31.7.2012 Volkswagen Golf Blue-e-Motion review
As competent as you would expect from Volkswagen and capable of around 90 miles before needing recharging, which takes eight hours from a standard UK power outlet, so would suit most people's daily commute. Natural enemy to the Golf Blue-e-motion will be the Nissan Leaf.
The Golf is expected to go on sale in the UK in the first half of 2014. It will be preceded by the all-electric Up Blue-e-Motion. There are no thoughts yet on prices but Leaf-like would be logical. An early Golf Blue-e-Motion prototype won the inaugural RAC Future Car Challenge in 2010, using the least energy to travel from Brighton to London. The high voltage electrical system is disabled in the event of an accident.
Review by Russell Bray for nextgreencar.com
Electric motors deliver all their torque from zero revs, so the Golf Blue-e-Motion surges away with alacrity and with an eerie silence and smoothness. A sound generator – you could have any sound you like in theory – warns pedestrians of your presence up to 20 mph. After that, noise from tyres and wind rush is sufficient. The electric motor (permanent magnet, synchronous motor) develops maximum power of 85 kW (114 bhp) and continuous power of 50 kW (67 bhp). Torque of 199 lbs ft is available from standstill. Keeping up with traffic is easy with acceleration to 62 mph in 11.3 seconds and a top speed of 83 mph – at 70 mph it was difficult to tell you were not in a normal Golf.
Electric cars are mega easy to drive and if you put the Golf's drive selector lever in 'B' for maximum regenerative braking you can drive the car with one foot and only one pedal as the braking is so strong immediately you take your foot off the accelerator. If you have driven a Golf before, the Blue-e-Motion feels remarkably similar with safe and predictable handling despite the extra 205 kg weight of the lithium-ion batteries and necessary energy converters. This makes the car slightly less keen to change direction. Volkswagen has spread the batteries out under the boot, in the rear seats and the 'transmission tunnel' so the weight is well balanced. The weight would be more noticeable on a slippery road surface. Spring rates are stiffer to cope with the extra weight so the car feels quite sporty.
The VW Golf's shape is well known but the production version of this fully and purely electric model will be the new Golf Mark VII which debuts at the Paris Motor Show in September. The only external changes compared to a petrol or diesel Golf are the absence of an exhaust system and electric charger points behind the usual filter flap and behind the VW roundel on the front of the car. Boot capacity has been reduced from 350 litres to 238 litres, but seating capacity is unchanged at five people. The same as the combustion engine version, the Golf Blue-e-Motion is 4199 mm in length and 1786 mm wide.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
With the exception of a slightly firmer ride, comfort is just like a normal Golf with standard seats that are even heated. The instrument dials though are different – next to the speedometer is a dial which shows how the car's power is being used. Two smaller dials show how much charge is left in the 26.5 kilowatt-hours batteries and what range this allows.
Comfort mode delivers 85 kW, Normal reduces this to 65 kW, and Range drops power to just 50 kW and turns off the air conditioning. The air conditioning 'which worked fine' and heating system is also electrically operated and is best used with restraint.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
You can adjust the level of brake regeneration when easing off the power, or reduce the available performance to increase range, using paddles behind the steering wheel – a degree of interaction I have not come across before. With everything set in normal mode, the Golf feels, really, err, normal and easily keeps up with traffic, even on main roads. Driver behaviour influences range even more than in a petrol or diesel car. Hard acceleration and high speed is not the way to go if you want to complete a longer journey. A theoretical range of 90 miles on a full charge could be nearer 65 or 70 miles in real life. Running costs are low – electricity costs can be as low as 2p a mile (depending on tariff) compared to 12.9p for petrol or 10.37p for diesel, according to the AA.
Usual electric car benefits of zero pollution at point of use – though maybe not where the electrical power is generated. Volkswagen says it is close to attaining 95% recyclability for its cars through the latest facilities. Life cycle carbon emissions for a typical electric car are around 100 gCO2/km based on the current UK electricity mix.
All the usual Golf accoutrements of electric windows, mirrors etc and including, perhaps surprisingly in view of the potential electrical power drain, a heated windscreen and heated seats. The sat-nav screen also shows battery levels, and in future versions, is expected to give warnings if a chosen destination is beyond the car's driving range. The battery management system allows the car's battery status to be checked using a smartphone app while you are in your office or having breakfast. The Golf's lithium-ion batteries are kept at optimal working temperature by a secondary cooling system.
Model tested: Volkswagen Golf Blue-e-Motion
Body-style: Five-door family hatchback
Engine/CO2: 114 bhp permanent magnet synchronous electric motor / 0 gCO2/km
Trim grades: Not known
On-road price: Not known
Warranty: Not known
In the showroom: Next year
Review rating: 4.0 STARS
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