The 1-Liter Car



We all know that fossil fuels are depleting, simultaneously the world consumes a large amount of petrol per year. In 2011, 87,356.29 thousand barrels per day were consumed, which is equivalent to about 13 billion liters. Cars consume a great amount of gasoline and diesel, which are fuels derived from petroleum, and it is important to do something about that.

Room for Improvement

According to the California Energy Commission, about 15% of a car’s fuel actually goes into something useful like moving the car, or running its various devices such as air conditioning. The whopping other 85% is lost on inefficiencies in the car design! Can this be improved upon? According to Volkswagen, yes, it can.


Dubbed the most super-efficient car, yet the Volkswagen XL1 can run for 100 kilometers on one liter of diesel fuel. Environmentally friendly designed, it emits only 24 grams of CO2 per kilometer, which is a very low carbon footprint. Some ask, how does it do that?


The car is made mostly of CFRP (Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Polymer), a relatively expensive material. Mostly made from epoxy—a type of plastic—that is strengthened by the addition of carbon fibers or—most recently—carbon nanotubes. CFRP has a very high strength-to-weight ratio, this makes the XL1 very lightweight, yet very strong. Its relatively low weight (795 kg) helps reduce the amount of fuel needed to move it.


The car, a hybrid between an electric car and a fuel-operated car, has two engines. One runs on a rechargeable battery and the other runs on diesel. Both motors are designed to work together to push the car while accelerating instead of the car having to run only one of them at a time. The engines are designed to be as energy-efficient as possible.


The car’s body is designed in such a way to help the engine move it. Instead of fighting the air in the atmosphere and suffering from air resistance, the car’s drop shape helps the air to flow around it from front to back. It is designed to be low as a sports car and has its rear wheels covered, which also helps it to move more smoothly, thus requiring less energy. Last but not least, the car has no conventional side mirrors, which usually cause a great deal of air resistance. Instead, two cameras are installed at the back of the doorknobs which send an image to two small screens resembling the side mirrors located inside the car.

Amazing Breakthrough or Rich Man’s Toy?

The XL1 is truly amazing. It is a car that combines strength, stability and power with fuel efficiency, which is usually a trade-off. The problem is, though, that it will cost a huge amount of money. Do you think such an expensive car would solve the fuel problem or will it remain a luxury item? Do you think it will get cheaper and more cars will apply its technology later on? For now, if you have the money, check it out as it goes into limited production at the end of the year. Otherwise, let us hope for the best.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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