Thursday, 29 November 2018


VW XL1 Hybrid visit to Cars & Coffee North East

I love the Cars & Coffee North East event that’s ran each month at DKIT in Dundalk. I’ve loved anything with an engine all my life and C & C somehow manages to feed that passion every month.

Click on the Cars And Coffee NE button at the top to see some similar posts, or click on this link Ardee Snapper - Cars And Coffee NE

There is usually at least 1 stand out vehicle each month, having had the likes of an Audi Quattro Sport, a 1917 Model T Ford or a Lamborghini Countach to name a few. There are also a steady stream of regular attendees on the first Sunday of each month that are worth viewing.
Last month was no exception with a very unique piece of motoring history gracing the car park at Carroll Building. Jim McGill brought his very unusual VW XL1 hybrid and it definitely gathered great interest from the assembled motorheads that morning. It’s hard to explain, but I never felt the urge to write a post about a car after an event, apart from the Countach the previous month which we hope to feature in a future issue of Retro Classics magazine, but this machine was different. It’s fair to say that there couldn’t be a greater contrast to the gas guzzling Lamborghini.

The XL1 was built by VW as a tongue in cheek challenge to the Bugatti Veyron, whereas instead of matching the 278 mph top speed they aimed to achieve a fuel economy over 278 mpg. The XL1 is the result of over 10 years of development work by VW to build a car that would shape the city driving cars of the future. 250 cars were built in 2014 with 50 being sold to dealers and the remaining 200 being sold to the public. It’s rumoured that each car cost VW in excess of £500,000 to build.The base price for the car at the time was £110,000 and they don’t seem to have devalued much since then. One sold a few weeks ago at auction in the UK for over £130,000. Most of the cars were finished in white, with any of the colour options costing an extra £25,000. That is not a misprint….
It is powered by a 2 cylinder 800cc diesel engine ( ½ of a 1.6 TDi unit ) producing 50 bhp in conjunction with a 27bhp electric motor that can work independently or in parallel with the powerplant. It can do about 25 miles on battery power alone.
The car uses a DC charging system that is incompatible with the public network, which means that the charger is carried in the boot. He also has to carry a 12v charger and an extra battery for the 12v battery that is used for the diesel engine as it is tiny and the alternator has a very low output. It is very easy to flatten the battery and be stranded as the 12v system and the high voltage hybrid system are not linked for starting the car.
The fuel tank capacity is 2 gallons which might seem small at first but when you consider the fuel economy it can achieve the car has a range that is close to most conventional cars.
On the subject of fuel economy, it has a claimed combined rating of 0.9 l per 100km ( 310mpg in old money ), although Jim reckons that the best he’s achieved with it is ‘only’ 184mpg!
Power is transmitted to the rear wheels through a 7 speed DSG transmission. There are 2 clutches within the gearbox with another one between the engine and motor.
One of the main reasons it can hit such high fuel economy figures is the super slippery shape of the 2 seater monocoque body. I remember when the Audi 100 was launched in the early 80s that they were very proud of the drag coefficient (how easily it cut through the air ) of the car as it was the first production car to reach a value of 0.3. This car absolutely blows that figure out of the water by achieving a value of 0.186. 
Another important factor in the efficiency is the low kerb weight of the car, it tips the scales at 795kg of which only 140kg is made up of iron or steel components. Extensive use of carbon fibre in the manufacture of the car has kept the weight down while pushing the price in the opposite direction.
All of this equates to a car that can achieve travel at 125mph but has been limited to 100mph. It can launch from 0 to 60 in 12.7 seconds which is a remarkable achievement for this type of vehicle.
Jim’s car had spent it’s life in a Frankfurt VW dealer’s showroom since new and would have to undergo the German equivalent ( Hauptuntersuchung (HU) ) of the NCT \ MOT on it’s 4th birthday, even though it wasn’t being driven on the road. The dealer decided to put it up for sale and Jim didn’t hesitate to pick it up as they rarely appear on the market. He put it through the HU in Germany before embarking on a 6000 km road trip around Europe during the summer.
First stop was Warsaw where a friend who lectures in the university there wanted to feature it in some lectures. The trip to Warsaw proved very eventful as he was detained by police for a couple of hours while the car was taken away for a technical inspection. He got the feeling that they were more interested in the car than in him.
He journeyed onwards to Gdansk to attend a car show with some friends before making his way back through Germany, France and the UK en route to Belfast. He said it was a very difficult trip as he struggled to maintain sufficient levels of charge to enjoy the travels without the prospect of being stranded. The car is remotely monitored by VW and Jim received regular calls from them because they were concerned about the low levels of charge that he was driving with. He said the best range he achieved on a full tank \ charge was 450 miles.
Once he got back to NI the reality of owning this piece of automotive exotica started to sink in. The car has to return to VW UK Technical Centre in Milton Keynes for any work, even a basic oil change will cost £1400. VW recommend that the car should not be taken on a ferry without their permission and would come and collect the car for the bargain price of £4,000 (return). In order to be registered in the UK a number of changes need to be made to comply with the DVLA rules. The headlights need to be changed at a cost of £3000 each and a new speedo will cost £2700. It’s now due an oil change and along with this work, it would cost £16,000 to service it and put it on the road with UK plates.
I get the feeling that day to day practicality didn’t play very much of a part in Jim’s decision making process for buying this car. Some of the additional constraints that he faces are that he has to seek VW’s permission before he can travel on a ferry, it should not be used outside the country of registration, he cannot allow family or friends to drive it without undertaking a training course with VW, it cannot be washed in a regular car wash or it can’t be towed to name a few.
But all of these things pale into insignificance for him as he takes to the road in a vehicle that is very unique and is sure to turn heads wherever his journey takes him.

And more importantly, the next Cars & Coffee event is on at the Carroll Building in DKIT, Dundalk on Sunday 6th January 2019 from 9:30 to 13:00. 
I can't wait for next month’s surprise.