The Volkswagen e-Golf may look conventional inside and outside, but under the skin there’s a well-engineered all-electric powertrain that results in a highly refined zero-tailpipe emission driving experience.
Like it or not, most new cars will have some degree of electrification in the next twenty years. Many will be plug-in hybrids, but some, like this e-Golf, will be pure EVs. Manufacturers need to start somewhere, and the e-Golf – Volkswagen’s second all-electric car after the e-Up! – is one of the latest offerings for motorists wanting to enjoy zero-tailpipe emission motoring.
You might notice one obvious thing about the e-Golf – it looks almost identical to most other Golf models – in contrast to BMW, where the brand has given us the revolutionary i3 with its clean sheet of paper design. Even the interior of the Golf is almost identical to any other Golf.
The difference lies under the skin, where the internal combustion engine has been replaced by a lithium-ion battery pack and an 85 kW / 115 PS electric motor. This powertrain generates 270 Nm/199 lbs ft of torque, which is delivered to the front wheels through a single-speed gearbox.
Volkswagen has taken the design and manufacture of both the electric motor, and more surprisingly the batteries, in house.
The normal side effect of a having a large battery is weight gain. The battery in the Golf weighs 318 kg, taking the weight of the entire vehicle to 1585 kg. However the battery is located under the floor so at least the car’s centre of gravity is low.
Interior space remains largely unscathed, but you do lose a small amount of boot capacity, with 341 litres available instead of the normal 380 litres. There’s a compartment under the boot floor which is likely to be used for the storage of the obligatory electric charging cables.
A slightly unusual feature is carpet in the door pockets – presumably to ensure minimal intrusion from additional noise in this extra-quiet car.
The e-Golf is available with an optional heat pump which helps to deliver maximum range in winter. This add-on module for the electric heating and air conditioning uses heat from both ambient air and the vehicle’s drive systems, reducing electricity consumption. It can increase the e-Golf’s range in cold weather by up to 20 per cent.
The e-Golf is the first production Volkswagen to feature full LED headlights which produce brighter light and use less energy than xenon headlights.
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Most modern electric cars are extremely quiet and refined, and the e-Golf is no different. It also has powerful, linear acceleration due to the torque being available at all times. The e-Golf also has a comfortable ride, and excellent handling – helped of course by the low centre of gravity. Lots of torque, combined with wet, cold roads, can easily mean wheelspin and torque steer, but the car’s traction control system does a good job of allowing a small amount of slip before bringing things under control.
All these factors mean that the e-Golf is ideal for urban motoring, where it’s easy and fun to drive.
The e-Golf has three different drive modes: Standard, Eco and Eco+. ‘Eco’ cuts the vehicle’s peak power to 95 PS, reduces the output of the air conditioning system, and modifies the accelerator pedal response. ‘Eco+’ limits maximum power to 75 PS, further modifies the accelerator pedal response, and disables the air conditioning.
After recharging the displayed range in Standard mode was 104 miles; 114 in Eco; and 122 miles in Eco+. The official NEDC driving range figure is 118 miles.
From the driver’s seat, the drive mode button is somewhat obscured on the left of the gear selector when it’s in Drive.
You can also adjust the level of regenerative braking. There are five modes available: D, D1, D2, D3 and B. In D, the vehicle coasts when the accelerator is lifted. In each of the next levels, lifting off the accelerator pedal provides an increased level of regenerative braking. In D2, D3 and B, the brake lights are automatically activated when the driver’s foot is lifted from the accelerator pedal.
This ability to adjust the level of regen is useful. The BMW i3 doesn’t have this option – you’re stuck with severe regen – which extends the range but it makes smooth driving difficult.
One day we had to complete 83 miles in the car, and when we started there was an indicated 94 mile range. Much of the drive was on motorways, which is not the best environment for EVs. We reached the stage of having a range of just 10 miles showing, when you get a read-out saying ‘comfort restricted’. When you get to a range of just four miles, the dashboard message says ‘battery empty, speed restricted’. We eventually arrived home with just three miles of range remaining.
The driving experience of electric cars is obviously impacted by how far you can drive. Although most people recharge electric cars at home, if you want to drive further you’ll need to use the public charging infrastructure, and charging out and about is still a black art in the eyes of many people. Where are the chargers? Are they the right type for your car? Do you have to pay? Do you need a membership card to access the charger? Will it be in use when you get there? Will it work? In reality all these uncertainties don’t instill sufficient confidence in the average motorist to help them make the jump from ICE to electric.
The e-Golf requires no petrol or diesel, and it has zero-tailpipe emissions. If you switch to a renewable energy tariff, then the electricity used to recharge the car can also be zero emission.
A standard UK 230 volt, 2.3 kW supply recharges the battery in 13 hours. An optional home wallbox provides a 3.6 kW supply and can recharge a fully discharged battery in eight hours. Through use of the e-Golf’s standard combined charging system (CCS) and a DC supply, the battery can be fully recharged (at levels of up to 40 kW) to 80 per cent capacity in just 35 minutes.
The e-Golf costs £30,845, or £25,845 after £5,000 UK government plug-in car grant. Our test car had the following options: special ‘pure white’ paint (£255); winter pack (£380); advanced telephone connection (£315); wireless heated windscreen (£295). This resulted in the car costing £27,090.
In terms of price, the e-Golf sits in the middle of the Golf range. The issue is that this is quite a lot to pay for a car that isn’t likely to cover many miles. However with a recharge for 100 miles of driving costing just a couple of pounds, depending on tariff, it potentially offers big savings on running costs, and for company car drivers, the all-important 0% Benefit in Kind.
In the UK, the e-Golf is only available with five doors.
The Volkswagen e-Golf may look conventional on the outside and inside, but the under the skin the engineering isn’t average at all. This is a very refined car, even compared to all the other refined EVs out there. So if you want a well-engineered EV, in a familiar package, and you can live with a 100-mile or so range between charges, then the e-Golf could be the one for you. As with other electric cars, it’s expensive relative to the miles you’re likely to drive, but it does offer low running costs, and 0% Benefit in Kind. The e-Golf gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10.
There’s no extended-range option at the moment, but the Golf GTE is due out in early 2015, which is a plug-in hybrid version along the lines of the Audi A3 e-tron, so that’s likely to offer a more practical solution for most people.
Official range: 118 miles. Summer (5 oC to 35 oC) 81 – 118 miles, Winter (-10 oC to 5 oC ) 56 – 81 miles.
Official electricity consumption: 127 Wh/km
Battery pack: 24.2 kWh (usable) Lithium-ion, 8 year 99,360 mile warranty
Recharge time: 240v charge 13 hours, 3.6 kW home wallbox (free option) 8 hours, optional DC CCS 40 kW rapid charge 30 minutes from 0 – 80%.