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Post VW Diesel Hybrid Gets 70 MPG

Volkswagen keeps teasing us with diesel hybrids, and its latest flirtation is a sweet ultralight, ultra-aerodynamic diesel-electric that gets 70 mpg on the highway.

VW rolled into the Los Angeles Auto Show with the Up! Lite (and no, we donít know why thereís an exclamation point in the name). The super-slick hatchback is the latest in VWís Up! series, and though itís just a concept, it looks like it could easily segue to production. It isnít the most efficient concept weíve seen from VW ó that would be the radical Volkswagen L1 with a very impressive 170 mpg. But unlike the L1, the Up! Lite is something that could sell in big enough numbers to make producing it economically viable.

While the L1 is handsome car, it looks like an aircraft fuselage without wings and the tandem seating ó not to mention tiny size ó would make it a hard sell. But the Up! Lite concept looks like something you would see parked on any street, anywhere in the world. Itís an attractive hatchback that made us think of the Honda CRX.

The four-seater features a two-cylinder turbodiesel mated to an electric motor and Volkswagenís very nice DSG seven-speed gearbox. Itís pretty much the same drivetrain in the L1 wrapped in a more practical package. Aerodynamics is the name of the game when maximizing fuel economy, and VWís designers have sculpted a car with an aerodynamic drag figure of just 0.237. That makes it more slippery than the 2010 Toyota Prius. The Up! Lite is a tiny car ó just 12.5 feet long, 4.5 feet tall and 5.2 feet wide.

CO2 emissions are equally small, just 65 g/km. VW also claims that the overall CO2 footprint makes it the worldís most environmentally friendly four-seater. They donít call it the Up! Lite for nothing, either. Tipping the scales at just 695 kilograms, the latest VW show-stopper would make
Colin Chapman proud. It takes Chapmanís less-is-more ethos to a whole new level.

Under the hood, thereís a newly designed 0.8-liter TDI two-cylinder engine (the same one used in the L1 Concept) that puts out 38 kilowatts (51 horsepower). Thereís also a 10-kilowatt (13.4-horsepower) electric motor that does all sort of interesting things. For one, itís designed as a ďpulse start moduleĒ that combines the jobs of starter, alternator and electric drive in one neat package. It also recovers kinetic energy via regenerative braking. The car isnít very quick ó zero to 60 comes and goes in 12 seconds ó which is why VW says the Up! Lite is designed for city driving.

Speaking of that oomph, the engine and motor work together at certain times (say, during passing) and will combine their power for a total output of 48 kilowatts (64.3 horsepower). And at other times, like when youíre tooling around downtown, the Up! Lite will run without using the TDI engine at all. If you take your foot off the accelerator and start to coast, the engine shuts off. And over shorter distances, the electric motor will propel the car using energy stored in a lithium-ion battery. Thereís even a stop-start system that shuts down the engine when youíre at a stoplight.

We know thatís all very nice, but the thing must be as safe as a soda can, right? Not so, says Volkswagen. It has an electronic stability-control system, is slathered in airbags and the four occupants are ensconced and cosseted by a highly innovative safety frame of aluminum, steel and carbon fiber.

Will VW build the Up! Lite, or something based on it? Who knows. At this point, weíd be happy with the diesel-electric Golf VW showed off awhile ago. Itís high-time VW jumped on the hybrid bandwagon.

Photos: Volkswagen
Story from Wired




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