Living with the Volkswagen e-Golf

Can the all-electric Golf demonstrate that battery-powered cars are capable of more than ten-mile trips for city types? Our long-distance commuter Jimi is about to find out

You might get the impression from the media that electric vehicles (EVs) are all the rage in the car industry. Just about every major manufacturer seems to be either making one or getting one ready. The reality however is that fewer than 1000 EVs were sold in the UK in April, from a total of 168,000 registrations in that month.

There isn’t much to dislike about the ‘normal’ Volkswagen Golf. The expectations placed on the all-electric e-Golf are therefore perhaps slightly higher than might be the case for other volty versions of family hatchbacks.

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We’ll be testing those expectations over the next few months in our newly-arrived e-Golf, VW’s second electric vehicle following on from the shorter-range e-Up. Its main custodian, Jimi, takes a pretty level-headed view on it. “It’s a Golf,” he says. “But it runs on electricity.”

Volkswagen e-Golf

Inside and out, his e-Golf looks virtually the same as the standard, handsome Golf. Jimi’s car has some extras, like the Winter Pack’s economy-boosting heat pump plus heat in the windscreen, washer jets and front seats. It also has the rightly praised digital dashboard (Active Info Display), keyless entry and start, and Atlantic Blue metallic paint at £575, taking the total cost to £35,490, or just below £31,000 when you factor in the Government’s £4500 plug-in grant.

Jimi lives more than 60 miles away from our offices. Naturally, he needs comfortable transport for that sort of mileage, and he would like the same sort of all-round driving and practicality talent that he would expect to get in conventional petrol and diesel Golfs. Primarily, though, he needs reassurance that the e-Golf will reliably deliver the required mileage.

Here’s the interesting bit. Jimi has a daily driving requirement of around 125 miles. The e-Golf’s official range of 186 miles translates, says VW, into 124 real-world miles.

Luckily, Jimi can charge at work as well as at home, so he won’t need to test that battery limit in the normal course of commuting. When, in the interests of science, he did test it, he received good warnings from the car, when the range indicator read 30 miles, then 20 miles, and finally at 10 miles. Each warning brought stricter limitations on performance and comfort features.

One 24-mile round trip he did with just 33 miles of indicated range fired up a case of sweaty palms and thoughts of likely suspects to call for rescue. As it turned out, he got home OK, but only at the expense of much ticking-off and increasing austerity measures from the car.

Volkswagen e-Golf

Subsequent experience has shown VW’s 124-mile estimate to be very accurate. Jimi thinks the car could do the full round-trip commute on one charge, but traffic makes a big difference to the car’s performance. Unlike what you’d get in a petrol or diesel car, the e-Golf seems to go further when travelling slowly in heavy traffic.

All the time it is extremely quiet, and feels ‘heavier’ than petrol equivalents, but with smart acceleration and about half the miles that you’d get in a petrol Golf. That’s par for the course for most electric cars. The running costs are low of course: around £4 for a full home charge. A three-pin plughole charge will take about 14 hours from empty to full. Using a 7kWh home charger will cut that time by something like two-thirds.

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This article originally appeared here via Google News