Volkswagen Expands Electric Car Choices

With five new electric cars hitting the market during 2014, these are good times for environmentally-aware car owners, according to FuelEconomy.gov. Hybrids are commonplace of course, including a growing number of plug-in models, and diesels are proliferating, but until now, electric options have been limited.

With one stylish and very expensive exception (and that’s not the Fisker Karma as production ended with that company’s bankruptcy), most electric cars look more than a little odd. Indeed, many affordable offerings seem more like steroid-enhanced golf carts than cars you’d actually want to take out on the road. It’s as if a frumpy appearance is the price to pay for zero tailpipe emissions. Fortunately though, Volkswagen is out to change that.

VW’s Electric Strategy

Though renowned for efficient gasoline and diesel engines, VW was a bit late to the alternative powertrain party with its Jetta Hybrid arriving towards the end of 2012, as AutoBlog recalls. But Rudolf Krebs, VW’s Commissioner for Electric Drive Systems, promised that the brand is “going to electrify all segments” when he spoke at the 2013 L.A. Auto Show.

Underscoring this, VW has established in-house development and manufacturing of batteries, transmissions and electric motors, and recruited and trained a legion of electric drive specialists. The fruits of this effort will begin appearing during 2014, starting with the E-Up! and E-Golf, according to VW’s media site.

Unlikely to be seen this side of the Atlantic, the E-Up! is the electric version of VW’s tiny four-door that sells well in Europe. Of greater interest here is the E-Golf.

The Regular Golf, Only Electric

An all-electric version of the worldwide best-selling Golf hatchback, this promises the high quality materials and entertaining driving experience drivers have come to expect, but in a zero tailpipe emissions package.

A 115 hp electric motor, combined with a 24.2 kWh lithium-ion battery gives a projected range of 70 to 90 miles, and 199 lb-ft of torque should provide lively acceleration. Three driving profiles and three regenerative braking modes let the driver extract maximum performance from the battery while close attention to aerodynamics ensures a very low drag coefficient. Efficiency numbers are not yet available, but given that the E-Golf weighs just 3,000 pounds, according to its website, they should be impressive.

Three Ways to Charge

As charging at the regular 110/120V household supply will take around 20 hours, the preferred option is at 220V via the 7.2 kW onboard charger. The third option is to use the Combined Charging System (CCS) socket. This lets the driver take advantage of CCS–equipped Fast Charging Stations to get a boost while out on the road. Just starting to appear, these charge at up to 40kW, providing 80% of full charge in around 30 minutes.

Energy-Saving Lighting

One especially notable feature is the LED headlamps. Just as CFL’s and now LED’s have replaced inefficient incandescent bulbs, the same is happening in cars. LED headlamps require less energy while putting out more light, so expect to see them appear on more cars in the future.

Finding Out More

Full details of the E-Golf will be announced shortly, including trims, pricing, and of course, fuel-efficiency numbers. In the meantime, you might want to register your interest with a local VW dealer. If you’re in Arizona, (a great place for solar energy,) and interested in going electric, you can look into a dealership such as Volkswagen in Phoenix. They’ll provide the information you need to make the best option for your budget.

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