Volkswagen Twin Up! Concept: A Cheaper XL1

By · November 27, 2013

Volkswagen Twin up! at the Tokyo motor show

Volkswagen Twin Up! at the Tokyo Motor Show.

The Volkswagen XL1 is assuredly the most fuel-efficient car ever built. Record aerodynamics and super low weight. It ticks all the right boxes except for price and mass availability.

The green supercar will remain an expensive and very exclusive dream car, easier to see at shows that on the street, so Volkswagen had an idea: How about taking the super fuel-efficient drivetrain from the XL1 and putting it inside the brand's cheapest and lightest model, the Up?

They just did that with the Twin Up! concept, which was unveiled at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. It's probably the smallest plug-in hybrid car ever seen. Volkswagen doesn't sell the Up! in America but they probably should. It's a very small car, about the same size as a Chevrolet Spark. But where the Chevy has some kind of an angry look, the little Volkswagen is just cute and smiling. It also has much better packaging than the Spark, and its build quality is clearly one step above. The Volkswagen Up! is already an alternative energy champion in Europe, with the availability of both a natural gas and an electric version, so a plug-in hybrid may be a nice addition to the range.

Volkswagen Twin up! plug-in hybrid

Volkswagen Twin Up! plug-in hybrid.

One Upsmanship

The XL1 has a .189 Cd value and weighs 1,753 pounds. The Twin up! has a .30 Cd value and tips the scale at 2,657 pounds. Those are very substantial differences and they matter a lot considering that the XL1, in the name of efficiency, has barely adequate performance. Volkswagen has thought of that, and without modifying the architecture, it has upgraded a few things from the XL1.

The 20 kW motor is upped to 35 kilowatts, and the 5.5 kWh battery has been enlarged to 8.6 kilowatt-hours. That clearly wasn't enough. The 0 to 62 mph acceleration which took 12.9 seconds in the XL1 requires 15.7 seconds in the Twin Up! That would have been slow 30 years ago, but it would be shameful for a new car in 2013. If it were produced, the Twin Up! would be the slowest car on the market. Consider that the standard Up!, hardly a sports car, goes to 62 mph in 13.2 seconds with its 75-hp gas engine.

Volkswagen Twin up! at the Tokyo motor show

Volkswagen Twin Up! at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Some people say strong acceleration is unnecessary—that it's more about value for the money. Plug-in hybrid technology is expensive. Car buyers might not like the idea of paying more, but ending up with a product slower than the cheaper base model—actually much slower because the performance figures given above are for the car in hybrid form with a fully charged battery. There's a 31-mile range. Once discharged, the driver will find himself in a 2,657-pound car powered by a meek 47-horsepower two-cylinder engine.

So Volkswagen may be proud of the car's exceptional fuel economy, but it comes at the cost of exceptionally poor performance. That's a deal-breaker.

Fortunately, Volkswagen knows better. Like the Chevrolet Spark EV, which is faster than the gas model, the production Volkswagen E-Up! is faster than its gas sister—and this Twin Up! is only a concept. You have to wonder if there is a market for a small plug-in hybrid. A larger model, to combine zero emission driving in the city with great road performance, makes more sense.


· · 20 weeks ago

The Twin Up does seem to straddle a desperate middle. How small can you make a hybrid before its practicality is trumped by either a pure electric or even a standard ICE powered vehicle? Perhaps VW was trying to find that out. But yes, it would be nice to see the all electric E-Up available in North America.

As for that 35 kW motor and 8.6kWh battery, it would be interesting to see how that would work in the featherweight XL1.

· · 20 weeks ago

Isn't VW going to build a high performance XL1? Of course, it would be even more expensive.

· · 20 weeks ago

>>>>>So Volkswagen may be proud of the car's exceptional fuel economy, but it comes at the cost of exceptionally poor performance. That's a deal-breaker.<<<<<<

So what is the fuel economy?

· · 20 weeks ago

So instead of giving us the XLI body with a pure-electric drivetrain . . . which would have been cool, they give us XLI drivetrain in a crappy body. Meh.

· · 8 weeks ago

I wonder where the author's info comes from, because the manufacturer spec is different. From the correct spec shows 0-62 mph in 8.8s not 12.7 s. Top speed 145km/h (90 Mph) on hybrid mode and 125km/h( 77Mph) in electric mode.
Average fuel economy is 1.1L/100km which translates into 214 MPG. I don't know about you but to me this is the most efficient high volume production automobile on earth date.

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