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VW will build small run of XL1 plug-in hybrid

Wed, 26 Jan 2011

Volkswagen will begin production of its XL1 plug-in hybrid in two years.

"We want to go into series production with this car starting in 2013," VW chairman Ferdinand Piech told Automotive News Europe on Tuesday at an event in Doha, Qatar, ahead of the 2011 Qatar auto show where VW unveiled an XL1 prototype. (a href="">Read the latest update here announcing the XL1 hybrid's Geneva Auto Show debut).

VW CEO Martin Winterkorn identified the XL1's first markets in an interview at the same event. "We will bring out the XL1 in Europe first, initially Germany. The U.S. and China will follow at a later date," he said.

Winterkorn said there were plans are initially for a "small production run,” while VW development chief Ulrich Hackenberg said up to 100 XL1 cars could be built.

VW has not made a decision on where the XL1 will be built but Hackenburg said the company's German factories of Wolfsburg or Dresden were possibilities.

Piech declined to comment on a possible price for the XL1, saying that it "was too early." But the car will "certainly be for sale," he said, countering the suspicion that the car might only be used in field tests and might not reach the consumer.

Carbon fiber body parts

The two-seat XL1 prototype is the latest concept to come from VW's strategy to produce a so-called "one liter" car that uses less than 1 liter of fuel per 100 kilometers, which is about 235 miles per gallon. By using lightweight carbon fiber body parts to reduce weight to 1,753 pounds, and a plug-in diesel electric powertrain, the XL1 uses just 0.9 liters of fuel per 100 km (261 mpg).

The XL1 uses a lithium-ion battery pack, an electric motor and a two-cylinder, 800cc diesel engine for the powertrain. VW says the XL1 can also be driven for up to 22 miles on electricity from the battery pack, which can be charged from a household electrical outlet.

According to Piech, the XL1 has the second-highest amount of carbon fiber parts in a VW group car after the Bugatti supercar. Its lightweight construction technology will be used by other brands in the group including VW's Italian sports car subsidiary Lamborghini. Piech said the cost of the materials has dropped dramatically, helped by the aircraft manufacturer Boeing with its Dreamliner airplane.

The carbon body of VW's first one-liter car in 2002 cost 35,000 euros. But the cost for the XL1 is just 5,000 euros, [$6,800 at current exchange rates] Piech said.

Hackenberg told Automotive News Europe: "By 2013, the price of the lithium battery will come down to 200 to 250 euros."

It hasn't been determined whether other VW group brands, such as Audi, Seat and Skoda, will benefit from the XL1 development.

Piech proud of Audi

Piech said VW's Spanish subsidiary Seat, which was badly hit by the economic crisis in its home market of Spain, is recovering after posting losses in the past few years. "Mothers don't really talk about their foster children. We only have one, Seat, and the brand is recovering fast," he said.

Audi is the VW group brand that fills Piech with the greatest pride. "Audi is perfect in terms of research and development," Piech said. His favorite model in the VW group is currently "the new Audi A6 with the FSI engine,” he said.

Read more about the Volkswagen XL1 here.

By Harald Hamprecht- Automotive News Europe