Volkswagen’s history is littered with low-emissions vehicles but, mostly, they’ve had combustion engines somewhere. The 1.0-litre concept from 2002, for example, and its follow-ups have culminated in the XL1 hybrid.
Look for electric concepts and you’ll find the e-Up from 2009 (now in production too) and the NILS single-seat concept (a bit like a Renault Twizy but with proper doors). The e-Golf doesn’t have a direct predecessor, although some will consider the 2017 model the second generation, but lessons from all of these projects will have been applied.
The fact that Volkswagen chose a Golf costume for its electric party piece ought not to surprise. Soft-pedalling proficiency as unobtrusiveness is the firm’s trademark, and the decision makers at Wolfsburg will have hardly needed reams of affirmative research to think their instinct for conservatism is correct.
While the i3 and its highly conspicuous ilk occupy one end of the zero-emissions scale, the e-Golf sits at the other, managing to appear entirely unassuming while it vigorously pronounces to the masses, “Electric cars now okay!”, with all the implied reassurance of an astronaut ration pack made by Marks & Spencer.
Needless to say, the e-Golf occupies the same dimensions as the rest of the seventh-generation five-door models and, save for a slither of space hacked from the boot to help accommodate the underfloor lithium ion batteries, it offers the same highly commendable level of practicality, too.
Mostly that’s because the whole shooting match is underpinned by Volkswagen’s standardised MQB platform and its body is built from the same high-strength steel – although the drag around it has been reduced by about 10 percent, thanks largely to a rerouting of the airflow usually used for cooling.
The chief difference, then – aside from the weight gain associated with those batteries – is the EEM 85 synchronous electric motor mounted in the engine bay. Delivering 134bhp and up to 199lb ft of torque exclusively to the front wheels, the 12,000rpm Volkswagen-developed unit is mated to a single-speed gearbox, also designed in-house.
The firm’s mastery of the new tech has helped to permit its integration with the existing car’s construction methods; the e-Golf rolls down the same production line as its siblings. By the end, only redesigned LED headlights, unique alloy wheels, a new front bumper and a closed-off grille distinguish the car. That and its almost complete absence of noise, but we’ll come to that in a minute.
It’s certainly true, however, that the e-Golf gets less Golf-like the further you delve beneath the surface. In fact, get the tin opener as far as the vehicle floor and, apart from the basic layout of the MQB architecture, it has been comprehensively altered.
That’s because here, close to the spine of the vehicle under the front and rear seats, Volkswagen has mounted its 318kg lithium ion battery pack in a reinforced frame.
The manufacturer claims that it is an in-house development, but its expertise has some limits; the 264 cells that make up the battery’s 36 modules are sourced from electronic giant Panasonic. They serve up a nominal voltage of 323V — stored as DC and converted to the AC that the e-motor requires by a power electronics module.
Total energy capacity is rated at 24.2kWh (although the battery is prevented from fully discharging) and it takes 13 hours to recharge from a domestic 230V socket. Via a special, optional wall box, that can be reduced to about eight hours.
Better still, a 40kW Combined Charging System dispensing DC will have the e-Golf at 80 percent of full charge within 30 minutes.