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News of April 17, 2002
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Ferdinand PiŽch drives 1-litre car to Volkswagen's annual general meeting

  • From Wolfsburg to Hamburg, the prototype consumed only 0.89 litre of diesel oil, but can reach 120 km/h
  • Technological perfection in concentrated form

Wolfsburg - The world's most economical car is being shown to shareholders attending the 42nd annual general meeting of Volkswagen AG in Hamburg. It is a 1-litre car, that is to say covers 100 kilometres on only this amount of fuel.

Ferdinand Piech

 The prototype, built in conditions of great secrecy despite many claims that such a technological feat was impossible, was driven under its own power from Volkswagen's plant in Wolfsburg to the meeting venue in Hamburg. Dr. Ferdinand PiŽch, currently Chairman of the Board of Management, drove this research vehicle the whole distance on April 14th. 

Despite poor weather conditions, the distance was completed at what must surely be a record-breaking fuel consumption figure and is certainly almost unbelievable: only 0.89 litre per 100 kilometres. Once again, Volkswagen has demonstrated its technological leadership in a most impressive way.

The journey started from Volkswagen AG's administrative tower block in Wolfsburg on Sunday morning at 9 a.m., and took place in rainy weather. The chosen route was along the A39 'autobahn' to the junction at KŲnigslutter, then via the A2 and A7 'autobahns' and across the River Elbe bridges to the finishing point at the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten on Hamburg's Binnenalster lake.

This successful run was the deserved reward for many weeks of test driving. Without the slightest fault developing, the experimental vehicle, its body unpainted in order to save weight, and bearing the highly significant number plate 'WOB - L 1', competed the 230 km long journey. Its average speed was 75 km/h and the destination was therefore reached in only three hours. Of the contents of the fuel tank, which holds 6.5 litres, only 2.1 litres were found to have passed through the engine's fuel injection system.

Photos: VW

The world's first 1-litre car licensed for road use resembles a sports car more than a typical research vehicle in appearance. Since the concept calls for a reduced frontal area to minimise exposure to the airstream, the 3.65 m long body is exceptionally narrow and low-built. Developed in the wind tunnel and built entirely from composite carbon-fibre reinforced material, it has a width of only 1.25 m and is just over a metre high. The body is unpainted in order to save weight. The reinforced plastic outer skin conceals a space frame that is not constructed from aluminium but from magnesium, an even lighter metal.

The one-litre car is powered by a single-cylinder diesel engine located in the mid-engined position ahead of the rear axle and combined with an automated direct-shift gearbox. The crankcase and cylinder head are of aluminium, using a monobloc construction principle. A direct-injection, naturally aspirated diesel, with a capacity of 0.3 litre, it develops 6.3 kW (8.5 bhp) at 4000/min and is equipped with an advanced high-pressure pump-injector fuel supply system. Despite these modest figures the car is surprisingly lively thanks to its weight of only 290 kilograms.

The suspension uses light-alloy components and the car runs on 16-inch low-friction tyres optimised to keep rolling resistance to a minimum. The wheels too are made from an extremely light composite material to harmonise perfectly with the ultra-economical power train.

The interior is sporting in style and extremely compact, but provides sufficient space for the driver and one passenger; it is reached by folding back the dome-shaped hinge-up door. The seats are also of extremely lightweight material, with magnesium frames and high-strength but none the less comfortable tensioned woven fabric instead of the classic upholstery.

Although weight-saving construction methods have been applied throughout, safety was none the less given close attention during every phase of the 'one-litre' concept car's development. It has an anti-lock braking system, the ESP electronic stability program and a driver's airbag among its safety features. Deformable elements at the front and the space frame construction provide the same standards of impact and overturning protection as in a GT racing car.

It is the sports-car style concept of the one-litre car that distinguishes it from the spartan research vehicle such as one might have expected: this is a specially designed high-tech vehicle, as demonstrated by many of its features. For a start, the seating arrangement puts the driver and passenger centrally, as in a classic racing car, but one behind the other in tandem. The mid-engined layout puts the power unit transversely behind them, ahead of the rear axle. The lightweight suspension, of complex design, uses double wishbones at the front and a De Dion rear axle layout. In conjunction with the low centre of gravity and low weight, the car steers in a very agile manner.

The project team has thus succeeded most impressively in creating a car with almost incredibly low fuel consumption that also happens to be fun to drive.

The one-litre car has a number of highly practical, almost luxurious details. Under a separate lid at the rear is an easily accessible load area with a capacity of 80 litres; reversing is aided by a rear-view camera, and automatic locking and releasing of the lift-up door, together with a starter button for the driver, mean that a conventional ignition key is not needed.

Viewed as a vehicle concept - with four wheels, but very low-slung and with two seats in tandem - the one-litre car is perhaps an indication of a totally new family of cars. It could open up new demand areas extending all the way from a 'super-saver' as seen here to a low-cost day-to-day touring vehicle for young people or even a supersport model with outstandingly high performance.

(April 15, 2002)

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