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Road Tested: Volkswagen e-Golf


JonSpriggs

The history of the internal combustion engine is a complicated and convoluted affair. Karl Benz is largely attributed as the inventor of the ‘car’, but many of his early engines were gas powered. For me, Edward Butler, an Englishman, is the one who gave us the engine as we know it. His engine developed between 1884 and 1888 was powered by petroleum, and featured liquid cooling, valves, a radiator and even a carburettor. Butler was also credited as the inventor of the spark plug. All this some five years before Maybach managed to create the same.

 

In reality, little has changed in the last 126 years. Our cars today feature internal combustion engines that run on petroleum, using valves, liquid cooling and spark plugs. Yes, the fuels we use now are more advanced, the production techniques have been massively refined, and the carburettor is a distant memory, but our cars still use the same basic principal.

 

The problem with that is the world is running out of oil. It might not happen in our lifetime, it might not happen in our children’s lifetime, but it is going to happen. Oil will get harder to source, and the more difficult it gets to produce petrol, the price at the pump will increase eventually to a point where it becomes uneconomical to use. I know at this present time oil prices are slumping, but I’m not talking now, I’m talking in 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years’ time – nobody knows.

 

All I know is the way we fuel our cars will have to change. So why not start now?

 

Alternative fuel vehicles and electric vehicles (or EVs) are becoming an increasingly popular sight on our roads. Most manufacturers now have one, Nissans Leaf, BMWs i3, Renaults slightly bonkers Twizzy, right the way through to the top line Tesla. Volkswagen now has the e-Golf.

 

For those not up on EV terminology, the e-Golf is a plug-in electric vehicle. Basically, plug it in to the mains, charge it up, jump in and drive, and when it’s low on juice, charge it again. Official range is 118 miles, but realistically you’re looking at 80-100 miles. Charging to full on a fast charge point can take as little as 35 minutes, or up to 13 hours on a home 13 Amp socket.

 

The e-Golf is an intriguing thing, on paper is has nearly as much torque as the Golf R (270Nm plays 280Nm in the Golf R), and its 115PS rating is only slightly down on the 1.4TSI, and slightly up on the 110PS 1.6TDi Bluemotion.

So what’s it actually like?

 

Well, the good news is that it’s just like a Golf. Jump in, turn the key, and instead of a starter motor and engine firing, you get a ‘bong’ and a little lamp saying it’s ready to go. Move the gear lever to drive, release the e-Brake, press the pedal on the right and marvel as the e-Golf moves you in an eerie silence.

 

Okay, silence is slightly extreme, you do get an electronic ‘whirr’ from the direct drive system, but it is very quiet. Performance is brisk with 0-60 coming up in around 10 seconds dead, even though we were two up on a cold morning. Don’t try that too often though, or the range will soon take a hammering. Handling is pretty adequate for most needs, although the eco green tyres break traction pretty easily forcing a fair bit of under steer – but for pottering about town, it’s very good indeed.

 

Out on the road, the ride is very good – those bouncy tyres with big side walls definitely help. They don’t produce much road noise, and coupled with the lack of an engine thrum, the result is a very relaxing, quiet and comfortable cabin. The e-Golf is like reading a book in the country, there’s nothing to distract you from the task in hand – no noise, no gears to worry about, and the auto-hold brakes even take care of holding the car for you at traffic lights. It’s blissfully serene.

 

On the dashboard in place of a rev counter you’ll find a charge meter. The needle swings to show you whether the charge is being taken from the battery, or whether you’re putting charge back in through brake regeneration. You can also adjust the level of energy regeneration using the gear lever from a level that recharges with a gentle brake application when coasting, through to a more extreme level where you really notice the car slowing down as soon as you lift off the throttle. With careful use, and setting selection, you can help to eek those extra few miles out of the batteries.

 

The e-Golf is really well equipped with air-conditioning, Discover Pro navigation, LED lights front and rear, and LED daytime running lights. The 16†Tilleve alloys are a love or hate design - I’d personally be tempted to swap them for another style OEM wheel, but as you can’t spec any other, you’d need to order those separately.

 

The e-Golf also takes advantage of the Car-Net e-Remote app technology. This smartphone app allows you to check battery levels remotely and charging times, adjust air-conditioning settings, lock or unlock the doors, and even see where it is parked, all from the remoteness of your mobile phone - Useful if you’re frequently forgetting where you’ve parked your car. In an age where even your kettle can be controlled from your iPhone, the apps’ abilities will please a large number of potential customers.

 

Do the numbers stack up? Well, the e-Golf comes in at £26,145 with the Government grant factored in, which seems like a big chunk of cash. In reality though, it’s only around £3k more than the equivalent 1.6TDi Bluemotion once the diesel has navigation and 16†wheels added. Yes, it’s true that £3k will buy you an awful lot of diesel, probably enough for 35,000 miles at today’s money. But, diesels might soon be harder hit with proposals to charge for taking them into London over and above the congestion charge, while drivers of the e-Golf can make the trip daily without incurring any costs at all.

 

Compared with other EVs out there, it’s pretty competitively priced and sits between the top spec Leaf which comes in at just under £24k and just undercuts the BMW i3 once the i3 is specced to the same level as the e-Golf.

 

Whether this car is for you, only you can decide. Perhaps it’d fit in to your life as the school run car, or station car? Whatever your needs, if your daily routine rarely exceeds 80 miles, then why not take a look at the e-Golf? The charging network is constantly expanding, and the reasons for not owning an EV get fewer every year.

 

 

 

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Can't see them becoming popular until they can do at least 300 miles between charges, batteries charge much faster at home and replacements don't require a remortgage.

 

Imagine the scenario - your battery is pretty much flat (say 10 miles left) and it is on charge at home, then you need to make an emergency run to A&E (eg man flu), but you can't because your on charge and the hospital is 12 miles away......

 

Dave

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Can't see them becoming popular until they can do at least 300 miles between charges, batteries charge much faster at home and replacements don't require a remortgage.

 

Imagine the scenario - your battery is pretty much flat (say 10 miles left) and it is on charge at home, then you need to make an emergency run to A&E (eg man flu), but you can't because your on charge and the hospital is 12 miles away......

 

Dave

 

VW can supply a fast charge box (wall box) for installation at home, and there's lots of aftermarket charge solutions which brings the charge time down to 7/8 hours, and the warranty on the batteries is 8 years which suggests they should last well, so not too many worries about expensive replacements.

 

As I said, it's not for everyone, and lots of families would run them as second cars... I think 300 miles in the sub £30k price bracket is a long way off, but the new GTE will be interesting, and isn't far away.

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Compared with other EVs out there, it’s pretty competitively priced and sits between the top spec Leaf which comes in at just under £24k and just undercuts the BMW i3 once the i3 is specced to the same level as the e-Golf.

It's even more competitively priced when you compare it to it's little sister the e-Up! Incredibly the e-Golf is only £1,620 more.

 

I'm seriously looking for an electric car for the daily drive to the office and back. It's only a round trip of 20 miles (so ideal for an EV) but when I take other small local trips into consideration, it soon mounts up to what is on average 150+ miles a week. To put this into perspective, it means around half of the 46k miles currently on my 40 month old 6R have been done when the engine oil has only just got up to proper operating temp. I make this point as I am always very careful not to rev above 2,500 rpm before the oil gets to at least 75 deg c. And that takes around 10 miles, i.e. just when I arrive at work or back home again!

 

In other words, around half of my motoring has been done whilst not enjoying the full potential of my R. And worse, if my car had only 25k on the clock instead of the 46k, it would be worth quite a lot more. Add to this the fact that these 25k semi-miserable miles have been done when the fuel consumption is at the same level as it is when I'm enjoying a 'spirited drive', the financial implications of running the R as a daily start to mount up.

 

Of course as a run-around an EV struggles to make sense if you compare it to a much cheaper, small, and fuel-efficient petrol car (getting a diesel for a run-around doing less than 10k miles p/a would be stupid). But if you can justify spending £26k on a 2nd car with such minimal running costs, the e-Golf really does make sense.

 

The only thing that's stopping me at the moment is the new Tesla P85D due in June (if you order one now). OK so this, with its 85 kwh sports motors driving all four wheels, 285 mile range, and 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds, is around £78k. But when you consider that the R400/420 Golf I'm waiting for is likely to be at least £40k and add that to the c£26k cost of an e-Golf or similar for a run-around, it starts to get within spitting distance of the Tesla.

 

And that's going to be a car you can put the pedal to the metal in from the moment it starts  :cheesy:

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Cool fact... the battery in the e-Golf is air-cooled  :cool:

 

Unlike a lot of other EVs, the battery doesn't require its own active cooling system.  It's housed in the centre tunnel, just ahead of the rear axle, and below the rear seats, so takes advantage of air flow under the car for cooling.  The battery is made up of 2500 components and is made at the Braunschweig plant.

 

Agree with Mr Soul above, the new Tesla will be a big game changer in the market, but the price will keep it out of a lot of peoples reach still.  Plus the dealer network isn't that great, currently I have two both around an hour away in West London and Crawley - compared with 4 or 5 VW dealers in a 15 mile radius.

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Agree with Mr Soul above, the new Tesla will be a big game changer in the market, but the price will keep it out of a lot of peoples reach still.  Plus the dealer network isn't that great, currently I have two both around an hour away in West London and Crawley - compared with 4 or 5 VW dealers in a 15 mile radius.

Hmm.. hadn't thought of that! My nearest dealer/service centre is 66 miles away  :(

 

Still, a car made in USA, bristling with new tech and relying on batteries alone… what could possibly go wrong?

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