Volkswagen rocked the automotive world at a lunchtime press conference on the first day of the Frankfurt Motor Show with a carbon fiber, half width, 1-liter hybrid electric diesel tandem two-seater car named the L1. When the car makes production in 2013, four years from now, it will almost certainly be the most fuel efficient car available with a combined diesel fuel consumption figure of 1.38 l/100km, thanks to its frugal motor combo, feather-like weight – 380 kg in total - and an aerodynamic drag co-efficient of just 0.195!

Seven years ago, we reported on the development of Volkswagen’s tandem 1-Liter car. At that time, the prospect of a production version of the radical two-seater, which achieved fuel consumption of one liter fuel per 100 kilometers, was so remote as to be unthinkable.

Though the car was driven from Wolfsburg to Hamburg as a public demonstration by Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, at that time Chairman of the Board of Management and today Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Volkswagen Group, it was clear that a production version lay in the far future, if ever.

The L1 is the second generation of the 1-liter car, and close to production readiness. And its dimensions are intriguing - the length of the L1 at 3,813 millimeters is still similar to that of a Volkswagen Fox, and its height of 1,143 millimeters nearly matches that of a Lamborghini Murciélago, while the car’s aerodynamically optimized width (1,200 millimeters) has no comparisons in the world of today’s production cars.

In developing both prototype generations of the L1, Volkswagen questioned everything that typically characterized an automobile, and clearly in the case of the L1. The key starting point was body construction, and a core question was raised here: How would a car have to look and be built to consume as little energy as possible? The logical answer: extremely aerodynamic and lightweight. Yet these objectives had to be achieved under a non- negotiable precondition: a maximum of safety. The approach taken: a narrow two-seater with a CFRP body!

The seat layout fitting this design goal was dictated by the uncompromising aerodynamic form of a glider: One seat behind the other. Entry to the concept car is also similar to that of a glider; through a roof cover hinged at the side. On this second generation of the L1, the concept has been further honed; each component has been redesigned, a special chassis with aluminium components was developed, and above all the crucial CFRP technology from Formula-1 racing and airplane construction was transferred to automotive manufacturing. This has been combined with a unique form of hybrid drive to create a near-production vehicle.