Well, if anyone can do it, VW can. I am a big fan of their vehicles (I drive a VW Transporter) and think they already have done a lot toward making vehicles fuel efficient. Looking at the design features of the car, it seems like engineers have put serious thought into every possible area where they can improve efficiency. If this works the way VW plans, it could really set a precedent or the future, and shows what a little ingenuity can do. The only negative thing I can say at this point is that I think this should have happened a long time ago!
It appears to be a great car, but the final pricetag will affect our view of that, Liz. I've seen all kinds of estimates on what it might be, ranging from $40K to $130K (which is probably not a viable estimate). Volkswagen isn't saying, however, so I was careful not put any speculation in the article.
Yes, the price tag will certainly determine the success of this venture. $130k seems a bit extreme and of course, cost-prohibitive to most! That would sort of defeat the purpose as well to make a fuel-efficient car many people can take advantage of. At any rate, I am curious to see this vehicle when it's out there on the market.
Rob, I don't think the $130K figure is a viable one, but it comes from a New York Daily News article (link below). I've also seen where industry analysts have predicted the price will come in between $40K and $70K, which sounds like a better guess to me, albeit still a guess. Volkswagen has not announced a price.
Hi Charles, as is so often the case they don't say what conditions are needed to achieve the efficiency. I drive a 3.0L V6 conventional car the weighs in at about 1.5 ton and get around 40mpg on level smooth roads at 100kph, yet if I only do 60kph I get 52mpg. interestingly (not surprisingly) if I drive much slower than about 50kph the economy worsens.
Because a hybrid can turn the ICE off and have no litres per hour factor in the equation you could get some interesting No's by driving 5kph over glass.
I just hope for the environments sake (and the purchasers) it has good real world No's
Would love to have a 130 mpg Passat Wagon or a 100 mpg transporter. If they can do 260 for a two seater, should not be impossible to do half that in a 4 seater with decent luggage space - or a 100 mpg Microbus with windows all round & a sunroof! ;-)
Unfortunately its only the absolute high miler / least useful vehicle that 'gets the oil' - as in media traction -
Cap'n, finally we see a company applying all the technologies that make cars more efficient. One of the most important is the drag. As people have moved to SUVs the coeffcient of drag has gone the wrong way. I remember when a low coefficient of drag was part of auto advertising. People complain about the price of gasoline, then they go out and buy a SUV or crossover. There is certianly a place for SUVs. Living in a rural area they are very useful, and perhaps necessary. That is a very small part of the population, though.
The other technology they are using, lightweight materials, is also something that is overdue. Design News has been talking about this for some time. That coupled with the low rolling resistance technologies is something that has been possible and known for a long time.
This will be an iteresting vehicle. I am glad that they decided not to do an all-electric. This may be practical.
I like your comment on low rolling resistance technologies being known for a long time. I think that is code for narrower tires. 27 years ago, I drove a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, which had high performance tires, 225/60VR15. That was among the widest tires on production cars at the time. My 2009 "small RV" RAV4 uses 215/70R16. One would think that they could use tire technology to make tires with less friction by keeping them narrow.
Charles, this looks very interesting, but one thing I missed was how many seats did the vehicle sport?
Is this a 2-seater? 4? If it's 4, are both the right-side seats offset?
The offset seats made me think of the Grumman A-6 Intruder aircraft; the EWO sat next to the pilot but was several inches back and lower to give the pilot a better view. Offsetting the seats in this VW would give the same benefit to the driver - how many times has one asked the front seat passenger to lean back so you could see to turn safely?
@McDermott: I think this is the best car in design – wise I have ever seen. I also work for an Automobile company but haven't seen such a beauty like this. I think this is the best sports model ever designed by Volkswagon
I play around with high efficiency vehicle ideas and the 3 wheeler idea has some value-fewer parts, less weight. It also has some drawbacks-the third wheel track makes avoidance of potholes and debris more difficult, in snow the third track increased the likelihood of getting stuck. Keeping the cg far enough within the wheel contact patch triangle is more demanding. The length of the vehicle also tends to grow as you cannot put any sizeable components parallel to the rear wheel (I don't see front single wheels as viable).
Consumer acceptance of three wheelers is also an issue.
Agreed, TJ. It's one thing to read about this car but another but I suspect it's another thing to see it in person. The curb weight -- 1,753 pounds -- is really light. I'd be hesitant to drive this during a cold Chicago winter.
I'm still personally intrigued by by 3-wheelers, I think one that banks like a motorcycle would be a blast.
I notice a number of folks commenting on the vehicles weight in snow. Weight isn't really the issue. Ground clearance and ground pressure are. In deep snow a tall skinny aggressive tire is often preferable, a wider tire just floats up on the loose snow while a skinny tire will penetrate to the base, given adequate ground clearance. With the proper tire choice lighter weight is an advantage as it requires less force to over come the inertia to get it rolling.
The heavy vehicles that work well in snow typically have plenty of ground clearance and all wheel drive. But put a Hummer on 22" pimp wheels with wide summer tires and it will go nowhere in the winter. Old Saabs had tall skinny sneakers and weight biased over the drive wheels and they were great snow cars.
Old VWs would go through snow well for the same reason but their directional stability was, shall we say, negilgible. Chuckle.
That said, this little buggy has very little ground clearance and will end up suspended on the snow pack very quickly.
Look carefully at the specs and tell me - how much fun will this car be to drive? Looks like you have to bring your own AA batteries for the radio to work. Notice the line about "just enough power to be roadworthy". I had a car like that once- a 1977 Renault 4. Wouldn't want to be stuck behind one of these going up a hill.
I don't quite understand one point from the article. It says "the XL1 can travel 32 all-electric miles ...", but later, "... figures are based on European Commission methodology, which calls for the vehicle to travel 100 km [62 mi], using its all-electric mode, followed by a diesel fuel mode." Does that mean it would have to stop to recharge during the first part of the test?
30 miles from work to home, first 10 miles are on battery until it runs out and then the next 20 miles on gas engine. I average about 80 mpg but have gotten up to 106 mpg when traffic is very slow (e.g., overall average and max speeds are less).
So the VW would go 32 miles on battery and then the next ~30 miles on the diesel engine.
First, let me warn you, ChasChas, converting to MPG-e is not an exact science. But here's an off-the-cuff response to your question. The easiest method I know of is to divide kWh/gallon of gasoline by kWh/mile. The question becomes: What's a viable number for kWh per gallon of gasoline? Nissan and GM originally used the ready-made figure of 82 kWh/gal, which was absurdly high and accounted for the ridiculous figures that were orginally publicized for the Volt (230 mpg-e) and Leaf (367 mpg-e) in 2009. The EPA later came in and said, "No, it should be 33 kWh/gallon of gasoline," (see what I mean about it not being an exact science?). So let's use 33. And let's use the 6 miles/kWh mentioned for the new Volkswagen mentioned in the story. In that case, you'd divide 33 kWh/gallon by 0.167 kWh/mile (that's the inverse of the number I mentioned in the story), and you'd get 197 MPG-e.
Yes, it is bureaucratic confusion, ChasChas, largely because there is no single standard. And it gets worse. It's worth noting that my previous explanation was for the all-electric mode of the vehicle, which is simpler to calculate. When you get into plug-in hybrid calculations, there can be an infinite number of fuel efficiency ratings, depending on how you drive the car. A driver who drives 10 miles to work every day, ten miles back and then recharges at night, will have one number. A driver who exhausts the 32-mile range of the battery and drives the next 200 miles on diesel fuel will get another figure entirely.
Really - as an engineer you cannot figure out that global warming is real? You think you can dump billions of tons of stuff into the atmosphere and NOT cause a problem? Do you really think that resources like fossil fuels on this planet are infinite? You think ocean acidification is not real and that coral are not dyiing from beng too warm?
There is a huge gap between the actual data and the public perception.
Every gobal temp data set (UAH, GISS, HADCRUT etc.) shows level to declining temp trends for the last 13 to 19 years. Even warming gurus like James Hansen, Phil Jones and Pachuri have admitted as much.
The weak behavior of the current sunspot cycle (24) has many scientist mussing as to whether we might be entering a cooling minimum like the Dalton or Maunder minima. We'll see.
ChasChas, it may be confusing, but remember an internal combustion engine has an efficiency close to 12%, an electric motor is over 90% so it can only be an improvement over what has bee a standard since the model "T". Cars are transportation appliances, it's time engineers started a complete redesign of them.
The new hybrids and electric technologies have to be supported by the design community as vital first steps on the path to some future vehicle that we can't imagine right now. Batteries, controls, tires, materials, all of these things will improve if companies decide to leave the past behind. Just doubleing the efficiency of current cars to a meager 24% would be a huge improvement.
You 12% is very low for today's cars; looking at engine only - passing 30% efficiencies, with peaks approaching 40%.
Still lousy compared to electrics; but your 90% is also a peak efficiency. Motor/driver efficiencies, inverter efficiencies, battery in/out efficiencies and losses, charger efficiencies. Yes, the overall drive is much more efficient than gas-powered, but also much much more expensive - especially when you throw in the cost of that expensive fuel tank (your batteries).
But we often throw out numbers to match our idealogy. Figures lie and liars figure.
Twelve percent efficiency for the internal combustion engine seems a bit low. Double that is likely closer to reality. But 90 percent efficiency for electric motors is in the ballpark, with some above and some below that number.
In answer to your question, laser_scientist, the vehicle would not have to stop to recharge in the European Commission methodology. It would travel until it exhausts its battery charge (approximately 32 miles). Then it would travel the remainder of the 62-mile distance by burning the diesel fuel in the hybrid powertrain. Then they calculate its fuel efficiency.
One of my fears about very efficient vehicles is crash survival. Even with state of the art lightweight super strong non metallic materials, you have to be concerned about deceleration and acceleration upon impact and recoil. Smaller vehicles suffer from having smaller crumple zones, thus reducing the time available for velocity change. And they have lower mass, meaning for the same given force of impact the smaller vehicle will pick up a higher rebound acceleration rate. It'll be thrown farther with higher G forces.
So, even with better quality cabin restraints, when a much lighter passenger vehicle meets a much heavier one the passenger injury rate rises dramatically. Potential for G force damage to the passengers increases significantly even considering air bags and other flexible restraints. The rate of deployment of an airbag would have to be sped up and that alone will result in more injuries.
The solution of course is to sacrifice mileage economy somewhat by powering a larger electrical load and adding the weight of collision avoidance systems.
This is a cool vehicle. It is really a focused high performance vehicle rather than a broadly practical car. It just happens that the high performance focus of this car is efficiency. No one needs a high performance vehicle-we get them because they give us pleasure and can provide status gratification if that is important. And we pay a premium for the pleasures.
I think this could work for VW, as long as they don't delude themselves that it is mainstream, and the profitable price does not exceed the value of the pleasure and status derived the buisness case could fly. And, as with any high performance vehilce, the lessons learned can be legitimized in the public mind and applied more broadly to other mainstream products.
Looks like a very nice concept car that could hit the road. One concern I have though: what will a polycarbonate windsheeld look like after a few years of dust/rain/snow and a few wiper sweeps ? Will it look like the polycarbonate headlights that have to be polished regularly if you don't want them to be foggy ? It will also be interesting to see how it performs at the IIHS impact test.
That said, VW makes great cars, and this one should be notting but great !
It is interesting indeed, and I really don't think that the polycarbonate windows will be a viable option, unless they are a much more abrasion type of polycarbonate than I have seen anywhere. My other concern is the way the doors open. the upward swing is fine for show cars and collectors versions, but how long would that sort of mechanism last in daily use? In addition, a more standard arrangement of hinging would probably weigh less, since the stress levels would be lower. One other thing is that if there is air conditioning included then the mileage would probably drop by half with the cooling on, since cooling power consumption is fairly constant and primarily depends on occupant cavity volume, while the drive power is greatly reduced by the lower drag coefficient. So if the government and the EPA are really serious about vehicle efficiency the very first step would be to get rid of automotive air conditioners. But we know that will not happen.
I love efficiency, but part of efficiency is cost. This prospective car utilizes some very nice technologies, but at no small cost, which seems certain to result in yet greater transfer of wealth and power from the people to the wonderfully benevolent corporate/government/moneychanger bureaucracy.
With so much of our fuel-efficiency hit resulting from the stop-and-go of urban driving, I'd like to see a lot more utilization of one of the oldest energy conservation technologies known to man - the flywheel. Couple that with working on traffic flow methodologies to greatly reduce accelerations and decelerations, and I believe we'd see a greater benefit at considerably lower cost to the average benefactor.
Ah... the obligatory monthly VW "greatest car ever" press release. Their next one is a hybrid that runs on burps and static electricity. How many paper cars must VW publish before we see ANY come to market? I'm sure the XL1, and the next few VW announces, are great cars for the little people living in CAD rendering engines. How difficult is it for VW to slap an electric motor and batteries on one of their chassis and have something real to sell?
JRoque: I, too, have to admit to having someskepticism about this, albeit not as much as you. I do believe VW will build this vehicle in very small quantities. I'm guessing maybe 5,000. However, I do not believe in the 261 mpg figure. If you apply the EPA methodology to this vehicle, I can gurantee the figure will drop.
So much hype. If it's so eff then why does it need more energy that a 3000lb EV-1 of which the lead version only used 175wthrs/mile or the GM Impact, it's prptotype they should have built at 100wthrs/mile?
It's grown from 1000lbs IIRC to now the 1700+lb unit yet their MPG claim doesn't change!!
As far as weight my all composite body/chassis weighs far less that the VW does and not an once of CF. There is no reason it should weigh over 1200lbs and should be under 1000lbs.
Anyone want to bet this never gets produced? So I'd certainly call it a paper car. Sad as we need this class but done right.
If you google freedomev and hit image the black vehicle that pops up is my all composite body/chassis stronger than steel but only 235lbs.
A very old wiki freedomev I think is somewhat good now. It had been hacked by chinese though have no idea why as rhey did it in chinese!!
Once my 2wh EV Streamiliner is presentable and a few products in the next 6 months, I'll come out with a serious website but not smart to do if no product yet now. I could do a website now but wouldn't have any time left because of all the questions and have too much work still to do.
Great information Charles. I live in Chattanooga and the VW plant located here is a real God-send to our community. Chattanooga unemployment rate has dropped to a 6.4 % as a result of their facility and vendors locating in the area to support their activities. I know this is still historically high but certainly better than the 9.2 % we had before their locating in Hamilton County. Also, housing sales and apartment rentals have really picked up to the point where realtors are now back in business. I would love for the new hybrid to take hold, become a resounding success, and provide the American market from production and assembly in my home town. One can only wish. I think the design is striking--the very best I've seen. Again, great post.
In terms of local economics, I don't know how much effect we'll see from this, bobjengr. VW has said this vehicle will have "limited production," which could mean many things. But I think the number will vary from between 250 to 25,000 (these are my guesses; VW hasn't put a number on it). All you can hope for is that the excitement generated by this vehicle will convince VW execs to go to higher production volumes.
The 1,753 pound weight is 40 pounds more than the 1,713 pound weight of the '84 Honda CRX HF that I used to have. That car didn't have any carbon fiber or anything more exotic than aluminum for the engine bllock and transmission case. Of course, it didin't have any airbags either but we haven't heard whether the new VW meets those American requirements. Likely not. BTW, the Honda was rated at 50 mpg highway, a figure that was achieved by many owners. No tricks, just a well engineered light car that met American regulations of the era.
There aren't really any tricks - get the road weight, cross section, drag coeeficient and tire heating down, and Bob's your uncle. Simple things like the precision of fit-up of body panels and under-body skins make a difference. Electric motors have a high intermittent stall torque and horsepower relative to continous ratings which allows them to pack a lot of performance into a low continuous horsepower rating. Well deployed hybrid technology allows the combustion engine to work into sweet spots. As you point out, no magic is needed.
Gull wing doors are a cliche' that designers use to make an automobile look really mod and futuristic. I doubt they have any aerodynamic advantage, and the disadvantage is what happens if you open a forward facing one while rolling. The forward facing but normally hinged "suicide doors" used on some pre-WWII cars were banned for compelling safety reasons. Just don't open the doors a highway speed, you say? Ah, but people do for all sorts of reasons e.g. to free a seatbelt or reseat a partially latched door.
This sounds like a great car if you live where the land is flat and the climate is perfect. Using the tricks mentioned, you can go fast with a low power to weight ratio on a flat road, but I'd like to know what happens to speed going uphill. Sure, the peak capability of electric drive can zip you over a neighborhood hill on your way to the Piggly-Wiggly, but there are mountain passes in Colorado, Calikfornia, Utah, and elswehere that require pushing hard for miles at high alititude. The resulting load will exceed the thermal time constant of the electric drive. What then? There is also the effect on mileage when a heater or air conditioner is running. Those aren't optional in Michigan or Arizona.
And those tires... Early autos used narrow tires. They require high air pressure to be stiff enough to carry weight up on the smaller footprint. This makes for a bumpy ride and reduced ability to handle mud and snow. That's why they disappeared.
Thos gull wing doors are put there because a door has to hinge on something and if you can get rid of the bending moment delivered by a hard-top door a lot of things get much lighter. That is the reason, which is that there is no way to make a stiff enough "A-Post" to support the door. So gull wing doors are an easy out to handle the problem of how to support the doors. Yes, they do look cool but I find thm very inconvenient.
Orin, NOBODY NEEDS AIR CONDITIONING! In addition, if the vehicle has a liquid cooled battery and engine then there should be enough waste heat available to keep it reasonably comfortable in the winter, at least if they include a bit of foam insulation between the inside shell and the outer skin.
Probably it would not be very smart to attempt to use one of these in a place like Colorado, or any of the other states that have those very steep hilly roads. But we can trace the underpowered VWs all the way back to some of the originals, which could not do much better than 42MPH on many of the highways in Virginia. So VW has a legacy of being underpowered, the difference here is that probably the electric drive will not have a gear ratio adequate for handling hills, since variable spped electric drives don't need a lot of different drive ratios.
Besides all of that, by the time a vehicle has all of that extra safety stuff added it will no longer be able to produce such good mileage.
Those gull wing doors were never practical and in all probability will never ever be practical. But of course, they do look sort of cool.
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