A VW Golf Blue-e-motion? Fuelled by kangaroo poo, is it?
No, ya great galah, it’s powered by electricity. The Golf Blue-e-motion is a prototype for the Nissan Leaf rival you’ll be able to buy from Volkswagen dealers in 2013.
CAR drove the electric Golf in the world's biggest e-rally for a feature in the new Green CAR, a free 32-page supplement in the new September 2010 issue of CAR Magazine. Click here for a free digital preview.
The electric Mini has no back seats (as opposed to almost none in the petrol car). Is the Golf similarly useless?
Apart from the battery range – a modest 90 miles – it’s as practical as any other Golf. The motor is up front where the engine would be and the batteries are hidden under the floorpan and boot floor, so to look at and sit in, there really is no difference.
Even the cabin looks the same, at a glance. The gearstick is the standard DSG item but a power gauge replaces the rev counter and the fuel and temperature dials by clocks showing how much charge is left and what range that will give.
But of course it’s totally silent
Well not totally silent, there’s a fairly high-pitched hum from the motor at moderate speeds. VW’s engineers claim they’ll be able to reduce it before it goes on sale, but probably not get rid of it altogether. But that won’t be such a problem because it’ll be masked by one of the synthetic sounds Volkswagen is working on.
So how does it compare with a normal Golf to drive?
Not too dissimilar. The electric hardware weighs slightly more than a diesel engine and box but the suspension on this car is stock Bluemotion diesel so the handling isn’t quite as sharp. But it’s nothing that some careful suspension tuning couldn’t sort.
As for the drivetrain, it’s superb. The throttle response is crisp without being over eager, the diesel-like torque output pushes it up hills like a bobsleigh on rewind, and the refinement is incredible compared with conventional engines.
But the clever trick is the multi-stage regenerative braking. Lift off the throttle with the gearlever in ‘D’ and you get no engine braking effect at all. Tug it back to ‘S’ and you get an extremely strong effect that’s great for coming down steep hills where you soon realise that you don’t need to use the brakes at all (a good job because this test car’s were massively oversensitive – another software issue, we’re assured). Instead of just coming fully out of the throttle as a corner appears, you ease it back with the same sensitivity that you use when pressing it down to go.
As an option though buyers will be able to pay for DSG-style paddles behind the wheel, allowing them to choose between different levels of brake regeneration to suit different gradients at the flick of a finger.
But a 90-mile range! Why on earth would I buy one over a diesel or one of the new small turbocharged petrol Golfs?
Until the UK gets its electric car infrastructure in place (it’s happening as we speak), then that range will be an issue. The reality is that it will be fine for the distances most people cover day to day, but you’re effectively locked to your own town. Want to visit relatives or holiday at the other end of the country? Better take the train.
But in that respect, the Golf is no less useful than the Nissan Leaf and a whole lot less ugly. And aside from a cleaner conscience (that’s cleaner, not clean), the E-motion offers smaller tax and fuel bills and an exemption from the London congestion charge.
If you want the benefits of a zero emissions car but don’t necessarily want to shout about it, the Golf makes perfect sense, particularly as a second car. Apart from the high price and limited range, which will remain a huge obstacle for many would-be customers, it’s as practical and vice-free as any other Golf. For an estimated £23k though, we’ll have a GTi thanks and eat less beef to make up for our CO2 chuffing.
>> Click here for a digital preview of the new September 2010 issue, complete with feature on the world's biggest e-rally