2013 Tokyo Motor Show: Ultra-High MPG Volkswagen Twin Up PHEV Concept Unveiled

Earlier today in Tokyo, Japan, Volkswagen unveiled its latest plug-in car, the tiny Volkswagen Twin Up, a plug-in diesel hybrid sharing the same drivetrain as the limited-production XL1 we drove last month.  On the combined cycle, Volkswagen says, the tiny four-seat hatchback will achieve 256.9 miles per imperial gallon (213.8 US MPG, 1.1 l/100km)

The VW Twin Up has the same drivetrain as VW's limited-production XL1

The VW Twin Up has the same drivetrain as VW’s limited-production XL1

Based on the production VW Up, Volkswagen say only minor modifications were needed to squeeze the XL1’s 800 cc two-cylidner turbo diesel engine, seven-speed DSG gearbox and 27 kilowatt electric motor under the bonnet. Sadly, the only place to put the XL1’s 8.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, 12 Volt auxiliary battery and 33-litre fuel tank was between the rear seats and the Up’s tiny boot.  Given the cargo space on the production gasoline Up isn’t all that big to start with, we’d guess this concept car has very little — if any — usable luggage carrying capabilities.

Volkswagen says the Twin Up (yes, we know Volkswagen says twin up!, but we can’t bring ourselves to write it that way) has an all-electric top speed of 77 mph, and a top speed in blended electric plus diesel mode of 87 mph.  But much like the XL1 it shares its drivetrain with, the Volkswagen Twin Up isn’t all that fast at getting there.

From the outside, the VW Twin Up Concept looks like any other VW Up

From the outside, the VW Twin Up Concept looks like any other VW Up

For an idea of how slow it is, Volkswagen first states the o-37 mph time (0-60 kph) time of 8.8 seconds in all-electric mode, highlighting how underpowered its 27 kilowatt motor is in a car with a drag coefficient of 0.30.  We note that Volkswagen omits to disclose the 0-62 mph (0-100kph) time in electric-only mode, but based on our experience with the XL1, we’d guess it’s probably best described as ‘a while.’ What Volkswagen has told us is that in combined diesel and electric mode, a combined power output of 55 kilowatts and peak torque of 215 Nm can get you from 0-62 mph in 15.7 seconds, far slower than any other plug-in hybrid we’ve driven.

On paper, the VW Twin Up looks like it has it all: an all-electric range of 31 miles, and fuel economy figures high enough to put all current plug-in hybrids and extended-range EVs to shame.   And that makes us really want to love the Twin Up concept, especially given its practical, city-focused form factor.

But this is one plug-in concept we’re hoping doesn’t make it to market..at least in its current form. Yes, it’s efficient, but if our short time with the XL1 has taught us anything it’s that ultra-fuel efficiency does come at a cost: speed. If the tiny city plug-in has the same driving feel as the XL1, we think the Twin Up simply wouldn’t be powerful enough to survive life in the real world. Of course, that doesn’t stop us wanting to take it for a spin, and we’re hoping our knee-jerk reactions are proven completely wrong.

Do you like the idea of the Twin Up? Do you think consumers could be persuaded to trade in acceleration for unbelievable fuel economy? Or is the Twin Up concept just too much of a compromised car?   Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • u010eakujem

    Great write up, but with a 0-100 km/h time of perhaps 16 seconds it’d be faster to take the bus. And what about the noise and vibration from a 2-cylinder diesel? It’d no doubt be quieter to take the bus as well! nIt seems the Twin Up achieves amazing economy at the expense of sacrificing every other possibly pleasant thing about motoring. Sounds about as enjoyable as non-alcoholic beer.

  • JohnCBriggs

    People have amazingly short memories.nIn the 1970’s, the AVERAGE car had 0-60 of 14 seconds in the USA, meaning that many cars were worse than that. Somehow we all survived.

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  • ehutch

    I would love an “under-powered” PHEV. The maximum speed limit in VT is 65mph. There is no place where I need to get above 35mph from a dead stop. About half of my driving is round trips greater than 120mi with no plug-in at the destination. I would sail more if it didn’t cost so much to get to our mooring. The only gal I need to impress is my wife, and she is more impressed by fuel economy than by head jerking acceleration. The ICE engine needs to get me home when it’s -20F and to make the extended trips, otherwise I would prefer a total EV. The two cylinder diesel seems perfect to me. But then again I liked vintage VW Beetles (except for the heaters).