What is it?
A hyper-economical carbonfibre and gull-winged two-seater that is the culmination of more than a decade of engineering effort at Volkswagen. This started with Ferdinand Piech’s (now chairman of the VW supervisory board) turn-of-the-century vision of building a production car capable of covering 100km on one litre of fuel, or 282mpg.
The first concept was the 2002 L1, which combined a carbonfibre body, tandem seating, a side-hinged canopy and a single-cylinder, 8bhp, engine. The car weighed just 290kg. The L1 was demonstrated by Piech, who was then VW Group boss, and the company claimed fuel economy of 0.99-litres per 100km, or 238mpg.
The second-generation L1 was shown in Autumn 2009. This featured hybrid transmission combining a two-cylinder diesel engine and an electric motor. The problem with making the L1 production-ready was less the uncivilised tandem seating and aircraft-style side-hinged roof canopy and more the issue of it meeting crash test requirements.
Less than two years after the second-generation L1, VW showed the XL1 in the form of a series of driveable prototypes. VW engineers had taken a huge leap with the ‘one-litre’ concept by retaining the two-cylinder hybrid drivetrain but completely rethinking the body design.