Driving VW's E-Golf (and Debuting the Amazing XL1 in the U.S.)

By · October 07, 2013

VW e-Golf

The VW E-Golf ready to roll in Chattanooga. (Jim Motavalli photo)

Chattanooga is the home of Volkswagen’s only U.S. plant (with 50 percent solar power), and it’s also where the company chose to show off its 261-mpg XL1, That car was display-only, but VW did allow journalists to drive a pre-production version of the E-Golf, one of 20 in the U.S.

The setting was the Society of Environmental Journalists’ annual conference, and the E-Golf was part of the related ride-and-drive. I drove a much-earlier “Blue E-Motion” version of VW’s electric car years ago in Santa Monica, but most of the planning is over and the company’s first electric car should go on sale in 2014 (as a 2015 model).

Driveline Finalized

The E-Golf will be based on the seventh-generation Golf, one ahead of the car I drove. Still, according to VW’s Wade Harris, an e-mobility specialist, it’s drivetrain is fairly final, with a 24.2-kilowatt-hour battery pack and a front-mounted 85-kilowatt electric motor (both produced by VW on its own). Together, they translate to a modest 115 horsepower, but with a great 200 pound feet of torque.

Harris said that important details about the E-Golf, such as launch markets and production targets, aren’t available yet.

VW e-Golf

The e-Golf has a stated range of 118 miles. (Jim Motavalli photo)

My drive around Chattanooga’s downtown—past a pair of charging Chevy Volts—was short but vivid. The car, which lacked extensive EV displays but offers two driving modes and dial-able regen braking settings—simply leaped off the line. Handling was pin sharp and braking sure; although the E-Golf looked mild-mannered, a GTI badge wouldn’t be embarrassing.

I flung the car into corners and it was sure-footed. All the power I needed was there, delivered very quietly—the EV lacked the squeaks and rattles found in many prototypes. I didn’t drive the E-Golf on the highway, but it’s supposed to reach 62 mph (100 kmh) in 10.4 seconds, and reach a governed top speed of 87 mph. That’s about the same as the Nissan LEAF, but this car feels faster.

No Driving, Lots of Looking

The XL1 plug-in hybrid in Chattanooga wasn’t drivable because it was sent from Germany on short notice, and the law limits air shipment of lithium-ion batteries. The pack in the car was a dummy. So the assembled journalists were only able to admire and sit in the (much smaller than anticipated) two-seater.


The VW XL1, making a splash at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference. (Jim Motavalli photo)

The XL1 has incredible presence, with a somewhat retro rear treatment dictated by its serious CD aerodynamics of just 0.19. Rear-view mirrors are sacrificed in favor of on-board cameras. Electric-only range is 32 miles.

The gullwing doors are a trip, as are the small roll-down windows embedded in them. It’s bigger inside than it looks, with some width opened up by the rear offset of the passenger seat. It’s likely to be fairly noisy on the road (as confirmed by our road test in Germany), since the 47-horsepower turbocharged two-cylinder diesel engine is behind the driver’s head, and (in the interest of weight savings) there isn’t much sound insulation. The electric motor adds another 27 horsepower.

The XL1 will be produced in a limited edition of 250. A VW engineer in Chattanooga confirmed that it will cost $145,000, but Americans won’t be paying it—the XL1 won’t be sold in the U.S. Let’s hope that this technological tour de force leads to something less cutting edge and more modestly priced for the American market.


· · 4 years ago

Sales points for this car are that it will offer substantially more accomodation than the Leaf or Volt, not to mention the Ford Focus EV with its trunk taken up by batteries.

In fact the model7 is a bit bigger than current Golfs, and VW have minimise or eliminated battery intrusion as it is a new platform built to take it.

In addition VW say they are confident that it will have good battery life in all climates, and have rigged a separate air cooling system for the battery:

That is assuming that they have not changed it since that article in 2010, as the E-Up is passively cooled and relies on a more heat resistant chemistry to the manganese spinel in the Leaf, although we have not been told what they are using.

If the price is right it should present an interesting alternative, although VW themselves are emphasising their coming PHEV models.

· · 4 years ago

I can guarantee you that the interior room of the MK7 Golf won't be any bigger than a current Leaf. And I am partial to the VW Golf. (I have a Leaf currently.)

· · 4 years ago

It seems you have a point.
I don't have the specs of the model 7 Golf handy in inches, and I am too lazy to do the conversions, and in any case different sites quote dimensions in different ways, but here are the comparisons for the Leaf and the Golf6:

the total interior volume of the Leaf is notably larger, although I am not quite sure where it goes, as many of the individual measurements given are bigger for the Golf.

As I said, the model7 is somewhat bigger, but it looks like your comment is fair.

I think I erred because I am not American, and Leafs are hardly on the roads here in the UK.
US commentators repeatedly refer to the Leaf as small, whereas here in the UK the Golf is regarded as a pretty substantial car, so I did not allow sufficiently for the difference in US and European perceptions on car sizes, and what is a roomy car.

· · 4 years ago

What will be the charging capabilities? CCS and a 6.6 kW AC ?

Folks keep asking about the weight of the new e-Golf. Knowing the weight would make the power and torque figures a bit more useful.

The other interest is the HVAC. Will the car have a variable speed compressor and a heat pump or rely entirely on resistive heat?

The last item is telemetry and roadside assistance. Is VW ready to support remote management and monitoring of the car? Will they charge for it?

Anytime now VW, anytime now... :)

· · 4 years ago

Looks to be another compliance car....

· · 4 years ago

Could be, MMF. As Davemart has reminded us in numerous posts, Golfs (and all/most VWs, apparently,) are set up to allow any/all power sources to be installed and spent bookoo bucks to develop that sort of manufacturing flexibility.

The good news is that they can make a pure EV today without a total redesign of the subframe components . . . thus paving the way for a comprehensive 50 state EV launch while phasing out their ICE/diesel line quickly. This is what I'm hoping.

The bad news is that they can make a pure EV today without a total redesign of subframe components . . . and only offer it in limited markets (ie: ZEV compliance states) and in tiny quantities while perpetuating their ICE/diesel line until well beyond the point which all other manufacturers have gone electric. This is what I'm fearing.

447 days and counting . . .

· · 4 years ago

If it is a compliance car it is a bit of a mystery why it is being released in Europe, as AFAIK European car sales do not count towards US compliance figures.

Some of my best friends are Americans, as they say.
But that does not mean that US-centric comments with the rest of the globe apparently not existing are not somewhat absurd.

BTW, as I have posted here numerous times VW have said that the E-Golf and all their PHEV models which are going to the US at all will be for sale throughout the States.

Now maybe they are simply lying, but I prefer to go according to what the companies say until they are proved to be wrong, not make injurious assumptions founded on nothing but speculation.

The companies which are making compliance cars, for instance GM with the Spark and Honda with the Fit EV have made no bones about it, so why it should be assumed that VW is simply to shy to say so if that is what they plan is a mystery.

Releasing the same cars first in Europe and some of the models not at all in the States seems an odd way of doing compliance cars.

I suggest some of the posters here take off the Stars and Stripes underpants they appear to be wearing on their heads as they are obscuring their vision.

· · 4 years ago

There's an old saying, Davemart, coined by the late Tip O'Neill (former Speaker of the US House of Representatives): "All politics is local."

I have no doubt that Volkswagen will make pure EV versions of the Golf in markets such as Germany, France and (perhaps) England. But the U.S. is not an autonomous market like those aforementioned European countries. We have California, which has always led the way in more stringent emission standards, and we have the entire rest of the country. It's really two separate markets on one very large land mass. It would be as if you had all the EVs to choose from in, say, Wales and just one or two models sold in the remainder of the British Isles . . . and that the remainder of the British Isles were, say, 20 times larger than they really are.

So, it's particularly frustrating for an EV-loving Arizonan like me see a litany of interesting electric vehicles available just a few short hundreds of miles away and only a couple here. From the perspective of consumer choice, they might as well be only available in Europe. Again . . . all politics is local.

Why I keep harping on VW's case is that they've had a rather interesting history in recent years declaring their eventual dominance as an EV innovator. Reality has shown, however, that they have let previously announced deadlines unceremoniously slip by, with EV projects announced, cancelled, reinstated, delayed again, and so on. Do I take it as a given when, in mid to late 2013, VW announces 50 state EV availability for the eGolf a year later? Given that above stated, I'll leave it to you to figure out that one.

I'm optimistic when I'm able to get BMW to ship an i3 into Tucson for a showing on National Plug In Day, as I was able to witness on September 29th. This shows me that they will be sell this one on this side of "the border." I'd probably be even more excited next year to see if the same thing happens with VW's eGolf, as this is a more mainstream offering and closer in price point to the only pure EV that really is available across the U.S. in any quantity on any given day: the Nissan Leaf. If VW does it, I'll be flabbergasted. If they don't, I'm sorry to say, I won't be terribly surprised.

Still counting the days . . .

· · 4 years ago


'Ahead of the actual market launch of its electric vehicles, in the reporting year the Volkswagen brand took further measures to get the service network up to speed. It provided special training for service staff and outfitted workshops with all the necessary tools and equipment, such as the new VAS 6558A high-voltage diagnostic and measuring system, launched in 2012. This means Volkswagen dealerships are already in a position to perform all relevant maintenance and repair work on Volkswagen electric vehicles. At many dealerships, selected workshop employees have been trained as “electrically skilled personnel”. Work on high-voltage vehicle systems is performed by certified high-voltage technicians. Worldwide, some 43,000 electrically skilled personnel are already employed at Volkswagen dealerships. A further 1,700 high-voltage technicians are based at 890 special high-voltage centres, while another 110 high-voltage specialists are employed in the importers’ organisations.'


I don't know specifically what the state of preparedness is in places like Arizona, but it might be possible to contact VW and find out where the nearest high voltage specialist centre is.

They wouldn't be training people and setting up centres if they did not intend to provide vehicles to use them, so if they are doing that outside California etc then it is apparent that they are serious.

Their main electrification effort is intended to be in PHEVs though, so perhaps it is a bit early to tell.

· · 4 years ago


Is anyone aware of the Volkswagen XL1 being available only in Europe?


They say it won't be seen in America.

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