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VW Battery-Only Golf A Stop-Gap Before Plug-In Hybrid Arrives

“anyone who buys one will be entitled to 30 days of free car rental”

BERLIN, Germany – Volkswagen showed its commitment to the electric car revolution when it unveiled its battery-only powered Golf, but experts reckon this is really a stop gap for Europe’s biggest car company which plans to make its biggest play in plug-in hybrids to save fuel.

 VW, Europe’s biggest car manufacturer, said the E-Golf will go on sale in the U.S. in the fall, although the company is reluctant to talk about likely volumes.

The new battery-only Golf, a medium-sized by European standards family sedan, has some impressive-sounding specifications, according to VW. The electric Golf – a version of the Golf which is Europe’s biggest seller – has a range of between 80 and 120 miles (always a worry when estimated range can vary by 40 miles). The performance figures are comparable with normal, middle of the range gasoline-engine versions, with 0-60 mph taking just over 10 seconds.

 It’s when you look at the price that eye-brows start to be raised. The E-Golf retails in Germany at the equivalent of $48,000, although that includes taxes. Another claim for the E-Golf which VW is keen to make clear, is that anyone who buys one will be entitled to 30 days of free car rental a year. In other words, if a buyer ever needs a proper car with acceptable range and performance, VW will arrange a temporary one for you.

The launch of the E-Golf, which took place at Berlin’s storied Templehof Airport, also featured an early version of the plug-in hybrid Golf, which is likely to be available on global markets next year. The Golf GTE hybrid will have a 1.4 liter, 148 hp gasoline engine and a 101 hp electric motor with as theoretical range of 580 miles, and a battery-only capability of 30 miles.

No big seller

According to Frost & Sullivan analyst Nicolas Meilhan, the VW E-Golf isn’t going to be a big seller for VW, that will be reserved for the plug-in hybrid.

“Volkswagen isn’t going to sell may battery-only cars. The E-Golf is a stop-gap. It’s telling people that VW is coming with electric cars, but the range-extended (plug-in hybrid) car will come soon in 2015. That won’t be a niche model like the battery electric car, but will be for the mass market,” Meilhan said.

VW, a recent convert to the efficacy of electric cars, also showed the recently launched little E-Up battery-only city car, but has been coy revealing its sales figures.

At the Frankfurt Car Show last September VW surprised investors with what appeared to be a sudden embrace of electrification. VW had gone on the record as expecting global sales of only three per cent by battery-only cars by 2020. That compared with electric enthusiasts like Renault-Nissan, which had breathlessly been claiming a 10 per cent share for battery-only cars in 2020. Lack of enthusiasm from the public forced it to scale back its prediction.

Alternative VWs

In Frankfurt, VW said it will produce 14 vehicles with “alternative” drive-trains in 2014, with as many as 40 electric or hybrid vehicles on the drawing board. Last November VW unveiled a little diesel electric plug-in hybrid car, the XL1,  capable of up to 261 miles per U.S. gallon.

Previously, VW had said diesel engines could provide high-efficiency motoring for a while yet.

Meanwhile, VW said the E-Golf can be recharged at home in 13 hours, or a special charger can do it in eight hours. A more expensive system using DC current can replace 80 per cent of the battery power in 35 minutes.

The AC electric motor provides 113 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque, driving the front-wheels through a single speed gearbox. The lithium-ion battery is integrated into the floor and weighs 700 lbs. Top speed is 87 mph. The driver can select various degrees of regenerative braking. When the car free-wheels with no resistance it won’t generate any additional electricity. With the maximum resistance selected, unless the car was going downhill, it would quickly be brought to a standstill, so a degree of skill is need to orchestrate the best way to generate free power from the forward motion of the car.

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