While Toyota is struggling with its Prius and other fuel efficient models due to recalls and lawsuits, Volkswagen is at the Canadian International Auto Show, staking its claim to fuel efficiency.
Their new Up! Lite concept car is an aerodynamic, three-door, four-seater hybrid that the company says gets 70 miles per gallon on the highway when driven in “Eco” mode. Volkswagen also claims the car’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 65 g/km making it one of the world’s most fuel efficient and environmentally friendly four-seater cars.
Although the company says the car has a futuristic look, it actually looks a little like, well, a Toyota Prius, just smaller and lighter. The all electric mode kicks in over short distances (2 km) and while coasting and the car has regenerative braking. A light touch on the brake pedal kicks it in during coasting and a harder touch actually brakes the car. It has a top speed of 160 km/h and goes 0 to 100 km/h in 12.5 seconds. Not exactly a sports car, but Volkswagen is marketing it as the perfect commuter vehicle, not a race car.
Like the Prius, the Ford Fusion Hybrid and others, it has a number of technologic bells and whistles. The radiator grille closes and opens automatically depending on the cooling needs of the engine ("Active Thermal Management"). Instead of a traditional rearview mirror, three cameras perform the job of seeing what is behind you. Side cameras replace outside mirrors and look like winglets on the wings of an airplane. When the car is parked in the summer, hot air is vented to outside the vehicle ("Passive Park Ventilation"). And climate control, internet, telephone, MP3, video, telephone, trip computer and radio are all controlled centrally via a touch screen with hand movement sensors.
Volkswagen went to great lengths to balance car weight, battery size and fuel efficiency. The fuel tank was kept small to keep weight down, as was the battery. The navigation system allows drivers to select the most energy-saving route in "Eco" mode before heading out on a trip. In this mode, the system considers additional parameters such as the topography en route, making it theoretically possible to maximize benefits of coast-down phases based on the time of day and traffic conditions.
The Up! Lite is the fifth concept vehicle of a completely new Volkswagen car line - the New Small Family. The Up! (three-door), Space Up! (five-door), Space Up! Blue (five-door with fuel cell), and the E-Up! (three-door with E-drive) concept cars. The Up! Lite is the most aerodynamic of all the New Small Family concept cars.
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