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Volkswagen diesel hybrid vehicle claims 70 mpg

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Volkswagen has introduced a diesel-electric hybrid vehicle that claims 70 miles per gallon on the highway.

Volkswagen has introduced a diesel-electric hybrid vehicle that claims 70 miles per gallon on the highway.

Unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Up! Lite hatchback concept is notable because it's a concept car that looks practical enough to actually drive it on a daily basis. Inside the four-seater, you'll find a 0.8-liter two-cylinder TDI turbodiesel engine rated at 51 horsepower paired with an electric motor rated at 13.4 horsepower and a seven-speed gearbox.

It might not look like a jet plane, but the Up! Lite's aerodynamic drag coefficient rates at just 0.237 -- better than the 2010 Toyota Prius.

Better still, it's got a small footprint, at just 12.5 feet long, 4.5 feet tall and 5.2 feet wide -- great for parallel parking.

The vehicle's carbon dioxide emissions are low enough at 65 g/km to be what VW calls "the world's most environmentally friendly four-seater." It's also extremely light -- just 695 kilograms, or 1,532 lbs. (The Prius tips the scales at 2,890 lbs.)

Designed for city driving, the vehicle has a "pulse start module" that combines the functions of a starter, alternator and electric drive. The car can also recover kinetic energy thanks to regenerative braking.

There is one downside: the Up! Lite is not the Up! Go. That is to say that the car goes from 0 to 60 mph in 12 seconds, which is sluggish.

Still, the car is tuned for efficiency, and if you coast without pushing the gas pedal, the TDI engine will shut down. It will also shut down at a stoplight.

Otherwise, you'll find typical VW features, including an electronic stability-control system, plenty of airbags and a safety frame made of aluminum, steel and carbon fiber.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure