Toyota's Prius may have pioneered the mainstream hybrid, with the Auris hybrid now providing an even more conventional choice, but Volkswagen seems intent on finding out just how far the technology will stretch. If the L1 is anything to go by, it is very far indeed. Volkswagen is determined to bring this hybrid two-seater to showrooms by 2013.The VW L1 concept has a drag coefficient of just 0.195 and is powered by an 800cc two-stroke diesel, coupled to an electric motor. It emits just 39g/km of CO2, delivers 189mpg and could be in showrooms by 2013.The powerplant develops up to 29bhp in ‘sport’ mode, along with 74lb ft of torque at 1900rpm. The car’s top speed is 99mph and 0-62mph takes 14.3sec. The 14bhp electric motor steps in under acceleration, lifting torque by 40 per cent.As low as Lamborghini’s Murcielago but as long as a VW Fox, the L1’s body is made from carbonfibre-reinforced plastic, keeping total weight down to 380kg. “The whole project is being pitched as a possible production car for around 2013,” said a VW spokesman.
Electric cars were everywhere at Frankfurt this year – Renault rolled out four – but perhaps the most formidable is the Audi e-tron. The German manufacturer is being pragmatic, saying it will only bring the car to production when the concept hits targets on range, performance and durability, but it promises scintillating zero-emissions performance.At 4.26m long and 1.9m wide, the e-tron is shorter and wider than a Boxster. The powertrain for the e-tron features four electric motors — one pair at the front and another pair on the rear axle. Total available power is 313bhp and torque is an astonishing 3319lb ft — around 10 times that produced by the V8-engined R8. Performance is brisk; 0-62mph takes 4.8sec, 37-75mph takes 4.1sec and the top speed is 124mph.
Mercedes brought its first-ever production fuel-cell vehicle, the B-class F-cell, to Frankfurt, promising to start building it in limited numbers within weeks. Mercedes claims its hydrogen-electric hybrid is comparable in performance to a 2.0-litre petrol car, but its zero-emission powertrain can manage the equivalent of 86.6mpg on the combined cycle.The electric motor produces 134bhp and 214lb ft of torque. Its range is around 250 miles and it takes three minutes to refuel the car with hydrogen. By comparison, a 1.8-litre petrol B-class (no 2.0-litre petrol model is available) produces 114bhp and 114lb ft of torque in B180 BlueEfficiency SE guise.
Many manufacturers see the importance in taking their best-selling models and tweaking areas where a few more mpg can be eked out, while bringing down emissions. The The Ford Focus Econetic, launched at Frankfurt, is the first European Ford to benefit from a raft of new eco technologies including the Ford Auto-Start-Stop, Smart Regenerative Charging, and Ford Eco Mode. The Econetic is lowered by 10mm at the front and 8mm at the rear, with blanking plates at the front, helping to achieve a cd of 0.31. Co2 emissions are now 99g/km (the outgoing Focus Econetic emits 114g/km of Co2) and 74.2mpg is also achievable. Another impressive take on the theme is Volkswagen’s Polo Bluemotion which has a 74bhp 1.2-litre engine, and uses efficiency-boosting measures including longer gearing, stop-start technology and regenerative brakes to achieve emissions of 87g/km of Co2 and average 85.6mpg.
So simple it often gets overlooked, but saving weight is a logical way to improve emissions and fuel economy. The Mazda MX-5 Superlight’s emphasis may be on fun but lightweight materials such as carbonfibre, fibreglass and aluminium dominate the interior and help reduce the weight by almost 100kg. The effect? The Superlight’s Co2 emissions drop from 167 to 150g/km and economy increases from 40.4 to 44.8mpg.