“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.
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.