10.2.2014Volkswagen e-Up electric review
The VW e-Up is a very nice piece of work. The overall impression is of a well-equipped small car that just happens to be electrically powered. It would be ideal suburban transport for many if not for the high entry price.
The cabin is a pleasant place, very light and airy and in this model loaded with equipment including lovely heated seats. VW has not made a huge song and dance about the electric Up and even resisted calling it the e-motion, or similar, so it will be interesting to see how it fares in the marketplace.
Review by Russell Bray
The standard Up uses a 999cc three-cylinder petrol engine with 59 or 73bhp. Instead, the e-Up has a 60kW/ 81bhp AC electric motor producing 155 lbs ft of torque and driving the front wheels through a single-speed gearbox. The e-Up is brisk away from the traffic lights (0-37mph in 4.9 seconds) or 0-62mph in 12.4 seconds which is nearly a second faster than the petrol model despite this version' extra weight. Maximum power can be called up in an emergency by flooring the accelerator for kick down. In driver selected Eco mode power is limited to 50kW and the power of air conditioning reduced. Eco+ is even less enjoyable but might be appreciated trying to get home when low on battery power. Engine power drops to 40kW and the heating/air con doesn't work so take your thermals with you.
Fit a 204 cell, 230kg lithium-ion battery pack under the floor of your car and you end up with a very low centre of gravity which helps cornering but also provides more weight to overcome the grip of the tyres if you are going quickly. A lack of feel for the road via the steering means that the handling requires belief at times and the benefit of experience. At 1139kg the e-Up isn't light and I thought the weight could be taken advantage of more to improve ride quality more. Handling is reasonable; even if the suspicion is that the extra weight cancels out any benefits from the low centre of gravity. Despite its small dimensions the Up feels and handles like a larger car while remaining ultra easy to park.
The Up's styling is neat to the point of obsession and particularly effective in white. Despite its compact city car dimensions (length 3540mm, width 1641mm excluding door mirrors) the Up can carry four adults. The boot is a good size too at 251 litres capacity, while the turning circle is just 9.8 metres. With the rear seat folded luggage space drops from the 951 litres of the internal combustion engine car to 923 litres. Other versions of the Up are available with three or five doors but this electric version comes only with five doors. Distinguishing the electric e-Up from its petrol stable mates are LED daytime running lights at the front, more streamlined alloy wheels and the absence of an exhaust pipe.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
A good driving position, light minor controls and excellent all-round vision make the Up very simple to drive. The automatic transmission has several modes. In D mode the car 'coasts', slowing down gradually, while B means the brakes recapture energy for the electric batteries. In D mode you have a choice of D1, D2 or D3 which progressively increase the amount of retardation. Braking in D2, D3 and B is hard enough to cause the e-Up's rear brake lights to come on. There is less braking if the batteries are near or fully charged. Approaching roundabouts it is easy to push the selector lever from B through the D position to N (neutral) unintentionally and find yourself with no power going to the wheels. But tapping the lever to the left for different levels of braking is easy and instinctive.
A standard home power supply take nine hours to fully charge the car. While an industrial DC supply takes 30 minutes. The car comes with two electric cables; one heavy duty and one for home use. Petrol models have a standard spare wheel in event of a puncture; the e-Up has a sealant spray and tyre inflation compressor.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Electric motors are around 90% efficient compared to nearer 30% for internal combustion ones, so the much anticipated breakthrough in battery technology could change the appeal of electric cars overnight if it happens. In the meantime spending about £2.50 on electricity to travel 60 miles helps mitigate against the car's cost but doing more miles to get better value for money isn't exactly 'green' behaviour. The battery pack is rated at 374 volts and 18,7kWh. With an average consumption of 11.7 kWh for 60 miles, VW claims the e-Up is the most energy efficient electric car you can buy. Range on the NEDC cycle is between 75 and 99 miles. Zero CO2 emissions mean no road tax, no congestion charge in central London and free parking in some towns and cities.
Electric cars are heavy because batteries are heavy so the e-Up starts with the handicap of weighing 1.139kg compared to 920 to 940 for the standard car. Fighting against this is a low drag factor of cd 0.308 which is four per cent lower than the Take Up model. Rolling resistance, partly due to tyres, is seven per cent lower and new equipment modules use less power. The car has a light weight mechanical parking brake rather than an electronic one. Up buyers have the option to sign up for Ecotricity's 100% green tariff for their home and vehicle energy supplies. The Volkswagen e-Up has a Next Green Car Rating of 21.
The Volkswagen e-Up comes only with enhanced High Up trim which includes electronic climate control, heated front windscreen and DAB digital radio. The Maps and More function includes a range display on current charge. Owners can programme the car when being charged to warm up or cool down the cabin as required. Surprisingly VW says the battery pack is resistant to heat and cold so that no separate (power hungry and heavy) cooling or heating is required to keep them in the best operating zone. All e-Ups are fitted with anti-lock brakes, electronic stability systems and emergency city braking which uses a laser sensor in the top of the windscreen to detect obstacles and applies the brakes if necessary.
Model tested: Volkswagen e-Up
Body-style: Five-door hatchback 'supermini'
Engine/CO2: 60kW/ 81bhp AC electric motor producing 115 lbs ft of torque / 0 gCO2/km
Trim grades: High Up with extra enhancements
On-road price: £19,250 after £5,000 Government grant
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles warranty + eight year 100,000 mile battery warranty
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 STARS
Next Green Car Rating: 21