Volkswagen joins plug-in hybrid market with XL1

Article by Anita Panait, on March 19, 2013

Volkswagen Group is joining the fray for customers in the plug-in hybrid market with its Volkswagen XL1, which it touts as the most fuel-efficient production car in the world. It took Volkswagen Group much longer than its rivals to offer electrified vehicles. But now, the German carmaker is planning to roll out a series of plug-in hybrids that would be pitted against the Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid, Chevrolet Volt and Ford C-Max Energi.

According to VW, the two-seat XL1 coupe is powered by a diesel plug-in hybrid powertrain that returns 261 mpg by European standards. The United Stated EPA has not rated the XL1's fuel economy. Designed as a technological showpiece, the VW XL1 will be initially available in only 250 units and will only be initially sold in Germany and Austria.

Jonathan Browning, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, told Automotive News that he will request a handful of XL1s for the US, "even if it's just on the basis of a test fleet."

Volkswagen Group chief Martin Winterkorn said during the unveiling of the XL1 before the Geneva Auto Show that the vehicle is underpinned by a platform that will also be used to underpin a series of plug-ins that will be launched in the next few years. Winterkorn said that the “technology spearhead” is not going to benefit just a few, but everyone.

First to arrive are models like the e-Golf, an electric vehicle that will be available in the US showrooms in 2014 to comply with a California zero-emission vehicle mandate, and the Audi A3 e-tron, a plug-in hybrid to be rolled out in Europe next year. Next to follow will be a Golf plug-in hybrid that might be produced at the carmaker’s Puebla plant in Mexico.

The same assembly line will also be able to build Golfs with six powertrains -- gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas, electric, plug-in hybrid and ethanol. Ulrich Hackenberg, the Volkswagen AG board member for product development, remarked that the approach will allow the carmaker to more easily adjust to customer demand and government rules.

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