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27 August 2014

2015 e-Golf Specifications

Plug-in electric vehicles have come a long way in just 7 years time. The last time I drove an all-electric drivetrain in a VW was in a euro-spec Golf 6. Back then it was unique among plug-in electric vehicles in that it felt and largely drove like a normal Golf – something of a revelation back then when electric vehicles had lots of compromises, lacked refinement and generally felt like beta versions of some future vehicle. In the end Volkswagen felt the Golf 6 plug-in electric wasn’t quite ready for prime time in our market as battery technology and costs were still rapidly evolving and electric vehicles remained a niche segment.

Volkswagen is ready now to enter the U.S. market with their extremely solid Golf 7 based e-Golf and boy have things improved in just a few short years. This new e-Golf is quiet, refined, solid and surprisingly fun to drive. With nearly 200 lbs. feet of torque, simply dipping into the throttle produces a flow of torque pushing you into the seat that is addictive – particularly in a car so clearly marketed as a green vehicle. Volkswagen of course loves this, as German engineers will happily point out that yes, of course, it should still drive like a proper Golf. However I was still surprised at just how nice this e-Golf is to drive. No, it isn’t a GTI, but it feels like a more expensive car than what the badge suggests and scoots along in a way that makes you feel like you didn’t give much up to buy a plug-in electric.

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The Golf 7’s MQB component platform was designed from the beginning to accommodate electric and hybrid drivetrains, so the e-Golf has the same interior volume as a regular Golf. In the interest of the best compromise in weight, packaging and cost Volkswagen has installed a 24.2 kWh battery pack comprised of 264 “prismatic” cells developed with Panasonic. Volkswagen wrote their own software for the battery management and claims the efficiency of this battery system requires no active cooling systems. The battery warranty is eight years or 100,000 miles which should help ease concerns about battery life.

Also standard in the e-Golf is a 7.2 kW charger as which provides three methods to charge the battery pack. Regular household 110/120-volt electrical socket can fully charge the battery in 20 hours. The more common solution for most EV owners is a 240-volt wall box which can fully charge a battery in less than four hours. Lastly the Combined Charging System allows the e-Golf to use SAE DC fast charging stations which can charge the batteries up to 80% in 30 minutes.

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Volkswagen has partnered with Bosch to offer their 240-volt charging unit at reduced rates (including installation services). Volkswagen has also teamed up with ChargePoint to provide all authorized e-Golf Volkswagen dealerships with charging stations which should bring the the ChargePoint network to more than 18,000 charging stations around the U.S. VW has even worked out a Roadside Assistance Plan that will assist you in the event your EV runs out of juice (within a 100 miles of your home) to get you charged and on to your destination.

Driving the e-Golf is similar to nearly any other Golf 7. Instead of a tachometer, there is a charge status display that tells you what level of power you are using at any given moment, whether you are using regenerative braking and how much batter charge remains. Pushing the keyless starter button causes the dash to light up and the needles to sweep the display telling you the car is “Ready”. Federal regulations require electric vehicles to produce some form of sound up to 18 mph for pedestrian safety. The e-Golf makes a slight “whirring” sound up to that speed that meets the requirement yet seems like a normal part of the driveline.

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Moving away from a stop, the e-Golf accelerator has been calibrated in such a way that you step off with a healthy push that is perfectly regulated in such a way that it feels strong, yet flows progressively getting you up to speed quickly. The two most surprising things you notice are how addictive this power delivery is and just how quiet and solid the Golf 7 feels going down the road. EV’s of the past had all sorts of clicks, pops and odd character traits that kept reminding you that you were driving an all-electric vehicle. In the e-Golf that is virtually absent making even a skeptic like me reconsider a plug-in electric.

There are three primary modes you can choose. Normal gives you full power, speed and torque and will get you roughly 70 miles of range on a full charge. Eco mode cuts torque delivery back to 162 lb-ft, limits top speed to 72 mph and makes eco-savings adjustments to the climate system to better manage battery life. Lastly Eco+ mode limits torque to 129 kb-ft and 56 mph and switches off the air conditioning. The modes are easy to access through the touch screen in the dash or via a button on the center console. I tried all three modes and while “Normal” is obviously the most fun, Eco was still surprisingly good with enough power to pass and pull out into traffic without drama. Eco+ is definitely the most limiting making acceleration sluggish, however it is great mode to dump the car into once you are cruising on the highway, looking to maximize economy and don’t need major acceleration. I’m guessing owners will move between modes as their needs and moods require.

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The e-Golf will launch in an SEL Primium trim level at launch with an MSRP of $35,445. Standard features include LED headlamps and taillights, 7.2 kW onboard charger, heat pump, touch-screen navigation, 16-inch aluminum wheels, leather wrapped steering wheel (with cool looking blue stitching), heated front seats, dual-zone Climatronic, front and rear park distance control, review camera, rain sensing wipers and more. Colors at launch include Silver, Blue and White. There are federal tax credits of up to $7,500 dollars available to help offset that cost, plus Volkswagen is going to offer a $299 per month lease deal on the e-Golf.

Volkswagen will only sell the e-Golf in select EV “friendly” states (Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Vermont, and of course California) initially. If sales show some promise the lineup could be expanded and sales could expand throughout the U.S. Look for the e-Golf to arrive in select dealers in November of this year.

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