4,000 LB car to protect us.
      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        If the goal here is to 'save money' or 'save resources' by having a high MPG/k/L, I don't really get the point of these 'ultra safe' cars.

        I'm sorry, but I've seen dozens of what would've been considered 'minor fender benders' even 10 years ago result in the vehicles being irreparably totaled. I've personally been hit twice where the other late-model vehicle was put on a flatbed and (likely) scrapped: in both instances, I barely even noticed the impact in my 1980s-vintage vehicle, I had -maybe- $250 in total body damage each time, and nobody was hurt. These modern cars, to the exception of full size trucks, seem to lose pieces if they hit so much as a slightly sticky traffic cone. Considering the cost and resources that go into making them, and how easily they're totalled, I can't see this as a win for anyone but the automotive makers and insurers (through larger premiums).

        New cars are designed that way on purpose. They have built in crumple zones to absorb the energy of an impact. The problem is that the impact zone can't differentiate between a 25 mph hit and a 60mph hit and crumples either way, totalling the car. That's the official answer. Of course, there are those that believe that since a large percentage of cars will be in sub 25mph fender benders and get totalled, it guarantees new vehicle sales.

        Personally, though, if I'm going to be in an accident, I'd rather the ve

      • by labnet (457441)

        My wife drove our Mazda CX-9 through a 3m pine tree and hardwood fence. I had to use a chainsaw and multiple jacks to free the car but there was no visible damage expect a very bent numberplate.

    • don't want cheap cars that result in injured drivers. They make their money when you wreak your car, not your body. In America insurance is mandatory, and the insurance companies pay out for medical claims (no socialized medicine here). A wreaked car is a one time expense where they give you 1/2 or less the value of the car and jack your rates way up (I've had friends turn down their own insurance claims because the rate increase was higher than the cost of a new car). Medical expenses though can be ongoing
    • by evilviper (135110)

      We have very safe cars but they're also very heavy as a result. Granted gains can be made with expensive and exotic materials, but how about CHEAP and LIGHT cars that could be had for just a few grand, and get 80-100MPG?

      Cars don't need to be made much lighter to get incredible gas mileage. I drive a 20 year-old car that has airbags, side-impact beams, crumple zones, etc, terrible aerodynamics, and it gets 37MPG (US) hwy (and drivers report even better real-world results). Why? Because the engine is 85HP.

      • They need the extra horsepower because we're all obese. The car doubles in weight when we climb in, haven't you been paying attention?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      In 1966, VW [1966vwbeetle.com] built a car with a curb weight of 1672 pounds. They did it with inexpensive steel, not expensive carbon fiber. Perhaps they should review herr Doktor Porsche's designs, so they can remember how it's done!

  • Metric Units. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why are the USA still not using them?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170)

      Why are the USA still not using them?

      Despite what some people will assert, it's due to weak government.

      For years we saw these stupid signs along highways, listing Metric and English speed limits and then they were quietly replaced with English ones only. Rather than just push people to accept and get the pain over with (retiring that stupid old system of weights and measures) the government caved to the moronic side of America.

    • Re:Metric Units. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @08:16PM (#44232619)

      Why are the USA still not using them?

      Because Jimmy Carter only served one term and Ronald Regan didn't like the metric system.

  • Neat, but unsafe. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @07:28PM (#44232139)

    Given the drag coefficient, I assume this car exhibits Laminar flow. This can get disrupted by external factors (say getting passed by a buss) and result in localized turbulent flow. This would drastically increase the drag on one part of the car, causing a sudden unexpected side load, likely causing a turn (into the passing bus). An airplane bouncing around is not much of an issue, but when your car moves over 6 feet sideways on the freeway unexpectedly, it can be rather bad.

    Generally maximally aerodynamic cars are not safe. They may not have gotten to that point, or may have cleverly worked around the issues, but given the lack of side mirrors, I think mileage was the priority over safety here. Its a neat technical feet, but as mentioned in the article, its dangerous in multiple respects.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @08:26PM (#44232741)

      Given the drag coefficient, I assume this car exhibits Laminar flow. This can get disrupted by external factors (say getting passed by a buss) and result in localized turbulent flow. This would drastically increase the drag on one part of the car, causing a sudden unexpected side load, likely causing a turn (into the passing bus). An airplane bouncing around is not much of an issue, but when your car moves over 6 feet sideways on the freeway unexpectedly, it can be rather bad.

      Generally maximally aerodynamic cars are not safe. They may not have gotten to that point, or may have cleverly worked around the issues, but given the lack of side mirrors, I think mileage was the priority over safety here. Its a neat technical feet, but as mentioned in the article, its dangerous in multiple respects.

      I drive a 1972 VW beetle as a daily driver. You get used to your car moving over 6 feet sideways on the freeway unexpectedly and come to anticipate it. Before long it is just like operating a clutch, you just don't think about it. :)

  • Not 261 MPG (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @07:32PM (#44232177) Homepage

    Sensationalist bullshit. From the article:

    Volkswagen claims a consumption rating equivalent to 261 mpg; but that's using the full charge of the battery.

    310 miles in all, starting out on a charge, on its 2.6-gallon (yes, that's right) fuel tank.

    Not sure what "starting out on a charge" means, but if it means starting with zero battery power, the mileage is 119.23 -- and that is only according to the manufacturer. The test drive in the article was too short and limited to be meaningful.

  • Because it has a top speed of 99mph, it has to obey all the passenger car safety requirements. If they use some software to limit the speed to 25mph, they can sell it USA as a Lowspeed vehicle. But anyway they are only planning to make 250 vehicles for the European market.

    I think in a decade or so, all the cars will get an electric motor as the zeroth gear.If the IC engine has work only above 5mph or 7mph they can tune it completely differently and improve fuel economy by 50% easily. Much of the fuel econ

    • Because it has a top speed of 99mph, it has to obey all the passenger car safety requirements. If they use some software to limit the speed to 25mph, they can sell it USA as a Lowspeed vehicle.

      It would make more sense to me to remove one of the rear wheels and enter the US market under motorcycle regulations.

  • drag coefficient of only 0.189 – similar to a bumblebee.

    If a bumblebee has such a low drag coefficient I'd be completely astounded - I'd guess closer to 0.5.

  • 1.6l engine, 48hp, 1753 lbs sounds a lot like my 72 beetle that has a 1600cc engine 54hp and weighed 1800 lbs. Of course, it only gets 27mpg around town and about 32 on the highway, Besides, it's fun to drive by the school yards and watch the kids all punch each other in the arm and yell "Slug bug!"

    • by sabri (584428)

      1.6l engine, 48hp, 1753 lbs sounds a lot like my 72 beetle that has a 1600cc engine 54hp and weighed 1800 lbs. Of course, it only gets 27mpg around town and about 32 on the highway, Besides, it's fun to drive by the school yards and watch the kids all punch each other in the arm and yell "Slug bug!"

      You should see those kids if I drive by in my Porsche Boxter :)

  • This car is the third iteration of a concept car that has been around since 2009, this iteration since 2011. Is there some other significance that I am missing that puts it in the news today?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_1-litre_car [wikipedia.org]

  • Ya, I love the strength per weight that carbon fiber brings, but the stuff is (as of yet) unrecyclable and non-repurposable. Shatter a bit of carbon fiber and all you have is is a bunch of broken carbon fiber. The repair process is shaky and there's no reclamation process for the baked final product...

    My idea of a an irony-laden "green" auto:
    Carbon Fiber Frame/body
    Plug-In Battery Electric
    Owned and Operated in Appalachia

    Metals are recyclable. Plastics can be recyclable. When we keep our eyes on the cradle-to

  • VW makes THE dullest looking vehicles on the market today. Even as a prototype this XL1 wouldn't even look cool or modern in an 80's James Bond flick staring Timothy Dalton.. I actually puked a little bit looking at this thing. Its like they started off with a boring Jetta front and then just gave up as they reached the back.

    Das "Boring" Auto.

  • Light weight cars go crumble on the autobahn. Bad news. I would rather get lower mpg and be safe. Better yet, I minimize travel.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      Light weight cars go crumble on the autobahn. Bad news. I would rather get lower mpg and be safe. Better yet, I minimize travel.

      This one is made out of carbon fiber. It also only has a top speed of 78, so it probably won't have a problem with "crumbling" on the autobahn. 1) it's stronger than steel and 2) it doesn't go fast enough for the vibration to be a probelm.

  • Interesting how they say their measurements start with a full battery charge but don't say they end with a full battery charge. It's almost as though the so-called MPG number is totally made up out of thin air.

  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @08:50PM (#44232951)
    From T3rdFA:

    The XL1 has a 27-hp electric battery, which can propel it about 31 miles on its own, up to 62 mph. It can fully recharge, Volkswagen says, in an hour and a half. The maximum speed overall, using the full hybrid drivetrain, is 94 mph. Thereâ(TM)s a 2.6-gallon fuel tank, which lets the XL1 achieve a total range of 310 miles

    So subtract the 31 miles on battery, leaving 279 miles on gas, and it can get 107.3 MPG on gas alone. The 262 MPG figure probably comes from a shorter test drive where the first 31 miles were on battery, the remainder on gas, then attributing the total distance to gas. Which if I did my math right is a 52.5 mile run.

    Thing is, if you're going to cheat this way, why not just make it a 32 mile run and claim your car gets over 3400 MPG.

    It's also worth pointing out that outside of research, these ultra-high mileage vehicles are rather pointless. MPG is the inverse of fuel consumption, so higher MPG means smaller savings. e.g. Consider a trip of 300 miles in a variety of different cars:

    15 MPG SUV = 20 gallons consumed
    25 MPG sedan = 12 gallons consumed
    50 MPG hybrid = 6 gallons consumed
    100 MPG research car = 3 gallons consumed
    300 MPG super-car = 1 gallon consumed

    So if you consider a switch from an SUV to a super-car on a 300 mile trip, where exactly do the 19 gallons of fuel saved come from?

    8 gallons saved comes from the 10 MPG jump from 15 to 25 MPG.
    6 gallons saved comes from the 25 MPG jump from 25 to 50 MPG.
    3 gallons saved comes from the 50 MPG jump from 50 MPG to 100 MPG.
    2 gallons saved comes from the 200 MPG jump from 100 MPG to 300 MPG.

    The biggest fuel savings comes from the low end of the MPG range. The smallest savings from the high end. Or in other words, in a SUV to super-car switch:

    42.1% of the fuel savings comes from the 15-25 MPG jump
    31.6% of the fuel savings comes from the 25-50 MPG jump
    15.8% of the fuel savings comes from the 50-100 MPG jump
    10.5% of the fuel savings comes from the 100-300 MPG jump

    Diminishing returns says the cost-effectiveness of improving mileage rapidly drops off above about 50 MPG. If we want to reduce overall fuel consumption, we should be concentrating on ad campaigns to get people out of gas guzzlers into smaller cars. Not concentrating on designing ultra-high mileage vehicles.

    • Re:Not really (Score:4, Informative)

      by Blaskowicz (634489) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @09:41PM (#44233339)

      This is nice and all but the cars I drove in my life were about 45 mpg (non hybrid cars from the 1980s and 90s). I find that to be too much fuel use to my liking. It's polluting too much and we can't much reduce GHG emissions by 80% with that. Right now a regular car does 50 mpg. So (ignoring the problem that people will drive longer and more often)

      50 MPG regular car = 6 gallons consumed
      100 MPG research car = 3 gallons consumed
      300 MPG super-car = 1 gallon consumed

      3 gallons saved comes from the 50 MPG jump from 50 MPG to 100 MPG.
      2 gallons saved comes from the 200 MPG jump from 100 MPG to 300 MPG.

      50.0% of the fuel savings comes from the 50-100 MPG jump
      33.3% of the fuel savings comes from the 100-300 MPG jump

    • Diminishing returns says the cost-effectiveness of improving mileage rapidly drops off above about 50 MPG.

      No it doesn't "rapidly drop off" above any arbitrary dividing line. It's a smooth function, and there is no particular place where the "drop off" suddenly happens.

      The gains in economy simply get less and less as you go higher. Going from 15 to 20 MPG is better than going from 20 to 25, which is better than 25 to 30, etc., etc., etc.

      Going from 45 to 50 MPG, for example, is better than going from 50 to 55 MPG, but there's no sudden drop at 50 MPG.

      If we want to reduce overall fuel consumption, we should be concentrating on ad campaigns to get people out of gas guzzlers into smaller cars. Not concentrating on designing ultra-high mileage vehicles.

      Your own statistics say that if we got people who are now

  • The wheels on the Volkswagen XL1 are as thin as road bike's and wrapped in custom Michelin rubber.

    So having a 1700lb car riding on road bike tires just seems like this car is ripe for a disaster. How much friction/traction can be gained from having such a tiny tire? If these tires are super-sticky tires then they'll have almost no lifespan. I wonder at what speed you could nolonger take an emergency avoidance maneuver? As they say, "Sir Isaac Newton is in the driver's seat."

    There's a reason why high performance race cars have wide tires and bicycles or those college competition solar powered vehicl

    • by Namarrgon (105036)

      That's largely offset by the low mass. Half the mass means half the force required to turn or stop it, which means you only need half the traction.

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Wednesday July 10, 2013 @01:22AM (#44234581)

    A lot of the concepts in this concept car are no good. The mass budget is just too tight, they've thrown out too much structural strength, safety equipment, comfort equipment, etc.

    BUT, turbodiesel hybrid is the way to go. Turbodiesel is inherently more efficient than gasoline, but it's got a much flatter torque profile than gasoline, meaning you can't get much by putting the pedal to the metal. But that's where the electric motor comes in. Diesel and electric techs are a match made in heaven, as anyone who's ever designed a rail locomotive is well aware.

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