Notes after spending a week with an electric car. In this case, the Volkswagen eGolf.
But before I get into it, a few specs.
Aside from different wheel coverings and badging, the eGolf is visually indistinguishable from the garden variety four-door version. It has the same body and interior layout, and essentially the same componentry…..aside from the electric drivetrain, of course.
Power is delivered by a 100 kilowatt - 134 horsepower - electric motor, which is fed by a 35.8 kilowatt battery pack. Transmission is a CVT and the eGolf can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in a purported 10 seconds. According to VW, it also has a range of up to 201 kilometres, and you can choose from three driving settings: Normal, Eco, and Eco-Plus. I spent most of my time in the Normal setting, which for around-town performance and economy, seems to work best.
- Behind the wheel. Let me say right off the top that the eGolf offers the same refined driving experience as its internal-combustion propelled stablemates. This is an effortless car to drive, with decent performance, above-average assembly quality, and the kind of interior comforts and amenities one would expect from VW. Even the interior instrumentation is the same, with a “fuel gauge” that tells you at a glance how much juice is left…..in addition to a visual range read-out located in the middle of the instrumentation binnacle. You can tell instantly whether or not you’ve got enough left to get where you have to without having to stop and re-charge along the way.
- Large charge. During my time with this car, I discovered that the recharging process seems to vary with the location. I used the eGolf for a daily 40 kilometre commute, recharging at both ends. After about a four or five hour recharge - with regular 110/120 volt house power - one was definitely better than the other….this could be due to the outlet or power supply, but it’s worth noting. A four hour charge added about 30-40 klicks to the car's range.
The drive itself was usually through heavy stop-and-go traffic with a dash of highway cruising. I found that if I behaved myself and tried to keep an even keel - no jack rabbiting or sudden stops and starts, and as few accessories as possible - I could make my journey using about a quarter of a “tank” of juice. Put another way, if the odometer read a range of 195 km when I started in the morning, by the time I finished, it was down to about 160-165 klicks.
- Performance anxiety. In a word, there is none. In “Normal” mode, the eGolf is pretty damn lively, and can keep up with traffic and then some. “Eco” mode, not so much; this limits the car’s performance and definitely slows it down. “Eco-Plus” even moreso, and in this setting, various accessories – heat/ventilation, for eg – are shut down. If you’re re-charging the car on a regular basis, there is no need to suffer….just leave it in Normal and Bob’s your uncle.
- Range anxiety. The eGolf is pretty thrifty, driven sensibly, but the worry of running out of juice never goes away completely. I don’t think I ever got below a range of – oh – 120 klicks, but I was conscious of the car’s limitations every step of the way. Battery technology remains the weakest link in the chain for e-cars.
- Pricing. My tester had a base price of just under $36,000 ($35,995). A couple of options – technology package and leatherette upholstery – added another $2600 for a final bill of $38,660 before taxes and other extras. However, there are various buyer incentives available. In Ontario, you can claim up to $13,000, depending upon the vehicle’s size and battery kilowatt hours capability; in Quebec, up to $8000, and in B.C., up to $5000. This definitely softens the blow, but electric cars are still on the pricey side.
Would I buy this car? Not yet. That said, I am growing to really appreciate the driveability of e-cars, and the eGolf is as good as any of them. But range anxiety is a real concern for me, and I just can’t see myself shelling out some forty large for a car of this type.
That may change.