Somewhat Cautiously, VW Rolls Out the New E-Golf

By · January 14, 2014

VW e-Golf

The e-Golf: competence, with few frills. (Jim Motavalli photo)

The Volkswagen E-Golf is no stranger to the U.S., since a small test fleet of them have been on American roads since 2012 gathering consumer data in Detroit, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. But at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, VW chose to roll out the car on the new go-for-broke Golf platform.

It was, it must be said, a low-key announcement. Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser, head of powertrain development, merely said that it “drives like any other Golf” and possesses “a most efficient and powerful e-motor.” He added, “Believe me, it’s a true Volkswagen.”

VW e-Golf starter button

Does an electric car really need a starter button? (Jim Motavalli photo)

Were they perhaps reassuring themselves? VW hasn’t been the most enthusiastic electrifier, but if my experience driving the earlier generation bears out, this should be a pretty good EV. And I was able to ferret out some of the stats that were not forthcoming.

Your Standard 100-Mile Range

The E-Golf has a range of 100 miles, give or take, and a 26-kilowatt-hour battery pack (in a t-shape configuration under the rear seats and central tunnel) from Sanyo. “In the real world it will be less,” said Stuart Johnson, a manager in the engineering and environmental office of Volkswagen of America. Well, we all know that.

VW e-Golf

One hundred mile range on a 26-kilowatt-hour pack from Sanyo. (Jim Motavalli photo)

The E-Golf, on offer in late summer or early fall, will, unsurprisingly, be available in the ZEV states, though it could expand beyond that.

The car’s interior is Golf-standard, up to and including an “engine start” button. This may seem incongruous in an electric car, but VW’s explanation is that “we’re trying to go keyless,” and that an electric motor is part of a “powertrain” like any other. We're expecting the production version of the E-Golf to have paddle-shifters that allow drivers to control the level of regenerative braking (which affects how quickly the car slows down without your foot on the brake). That's a nice feature that will be put to use on the Cadillac ELR.

VW didn’t want to talk volumes with the E-Golf, and there’s still a fair amount of trepidation about electrification at the company. (Remember: The company, according to its executives, want to lead the auto industry in electrification.) Yet, the star of the show was a Passat BlueMotion concept that, with cylinder deactivation and other state-of-the-art technologies, gets 42 mpg on the highway. That one is quite likely to go into wide production in Chattanooga.

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