The World’s Most Fuel-Efficient Car Finally Comes To The U.S.

The Volkswagen XL1, which gets the equivalent of 209 miles per gallon, debuted this morning in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Today the world’s most fuel-efficient car, the Volkswagen XL1, made its first U.S. appearance at the 23rd Annual Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The vehicle is the third-generation model in the company’s strategy to build a 1-liter car, but unlike the two previous prototypes that premiered in 2002 and 2009, the XL1 is the first available for consumer purchase.

The vehicle is currently considered a limited edition, with only 250 cars produced in Germany to gauge consumer interest. The plug-in hybrid has the look of a sports car and features a pair of scissor doors. It comes equipped with a 35kW two-cylinder Turbocharged Direct Injection engine, 27-horsepower electric motor, a seven-speed Dual-Shift Gearbox dual-clutch automatic transmission, and a lithium-ion battery. Thanks to their facility in Chattanooga, Tenn., Volkswagen holds the title for the first and only car factory worldwide with a LEED Platinum certification.

The XL1 accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 12.7 seconds and tops out at 99 mph. The XL1 gets a record-setting 261 miles per gallons based on the European driving cycle, which translates to an estimated 200-plus miles per gallon on the U.S. cycle. Running on a 27-horsepower electric motor, the XL1 can cover up to 32 miles while producing zero emissions. The battery requires 0.16 kWh to cover a mile in electric mode, the equivalent of 209 miles per gallon of gasoline.

With a sports car design, the XL1 is extremely aerodynamic, rivaling GM’s EV-1 with the lowest-ever coefficient of drag in a production vehicle (Cd 0.19). The vehicle is exceptionally light at 1,753 pounds—quite a feat, since hybrids usually weigh 10 percent more than standard cars due to having to carry the weight of the electric motor, generator, gasoline tank, and batteries. Volkswagen reduced the XL1’s weight by developing and patenting a new system for manufacturing the Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer parts of the car. The vehicle also makes use of lightweight materials such as magnesium for the wheels, ceramics for the brake discs, and aluminum for the dampers, steering system, and brake calipers.

Because of its lightweight design, the XL1 emits just 33.8 grams of CO2 per mile. Comparatively, the Chevy Volt emits 81 grams and the Toyota Prius emits 133 grams of CO2 per mile. The XL1 measures 153.1 inches long, 65.6 inches wide, and just 45.5 inches tall—5.1 inches shorter than the Porsche Boxster. Previous 1-liter cars required the driver and passenger to sit in tandem for optimal aerodynamics, but in the XL1 the occupants sit side by side.

U.S. production dates and sticker prices are not yet released for the XL1.