Wired has both a photo gallery and an article on the history of the Schlörwagen, created by German engineer Karl Schlör. Karl basically took a Mercedes 170H and redesigned the body to behave much like an airplane's wing. Not only did the vehicle have a significant improvement on speed, it also "needed just eight liters of fuel to cover 62 miles, a 20 to 35 percent improvement."
What makes the Prius so fuel efficient? The hybrid drivetrain is a big part of it, yes, but put that into a box on wheels like the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen or even a Kia Soul and it’s not nearly so helpful. The Prius can deliver 51 mpg in no small part because Toyota engineers toiled tirelessly at their computers and in the wind tunnel to ensure it slices through the air as effortlessly as possible.
Yet compared to the Schlörwagen, a German experimental vehicle from 1939, the Prius is a brick. The hybrid has a drag coefficient (a measure of how efficiently it moves through air) of 0.25, which puts it ahead of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt but behind the Tesla Model S and Mercedes-Benz CLA diesel. The Schlörwagen crushes them all, clocking in at an incredible 0.15. It also seated seven, once had a Russian aircraft engine strapped to it, and may have been stolen by the English after World War II.
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