The Volkswagen e-up! is a fully electric version of the up!, meaning that it needs no petrol and has no tailpipe emissions, and despite its extra weight, it’s also better to drive than the petrol up!
All manufacturers need to be seen to offer electric models, and the e-up! is Volkswagen’s first all-electric car to go on sale. As opposed to some other manufacturers with bespoke vehicles, the e-up! is an existing up! with an electric drivetrain installed.
From a production costs point of view, the advantage that Volkswagen has over the BMW i is that the e-up! is built on the same production line as the conventional petrol up!, so it doesn’t need the huge investment that BMW has made into a new factory with new build processes. Instead Volkswagen bolts a 230kg lithium-ion battery pack underneath the floor of the up! and replaces the petrol engine with the electric motor and the power electronics system, which provides drive to the front wheels via a single-speed gearbox. The 230kg battery pack means that the e-up!’s weight increases to 1,139 kg, compared to 929-940 kg for the standard car. All this means that an electric up! can just be produced when an order comes in.
The e-up! has effectively been transformed into a mid-engined car, as the battery, the heaviest component, sits under the floor between the front and rear wheels. This also provides the up! with a lower centre of gravity than the petrol-engined version. Add to this the fact that the electric version has virtually 100% of its 210 Nm torque available from a standing start, compared to the petrol engine which doesn’t have a huge amount of torque, and the electric version all adds up to a better package. It accelerates well, goes round corners well, and doing both of the above together can result in the torque exceeding the grip from the skinny front wheels, especially in wet or damp conditions, so it all means a generally fun package to drive – more so than the petrol up!
One useful feature that the up! has is the ability to adjust the severity of the regenerative braking – there are five different levels to choose from: D, D1, D2, D3 and B. In ‘D’, if you lift off, the car carries on coasting. Or by simply moving the gear lever to the left, you can lift off the accelerator and the car can pretty much come to a halt by itself, without any effort on the driver’s part to use the foot brake. In fact in D2, D3 and B modes, the brake lights are automatically activated when the driver’s foot is lifted from the accelerator pedal.
This ability to adjust the regenerative braking is a feature that the BMW i3 desperately needs – whenever you lift off the accelerator in the i3 it feels like the car is putting the brakes on by itself, which is not a sensation that you necessarily always want to experience.
The e-up! also has the ability to select ‘Eco’ and ‘Eco+’ modes to extract extra range from the battery. Eco cuts the vehicle’s peak power to 50 kW, reduces the output of the air conditioning system and modifies the accelerator pedal response. Eco+ limits maximum power to 40 kW, further modifies the accelerator pedal response and disables the air conditioning.
Of course the big selling point of the e-up! is that it has zero tailpipe emissions, and it needs no petrol. The downside of the e-up! – and all electric cars – is that it has a finite range, and then in most cases it will need to be recharged before you can go anywhere again. In the case of the e-up!, the official range is quoted as 93 miles.
The e-up! can be charged from a standard household 13 amp three-pin outlet, which recharges the battery in nine hours.
An optional wallbox for home garage use provides a 3.6 kW supply and can recharge a completely discharged battery in six hours.
The e-up! also has a DC fast-charging ability as standard. Using the Combined Charging System (CCS), this enables a flat battery to be charged to 80 per cent in 30 minutes.
If the e-up! is charged using a standard UK energy mix then it will still have zero tailpipe emissions but it will move its CO2 emissions to the power station. Therefore Volkswagen has a partnership with green energy supplier, Ecotricity, to provide a 100 per cent green energy tariff to all customers purchasing an electric vehicle from one of the Group’s brands. This use of renewable energy means that the e-up! should genuinely be able to claim a figure of 0% CO2 associated with its energy use.
The e-up! costs £19,250 – after the £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant from the UK government. Our test car had Tungsten Silver paint, which is a £500 option, meaning the price as tested before the grant was £24,750.
The e-up! is based on the top-spec High up!, and is available as a five-door only. Standard specification includes the Maps & More portable infotainment device with satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and media connection, electronic climate control, cruise control, heated front seats and City Emergency Braking.
The rest of the up! range starts at £8,265 for the ‘take up!’, or you can buy a 75PS five door up! for £11,375. This is for a car with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that has ‘unlimited’ range as long as you can find petrol stations. In comparison to this, the e-up!, with its limited driving range, looks expensive. However if you factor in the cheaper running costs, especially for business users (the e-up!’s P11D value is nil, meaning 0% BiK until tax year 2015/16, then it will be just 5% of the list price), and the saving on the London Congestion Charge if you live in the capital, the e-up! starts to look like a much more attractive financial proposition.
Certain vehicle functions can also be operated remotely using Volkswagen’s Car Net services on a smart phone, allowing users to control or get information on charging status, battery management, doors and lighting, driving data, climate control and the location of the vehicle.
The high-voltage battery in the e-up! comes with an eight-year or 100,000 mile warranty.
The Volkswagen e-up!, with its mid-engined battery, low centre of gravity, and 100% torque available virtually all of the time, in our opinion is better to drive than the petrol up! It’s also sensible and well-built. And of course you’ll have zero tailpipe emissions, and financial benefits such as low running costs and exemption from the London Congestion Charge if you live in the capital. On the downside it could be looked at as expensive for a small car with the normal limitations of electric cars, particularly a range of just 93 miles before needing a recharge. Overall the e-up! gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.