Think the upcoming federal standards for an average of 54.5 mpg seems a bit high? Volkswagen thinks it doesn’t go nearly far enough. In fact, they plan to go six times better … a car that goes 300 miles on a single gallon.
So how in the heck does that work?
Light as a Feather
It starts with size. Much of what we’ve seen about this rumored super-car indicate that it’s going to be more Smartcar than SUV. Most of the concept cars on which it’s supposed to be based are tiny little two-seaters. This isn’t out of line with the current high-mileage vehicles out there, such as the Nissan Leaf or the Mitsubishi MiEV, both very small cars that make up their mileage as much by not having a lot to haul in the first place.
The rumored concept car would beat them both, however. The last time we saw one of these was in 2009. At that point, it was lighter than even the classic Volkswagen Bug, which you might remember wasn’t exactly a heavyweight. It weighed just 838 pounds, and in the intervening three years, new materials science and welding techniques have developed that may make an already light car even lighter. That’s extremely useful: the less overall weight a car has to haul, the less overall fuel it has to burn.
Diesel Fuel and Electric Power
Next there’s the fuel itself, which might be the big sticking point for the American market. It’s probably not a big surprise that this car is being engineered to burn diesel because, well, European manufacturers love turning out diesel cars. Volkswagen has highly-advanced diesel technology at this point, and the rumored engine, right now, is a two-cylinder diesel engine. Diesel gets more power per liter burned, which makes it ideal if you’re looking for a lot of power with a little oomph.
Next up in the technology parade is the hybrid tech we all know so well from the Prius and other hybrid vehicles. Yep, this wouldn’t be an all-electric car: Even current electric technology makes that difficult, to say the least. But it would be largely electrically powered, to the point where even braking would charge up your batteries and make your next stop at the gas station just that much further out.
So When Will We See It?
When might we see this diesel-burning, lightweight, gas-sipping German automotive wonder? Good question. One of the problems with concept cars is that they tend to be testing beds for technologies instead of actual products. This car might never leave the lab, but all the various weight-saving ideas and fuel-conserving strategies are ones you’ll be seeing sooner rather than later, and not just in Volkswagen cars. Ford is already talking about their Fiesta that can go 45 miles to the gallon, and other manufacturers are beginning to roll out new fuel-saving technologies because of enormous consumer demand.
In short, you might only see this car if you go to a car show. But at some point – and sooner than you think – it will have its fingerprints all over the new cars.
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