Friday, May 5, 2017

First Drive (for me at least) - 2017 VW e-Golf!

I am not a candidate for an electric car. Don't get me wrong - I love the idea of green tech and of never having to wait in a Costco gas line again. It's just that the best range and the fastest recharging rate still do not work for me. Maybe if I was commuting back and forth to work again an electric would work. But I'd still need another vehicle for trips and I really can't afford two new cars.

But these reasons do not negate my enthusiasm for today's electrics.

 VW has spruced up the e-Golf for 2017 making it more exciting looking (and I love the Atlantic Blue).

Yesterday I got to drive a 2017 e-Golf. And it was, well it was just like driving a car. More or less.

Volkswagen invited a few area writers to drive from Sonnen VW in San Rafael to The Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, where we had lunch and conversation, and back; a distance of about 45 miles each way. A fellow writer, musician and green car aficionado Steve Schaefer drove to The Ritz. He fiddled with the settings (there's a "normal" and different energy saving profiles) while I navigated.

We had a nice lunch, interesting conversations with the other writers, and then I drove back to San Rafael. But before I tell you how well (or poorly) we fared how about some specs?

There is currently an e-Golf on sale - it's a 2016. It looks just like any other 4-door Golf except for the "e" designation and the lack of a tailpipe. The '16 has a range of up to 83 miles on a full charge. That is the most pertinent spec as far as I'm concerned. Eight-three miles was just enough to get me back and forth to work before I retired. For the SF Bay Area's "mega-commuters" (those who drive 50 miles or more one way to work) a recharge station would be needed at work.

The 2017 e-Golf is rated at up to 125 miles. That's more like it. As you can see the '16 would not have been able to make the round trip from San Rafael to Half Moon Bay and back while the '17 would have, a margin of about 35 miles.

I'm no electric nerd so I don't really care about most of the other specs but for those of you who do care here they are:
- The electric motor is upgraded from 85 kW & 115 hp ('16) to 100 kW & 134 hp ('17). Torque is up from 199 ft-lb to 214.
-There will be three trim levels, an SE, SEL Premium and a Limited Edition.
-There are all those nifty graphics to tell you how little energy your car is using.
- There is an available "fast charger" that allows the batteries to reach 80% charge within an hour at Fast Charging Stations. Normal charge rate @ 240 volts is less than six hours.

Instead of a tachometer you get a usage gauge - to the left into the green is regen; to the right usage.

Range Monitor let's you know how you are driving - 80/100 is pretty good.

When Steve drove he mostly used the "B" setting. B provides automatic regeneration - take your foot off the accelerator pedal and the car slows down rapidly, regenerating power to the battery pack. When I drove back I used B and Eco Plus. Overall I think we did fairly well for the 90 mile round trip. We started with a full charge (125 mile range) and when we got back the readout said we had 50 miles of range left.

I wouldn't recommend the Eco Plus setting for anyone except the most hard core energy savers. Acceleration is very leisurely, the A/C isn't and the top speed seemed to be limited to 60 mph. I think the best bet is to always use the B profile and otherwise drive normally.

Probably the biggest two differences most people will notice between a gas-engine Golf and an e-Golf is the absence of noise in the e-Golf and its extra (430 lbs +/-) weight. Driving it is just like driving any Golf. And that's a good thing.

Volkswagen has not announced pricing for the 2017 e-Golf yet. The 2016 starts at $21,495. A 2017 Chevrolet Bolt starts at $36,620 so that gives VW a fair bit of wiggle room. I'd guess the 2017 e-Golf will be more than $22,000 and less than $30,000.

I haven't mentioned energy rebates because they change. Check your area to see what is available.

If an electric vehicle suits your needs the 2017 e-Golf might be the car for you. VW hopes to have them on dealer lots by the end of this summer.

A little hard to see here but below the thin chrome strip at the corners are two faux exhaust outlets.




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