Frankfurt 2009: Volkswagen L1 Concept, the "most fuel-efficient automobile in the world," gets 170 mpg

Volkswagen L1 Concept - Click above for high-res image gallery

There is no way that Volkswagen can prove their claim that the new 1-liter concept vehicle, the L1, is truly "the most fuel-efficient automobile in the world," but that isn't stopping them from using the phrase to describe the second version of a car that has been making the rounds since 2002. The new 1-liter car – so named because it burns 1.38 liters of diesel per 100 km (rounding down from 1.38 to 1 is acceptable, right?) – that will be on display in Frankfurt features a carbon fiber/plastic body and weighs just 380 kilograms.

The L1's CO 2 emissions are crazy low – just 36 grams per kilometer – from a hybrid TDI and 10 kW electric motor powerplant. The 0.8-liter TDI unit was derived from the 1.6 TDI that is making its debut in Frankfurt in the new Golf BlueMotion and Passat BlueMotion. Top speed is 100 mph. The tandem seats are accessible from a hinged roof cover. The L1 has two driving modes – eco and sport – and, of course, features Auto Start-Stop. What does all this get you? An astonishing 170 mpg (U.S.).

If the car looks a bit slippery to you, you're not alone. The L1 has a Cd 0.195. While this concept retains some of the fanciful design and joy of the 2002 model, VW is calling the L1 "revolutionary yet close to production readiness" and is talking about 2013 as a possible production date. Want one?

[Source: Volkswagen]


To the Point: Breakthrough for the 1-Litre Car
Volkswagen presents the most fuel-efficient automobile in the world

- L1 Concept is driven by new high-tech TDI and E-motor
- Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic body of the L1 weighs just 124 kilograms
- Maximum speed 160 km/h; L1 consumes just 1.38 litres diesel per 100 km

- CO2 emissions reduced to a new best value with just 36 g/km
Wolfsburg / Frankfurt, 14 September 2009 - Technological breakthrough for the 1-litre fuel consumption car: International Motor Show (IAA), Volkswagen is presenting the concept of the future L1 in a world premiere that points the way toward the production version. The full hybrid vehicle weighs just 380 kilograms thanks to its carbon-fibre reinforced body (CFRB). With a combined fuel consumption figure of 1.38 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres, this extremely aerodynamic (Cd 0.195!) Volkswagen suitable for everyday use is intended to become the most fuel-efficient automobile in the world. CO2 emissions of the 160 km/h L1 are similarly low at 36 g/km.

Retrospective: Seven years ago, Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, at that time Chairman of the Board of Management and today Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Volkswagen Group, drove a prototype from Wolfsburg to Hamburg that was unlike any other car before it: the Volkswagen 1-Litre car – the world's first car with fuel consumption of one litre fuel per 100 kilometres. The man and machine wrote automotive history. In April 2002, however, it was also clear that the time for a production version of the 1-Litre car lay far in the future. Production of the body itself – from carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) – was not realistic due to cost considerations. Yet, in 2002 Dr. Ferdinand Piëch already prophesised that the time would soon come for the 1-Litre car and CFRP as a material for industrial applications. By 2009 the time had come: Volkswagen is making a clear statement at the IAA in Frankfurt (September 17 to 27) with the second generation of this ingenious car: The L1 represents a step forward into the future with completely new technology and a new design; revolutionary yet close to production readiness.

"It is an enormous challenge to control costs in producing the monocoque out of CFRP," says Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, member of the Board of Management for the Volkswagen Brand with responsibility for development. Both technically and visually, the CFRP body is already considered a significant achievement in car design. Unique on this car are the proportions of its dimensions. While the length of the L1 at 3,813 millimetres is still similar to that of a Volkswagen Fox, and its height of 1,143 millimetres nearly matches that of a Lamborghini Murciélago, the car's aerodynamically optimised width (1,200 millimetres) has no comparisons in the world of today's production cars.

L1 philosophy – defining a new type of automobile

In developing both prototype generations of the L1, Volkswagen simply questioned everything that typically characterised an automobile. The key starting point was body construction, and a core question was raised here: How would a car have to look and be built to consume as little energy as possible? The logical answer: extremely aerodynamic and lightweight. Yet these objectives had to be achieved under a non-negotiable precondition: a maximum of safety. The approach taken: a narrow two-seater with a CFRP body!

The seat layout fitting this design goal was dictated by the uncompromising aerodynamic form of a glider: One seat behind the other. Entry to the concept car is also similar to that of a glider; through a roof cover hinged at the side. On this second generation of the L1, the concept has been further honed; each component has been redesigned, a special chassis with aluminium components was developed, and above all the crucial CFRP technology from Formula-1 racing and airplane construction was transferred to automotive manufacturing. This has been combined with a unique form of hybrid drive to create a near-production vehicle. 2013 is the target year for this future dream to become a reality.

Note: TDI, TSI, DSG and Twincharger are registered trademarks of Volkswagen AG or other companies of the Volkswagen Group in Germany and other countries

World Premiere of the L1 - Drivetrain
The Future Needs the TDI:
Small TDI leverages minimal fuel consumption and maximum range

Downsizing – 0.8 TDI is smallest diesel engine intended for production applications ever built by Volkswagen

Electrifying idea – E-motor plus TDI pushes CO2 emissions down to 36 g/km
Wolfsburg / Frankfurt, 14 September 2009

The TDI, E-motor and 7-speed DSG are located at the rear, and they combine to create the most fuel efficient road-legal car hybrid drive in the world. Proof of this are its 1.38 litre per 100 kilometres fuel consumption and 36 g/km CO2 emissions. Serving as the primary drive source is a completely redeveloped two-cylinder turbo-diesel with common rail direct injection (TDI). It is operated in two different modes depending on the load conditions. In the standard "ECO" mode, the 800 cm3 TDI develops a power of 20 kW / 27 PS (at 4,000 rpm); in "Sport" mode – used to reach top speed, for example – the car's power rises to 29 kW / 39 PS (at 4,000 rpm). The TDI's maximum torque is 100 Newton-meter (at 1,900 rpm). Naturally, the L1 also has a Stop-Start system that automatically shuts down the engine when vehicle has stopped and restarts when the accelerator or E-pedal is pressed.

The hybrid module has been integrated into the housing of the 7-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox). It is located between the TDI engine and the DSG gearbox and consists of a 10 kW / 14 PS electric motor and a clutch. The E-motor is supplied with energy from a lithium-ion battery located at the front of the car. An electronic power control module, operating at around. 130 Volts manages the flow of high voltage energy the battery and to the E-motor. In parallel, the vehicle's low voltage electrical system is supplied with the necessary 12 Volts through a DC/DC converter.

Electric motor – details of the E-motor

In normal operation the electric motor can support the TDI engine in conditions such as by electronic load point shifting and in acceleration. If necessary – generally during acceleration – the E-motor can supply 40 percent additional torque over the entire speed engine speed range. Moreover, the E-motor can propel the L1 over short distances by itself. In this case, an auxiliary clutch decouples the TDI from the drivetrain. Restarting the TDI is a very easy process. In so-called "pulse starting" of the TDI, the electric motor is sped up and is then coupled to the TDI unit to provide almost instant starting. The entire process takes place automatically and without jolts, so the driver hardly notices the restarting of the TDI engine.

In braking phases, the E-motor operates as a generator to charge the lithium-ion battery by recovering braking energy. The gears of the automatically shifting DSG are always selected with the aim of achieving the best possible fuel economy. The engine controller regulates all energy flow and drive management tasks taking into account the moment by moment demands for power made by the driver. Some of the parameters used to calculate the optimum propulsion mode for the given conditions are: accelerator pedal position, engine load, momentary fuel demand, energy supply and the mix of kinetic and electrical energy at any given time.

Diesel engine – details of the 0.8 TDI

The TDI engine in the L1 is a new development. Yet, even here Volkswagen has been able to exploit synergies to design an engine that is both innovative and cost-effective. Hence, this 0.8 litre TDI unit has been derived from the 1.6 TDI just introduced a few months ago. The 1.6 TDI is making its debut at the IAA in cars such as the new version of the Golf BlueMotion (3.8 l/100 km) and the Passat BlueMotion (4.4 l/100 km) – which are currently the world's most fuel-efficient production cars in their respective classes.

Based on their common origins, the 0.8 TDI and 1.6 TDI have identical cylinder spacing (88 millimetres), bore (79.5 millimetres) and stroke (80.5 millimetres). These high-tech TDI engines also share key internal engine features for reducing emissions. They include special piston crowns, multi-injection and individual orientations of the specific injection jets. On both drivetrains there is exhaust gas recirculation, an oxidation catalytic converter and a diesel particulate filter. Equipped this way, the TDIs in each Volkswagen fulfil the limits of the Euro-5 emissions standard with ease.

The 1.6 TDI, thanks to its common rail injection, is also an exceptionally quiet and low-vibration diesel engine. These positive properties have been successfully transferred to the two-cylinder unit. The TDI's aluminium crankcase was also constructed with high precision to achieve very low friction losses. The oil pump, designed to operate at a maximum oil pressure of 4.0 bar, also contributes to engine efficiency.

Another example of how the entire drive system is configured for high efficiency is the L1's cooling system. Its external water pump is controlled by engine management so that cooling is only activated while engine operating conditions require it. This thermal management also contributes to reduced fuel consumption. A second electric water pump, also activated only when needed, provides cooling required for the starter generator and the power electronics in a separate water circulation loop operating at a lower temperature level.

Automatic transmission – details of the 7-speed DSG

Gear shifting work aboard the L1 is handled by the 7-speed DSG, which is one of the most innovative automatic transmissions in production. Compared to the version equipping the new Polo, for example, the design of the Direct Shift Gearbox has been developed to include clutch control for the hybrid module. Furthermore, individual gear ratios have been optimised to attain responsive driving performance despite the car's extremely low fuel consumption. The hybrid module is integrated into the DSG housing as previously mentioned. It is located where the flywheel is usually to be found.

Driving performance – economical and yet responsive

The L1, equipped with ABS and ESP, has a top speed of up to 160 km/h – this is remarkable considering its fuel efficiency. With maximum acceleration from a standstill, the two-seater reaches 100 km/h after just 14.3 seconds. The fuel tank holds just ten litres yet, this is sufficient for a theoretical driving range of about 670 kilometres, given the car's 1.38 litre average fuel consumption

World Premiere of the L1 - Interior
The World's Most Fuel-Efficient Car with a Jet's Cockpit:
180-degree cockpit offers ideal ergonomics

Tailored to the driver – Steering wheel is the centre point of the interior

Comfortable for two – Seats offer fully-fledged long-distance comfort
Wolfsburg / Frankfurt, 14 September 2009

Talking about car driving as 'piloting' might sound out of place, but in the case of the L1 it is wholly appropriate. The driver (in the CFRP tube frame seat) and passenger (in the fixed CFRP seat that is part of the monocoque) sit one behind the other. At both locations, the seat position is ergonomical and very comfortable. All instruments and controls are arranged over a 180 degree radius for the driver, which places them perfectly within view and reach. The instrument panel itself has been integrated into the monocoque and is made of CFRP. The interior applications are produced from glass fibre reinforced plastic (GFRP). One of the materials Volkswagen is introducing for interior side trim is the new "Sport Esteem" material that is as robust as it is touch-friendly.

To start the L1, the driver pushes a button on the right side of the steering wheel. When it is rotated, the round start button simultaneously serves as a gear selector switch and is used to activate the electronic handbrake (Drive, Neutral, Reverse and Park). The entry canopy and rear hatch are opened electrically by touch controls to the left and right of the driver. Also designed as touch sensors are controls for the entire air conditioning control system. Via multifunctional keys in the steering wheel, the driver controls the on-board computer, navigation and entertainment systems.

The classic door mirror and rear-view mirror have been completely eliminated on the L1. In their place, cameras display images on OLED-active (OLED = organic light emitting diode) displays located on the left and right sides of the instrument panel. A Park Distance Control (PDC) system makes parking easier as well.

In case of a crash, not only are the driver and passenger protected by the monocoque, which is designed as a highly rigid CFRP safety cell, as well as aluminium crash elements in the front of the car, but also by a steering wheel airbag and head/side curtain airbags to the left and right inside the entry canopy

World Premiere of the L1 - Body
Car Design of the Future:
The L1's exceedingly safe CFRP safety cell weighs just 124 kilograms

Lightweight – L1 is no heavier than a good touring motorcycle

Revolution – Never before in carmaking history has CFRP been applied so comprehensively to improve fuel efficiency
Wolfsburg / Frankfurt, 14 September 2009

Both technically and visually, the CFRP body is already a significant achievement in car design. Unique on this car: the proportions of its dimensions. While the length of the L1 at 3,813 millimetres is still similar to that of a Volkswagen Fox, and its height of 1,143 millimetres nearly matches that of a Lamborghini Murciélago, the car's aerodynamically optimised width (1,200 millimetres) has no comparisons in the world of today's production cars.

CFRP body – Monocoque and exterior skin

The two-seat monocoque, including the tubular frame driver's seat and passenger seat as well as the exterior body skin, all consist of CFRP. There are no doors. Instead, the driver and passenger climb into the L1 from the top. An electrically actuated entry canopy above the seats is opened and closed for this purpose. Headlights and taillights all utilize LED technology, which consume a lot less energy. The rear wheels are completely covered; their wheel covers can be removed to change the Michelin low resistance tires ("Energy Saver": front 95/60 R16, rear 115/70 R16). The underbody is also completely enclosed. The 0.8 TDI is cooled via adaptive air channels integrated in the sides of the car body. These automatically open and close based on the hybrid unit's operating state and vehicle speed. The tailgate is opened in the usual, manual way. It too consists of CFRP. Inside is a stowage space of 50 litres.

CFRP advantages – composition and weight

Carbon fibre reinforced plastic, as the name implies, consists of multiple layers of high-strength carbon fibres, which are integrated in a very tough matrix. This mix results in an extremely strong and lightweight composite material. Until now, producing a body like that of the L1 from CFRP, while conforming to industrial standards, was an insurmountable task. Up to now CFRP was only practical for very small production runs, as in aircraft manufacturing or motorsport. Now Volkswagen has succeeded in finding a production-viable and cost-effective way to produce CFRP parts in suitable volumes.

The reason that CFRP is the ideal material for the L1 body is demonstrated by considering its weight and strength. The L1 weighs just 380 kilograms, which is equivalent to the weight of a very high-end, fully equipped touring motorcycle of the 1200-cc class. The L1, on the other hand, is an automobile through and through. Of the 380 kilograms curb weight, 122 kilograms are taken by the drivetrain, 79 kilograms by the chassis, 35 kilograms by interior furnishings and 20 kilograms by the electrical system. 124 kilograms remain, and this is precisely the weight of the body.

These 124 kilograms can be further broken down: 64 kilograms are accounted for by the CFRP monocoque including integrated passenger seat, 28 kilograms is the weight of the entire CFRP exterior skin, 19 kilograms for the CFRP entry canopy, 9 kilograms for the CFRP driver's seat and 4 kilograms for the LED lights. By way of comparison: The body of the legendary Lupo 3L – until today the smallest Volkswagen production car ever built – weighed 306 kilograms, and the entire car weighed a lightweight 813 kilograms. That is 433 kilograms more than the L1.

And there are other advantages: the material's extremely high stress limits and its ideal forming properties for even the most challenging of design features.

Design – anything but typical, yet a typical Volkswagen

The design and styling of the L1 – function and form – combine to form one uncompromising unit. Walter de Silva, Head of Design for the Volkswagen Group has this to say: "The design of the L1 redefines classic and aesthetic vehicle traits. Especially significant, of course, is how the nearly rocket-shaped lines catch one's attention. All of its moving parts are integrated so accurately that the body resembles a rocket or jet. It is a body that cuts through the air with minimal aerodynamic resistance." A top Cd value of 0.195 and 1.02 m2 frontal area (Cd x A = 0.199 m2) is a statement that is sculpted into the CFRP.

And this is how it looks, the most aerodynamic front end in the world: "The typical layout of conventional headlights with a radiator grille in the middle would be entirely inappropriate here," says de Silva. "That is why we chose a more mini­malistic layout and integrated the headlights into a neutral horizontal stripe that conveys a far-sighted and contemporary feeling." The Head of Group Design continues: "In a sense, we applied the same principle to the front end of the Scirocco, where the headlights are joined by a glossy black stripe, and the brand logo is also placed on the engine bonnet. This underscores the dynamic character of this automobile."

The extremely aerodynamic design also shapes the rear with its diffuser and wheels that are completely enclosed. The most distinctive feature of the overall appearance in the rear are the LED taillights that were worked into the TDI's air outlet ports. De Silva: "The same stylistic features as in front are repeated in the rear, in the taillights – which we have integrated in the grilles of the two air outlet ports; they have an even more aerodynamic appearance. Another identifying feature is the air outlet directly behind the cockpit – a nearly abstract, graphic element that underscores the purposeful aesthetics of this vehicle." Due to the driver's low seating position, there is an additional window in the roof that is ideal, for example, to view traffic lights

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