Inside Volkswagen’s Twin Drive Golf

VW’s been toying with electric vehicles for some time now — there have been full electric CityStromer models sold to the public in Europe, based on both the MK2 and MK3 Golfs, that can drive on full electric power for over 60 miles at speeds up to 100 mph. There have been 1.4-liter parallel TDI hybrids (like Toyota’s Prius) running around labs since the ’90s, and they even dangled that delicious TDI Hybrid Golf carrot in front of us at Geneva.

It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to learn that yet another electric model has come out of Wolfsburg – this time an extended-range electric car similar in concept to Chevy’s Volt. It’s called the Golf TwinDrive, and it’s based on a standard-issue MK5 Golf, except with a 122-horsepower TDI engine and an 82-horsepower electric motor under its hood.

Unlike a normal hybrid, where the electric motor exists to supplement the power being delivered by the internal combustion engine, the Golf TwinDrive relies on its electric motor for its primary propulsion, and the diesel engine exists to take over once the electric motor has depleted its batteries. The diesel engine will also be equipped with start-stop technology to prevent wasting fuel in stop-and-go traffic, and regenerative braking will help recharge the electric motor’s battery pack using otherwise wasted interia while the car is stopping. The Golf TwinDrive uses lithium-ion batteries, the technology for which is being further developed thanks to a $769 million, seven-year partnership with Sanyo, and VW’s estimates show that the battery pack, which is located under the rear cargo area where the spare tire normally sits, is good for 31 miles of all-electric motoring.

Beginning in 2010, VW and the German federal government are going to launch a four-year durability test with a fleet of 25 Golf TwinDrives. As an added bonus, the government is cutting a consortium of research and development companies, including Volkswagen, battery manufacturers, and universities, a $23.5 million check to help put the spurs to electric vehicle development.

VW’s press release is loosely translated below:

Today, the federal environmental minister Siegmar Gabriel and Professor Dr. Martin Winterkorn introduced the Golf TwinDrive, the “automobile of the future.” The TwinDrive, which has a new electric drive system, is a part of a large project underwritten by the federal government. Called Fleet Test Electric Mobility, Volkswagen, in conjunction with seven other companies, is researching the future of the technology.

Environmental minister Siegmar explained during a presentation at Volkswagen’s “Automobilforum,” at the corner of Unter den Linden and Friedrichstraße in Berlin, that the Fleet Test Electric Mobility program is aiming for the future efficient adaptation of renewable resource energy for transportation. With modern drive technology, the user can have usable everyday range, without having to accept the usual restrictions of purpose-built city cars.

The “presence” of automobiles without high efficiency gas or diesel motors is unthinkable. But the wave of the future is marked by the an emissions-free electric motor, fueled by a socket instead of a gas pump, explained Winterkorn. Continuing, Winterkorn noted that he visualized the Golf TwinDrive making emissions-free driving in the cities possible. At the same time, the Golf TwinDrive can do the same for long-distance driving, as well.

The goal of the project is to be a proof-of-concept for renewable manufactured energy to drive the vehicles. In conjuction with the development of high-density battery packs and high-efficiency electric motors, a fully electric car be built. The Golf TwinDrive, thanks to its large cruising range of about 31 miles, offers new possibilities in emissions-free transportation. The trial of the electric powered fleet is a cooperative venture between eight research and development partners: Volkswagen AG, E.On, GAIA, Evonik/left-Tec, the Fraunhofer Society, the Heidelberger Ifeu, the Institute for Traffic Research and the Westfäli Wilhelm University of Münster.

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