By Mike Hanley on November 14, 2013
Competes with: Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric
Looks like: The new-generation Golf hatchback, with a few unique design cues
Drivetrain: 115-hp electric motor with one-speed transmission; front-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Fourth quarter of 2014
Volkswagen joins the growing list of automakers offering all-electric cars with the debut of the e-Golf. Based on the redesigned Golf four-door hatchback, the e-Golf has a range of 70 to 90 miles and can be recharged in less than four hours on 220-volt service, according to Volkswagen.
The automaker hasn't finalized which states the e-Golf will be sold in, though California, which mandates that a percentage of an automaker's sales are zero emissions vehicles, will certainly be in the mix. Volkswagen will introduce the e-Golf at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show.
The new 2015 Golf's updated design carries over to the e-Golf with a few significant changes. For one, the e-Golf is the first VW in the U.S. with standard LED headlights for enhanced energy efficiency and illumination. C-shaped LED daytime running lights complement the new headlights. There's also a unique grille with blue accenting and aerodynamic 16-inch alloy wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires.
The e-Golf's cabin design doesn't differ significantly from the regular Golf. The main visual cues are additional blue accents and a power display in the instrument panel that shows the state of the electric powertrain. There's also a gauge that shows how much energy remains in the battery as well as a color display that shows vehicle range, among other info.
Available features include keyless access with push-button start, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, simulated leather upholstery, satellite radio and a touch-screen navigation system. The touch-screen also offers a deeper look at the electric powertrain with an energy-flow diagram, regenerative braking info, the effect auxiliary systems like the heater have on vehicle range and a mode to program charging times and cabin conditioning.
The electric motor is rated at 115 horsepower and 199 pounds-feet of torque and teams with a single-speed transmission. Acceleration to 60 mph takes about 10.4 seconds, according to Volkswagen, and the car's top speed is 87 mph.
The electric motor is powered by a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack. It weighs 701 pounds and is located in the floor under the seats. A 7.2-kilowatt onboard charger is standard and when connected to a 220-volt source can replenish the battery in less than four hours. Charging time jumps to 20 hours when using a conventional household outlet. The battery can also be charged to 80 percent capacity in as little as 30 minutes at a DC fast charge station.
Volkswagen also plans to offer enhanced roadside assistance for the car. When within 100 miles of home, the service will transport an e-Golf with a depleted battery to a charging station and cover taxi costs if the driver has to leave the car.
There are three driving modes — Normal, Eco and Eco+ — as well as three regenerative-braking programs. The driving modes offer progressively less horsepower, torque, gas pedal response, maximum speed and air conditioning, and Eco+ turns off the air conditioning system. Flooring the gas pedal returns the car to its full-power mode. Tapping the console shifter to the left, meanwhile, activates increasing levels of regenerative braking, and the strongest settings also activate the brake lights.
Volkswagen's Automatic Post-Collision Braking System is standard. The system is designed to lessen the chance of a secondary collision after an initial impact by automatically applying the brakes. A backup camera is available.
Senior Editor Mike Hanley is a father of three boys; he reviews new cars, admires classic cars and has embraced the minivan lifestyle. Email Mike