Volkswagen (VW) E-Golf All-Electric Vehicle (2015 Model Review)

Written By: Andrew H. 

The Second Marshmallow | A Review of the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf PEV 

                                                              2015 VW E-GOLF (all-electric)

Introduced at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show and later put on display at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, the Volkswagen e-Golf is the company’s first fully electric vehicle for the United States. “Looks like a Golf,” says Volkswagen. “Drives like one, too.” This is no small acclamation. The gasoline-powered Golf won the 2015 North American Car of the Year accolade and Motor Trend’s 2015 Car of the Year award, defeating the favored Hyundai Genesis and Ford Mustang. Is the e-version any better?

Environmentalism Without the Ism’s

Rather than bludgeoning buyers with disappearing rainforests and displaced caribou herds, Volkswagen offers a nonchalant marketing message: The e-Golf is normal, made better. “All fun, no fuel,” it quips. But does this blasé strategy have the oomph to entice buyers?

Oomph is the one thing electric vehicles need most. In 2013, at the $25,000 price point, plug-in electric vehicles constituted 1.4 percent of new car sales. Overall, plug-in electric vehicles make up a measly 0.6 percent of the market. Does the Volkswagen e-Golf, a $35,445 five-door hatchback costing almost twice as much as a base Golf, have the power to pull off a market takeover?

The answer begins with a marshmallow.

The Dichotomy of Deferred Gratification

In 1970, Walter Mischel and Ebbe Ebbesen conducted a research study at Stanford University. To a child was presented a treat of his or her choice – marshmallow, Oreo or pretzel stick – which was placed on a table an arm’s reach away. Eat the treat now, said the researchers, or wait fifteen minutes and get another one. Some children, particularly the youngest ones, would quickly wolf down the treat. Others would squirm, cover their eyes, or even stroke the marshmallow while waiting. Of those who tried to outlast the clock, only a third endured.

Humans are inebriated by instant gratification. The abstract benefits of electric vehicle ownership – independence from foreign oil, an atmosphere free of greenhouse carbon dioxide and toxic nitrous oxides, reduced urban noise pollution – have not proven potent enough. Buyers need a second marshmallow.

A Virtual Tour Under the Hood

Traditionally, Volkswagen touts diesel as its alternative fuel of choice. The Polo TDI BlueMotion, for instance, drives 74 miles on a single gallon of diesel. The plug-in diesel-electric hybrid XL1 claims 209 mpg. Meanwhile, the e-Golf has no engine. Under the hood is a 115-horsepower electric motor guzzling electrons from a 24.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Almost 200 pound-feet of torque is on tap from the get-go. Given its head, the e-Golf will rocket – er, plod – its way to 60 mph in about 10 seconds.

Like most electric vehicles, the e-Golf has a seamless driving experience. It never jars. Although the car weighs 370 pounds more than a regular Golf, it carries the weight well, thanks to a multi-link rear suspension. It prefers to drive below 45 mph where torque counts more than horsepower.

Drivers may select their desired amount of regenerative braking. For the ultimate sacrifice to Mother Nature, drivers can engage Eco or Eco Plus driving mode, the latter of which strangles throttle impulse and blocks climate control.

The Truth About Living Without Gasoline

This system is nothing new. There are a slew of plug-in electric vehicles that use the same battery n’ motor set up: the Kia Soul EV, the Cadillac ELR, the Nissan Leaf, the Ford Focus Electric, the Fiat 500e, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, etc. But again, the e-Golf is normal, made better. With a combined MPGe rating of 116, it is the most efficient PEV in the United States. Not many automakers can claim their first attempts led the class. If at first you don’t succeed, says Volkswagen, then suck eggs.

Lars Menge, General Manager of Product Strategy for Volkswagen of America, phrases the message somewhat differently. “We came up with a much better car,” he says, “so now all others have to stretch to follow us.” Given that a traveler could drive the e-Golf a full 300 miles from New York City to Washington D.C. for a mere $10.50, Volkswagen may not be wrong. An e-Golf could save its owner 60-80 percent in annual fueling costs.

There is, however, a problem. The e-Golf has an average driving range of 70-90 miles, 115 maximum. After an hour or two of use, it needs to be charged. Charging with a piddly 120-volt home outlet would take 18-20 hours, so most drivers use a dedicated 240-volt charger. Time is sliced to four hours. A public high-speed DC charging station could fill the battery to 80 percent of capacity within 30 minutes, but most DC quick-chargers are located in select West Coast metropolises and along major Interstates. Plus, repeated high-speed charges will reduce the charge capacity of any lithium-ion battery.

So, where is the second marshmallow?

Revealed: The Second Marshmallow

Look at the e-Golf. It boasts LED headlamps and LED daytime running lights. It looks crisp, German, smooth.

Slip inside the e-Golf. Dual-zone climate control, cruise control, heated front seats – check. Lockable cooled glovebox – check. Sunglasses holder, space to store a bicycle – check.

Touch the e-Golf. Feel the leatherette inserts, the chrome trim, the faux leather upholstery. Poke the 5.8-inch navigation touchscreen or watch the video feed from the rearview camera. Listen to a CD, phone a friend using Bluetooth, or take advantage of Volkswagen’s Car-Net telematics features.

It is modern. It is luxurious. It is comfortable – and it is for comfort, not rainforests or MPGe, that some buyers will one day convert to alternative vehicles.

2015 Volkswagen E-GOLF (All-Electric)
*Click on Images to Enlarge*


5 Things Driver’s Like About the Volkswagen e-Golf

  • Since there is no engine oil, no starter solenoid and no catalytic converter, electric vehicles require less periodic maintenance than gasoline-powered automobiles.

  • ‘Twas the commute before work, and all through the cabin nothing was stirring, not even a piston.

  • Most buyers are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and state incentives.

  • Every e-Golf comes with a standard roadside assistance plan. Any e-Golf that has run out of juice within 100 miles of home will be towed to the nearest charging station. The driver can take a free taxi to his or her destination.

  • The national network of ChargePoint charging stations offer many free 120-volt and 240-volt outlets.

5 Things Driver’s Don’t Like About the Volkswagen e-Golf

  • The necessity of renting a car for every summer trip to the lake.

  • The slippery Continental ProContact low rolling-resistance tires.

  • The select dealership availability: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, California, New York, Vermont, Oregon and Rhode Island.

  • The persnickety navigation system.

  • The optional Bosch 240-volt home charger, costing $1,000-$2,000 for product and installation.